In formerly quiet areas of Nigeria, brutal violence is on the rise. Attacks in Kaduna state leave 51 dead.
A burned-out house after a raid on a village in Kaduna, May 8, 2018 Photo by Olatunji Saliu/imago.
Anger and horror are running high in northwestern Nigeria. Bandits killed 51 people and burned down numerous buildings in three counties in Kaduna state earlier Sunday morning. A statement from President Muhammadu Buhari’s government let slip that the attacks on civilians were very brutal. They were in response to a recent military operation in Birnin Gwari and the Kaduru Forest, according to Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman.
They must also have been well planned, because between five and eight in the morning, the gunmen attacked several villages at once. They are said to have acted at about the same time – sometimes there is talk of about 100 attackers. There is no information yet about arrests of the alleged perpetrators.
A good day later, Nigeria’s government announced that it would not be blackmailed by such incidents and would not cease military operations against gunmen. In addition to Kaduna, these operations are also taking place in the neighboring states of Niger, Zamfara and Katsina. It also said it wants to provide "all available resources" to "bring the bandits to their knees."
During a visit Monday to some of the affected villages, Kaduna Governor Nasir El-Rufai stressed that they were not prepared to negotiate with the attackers, nor would they receive amnesty. Instead, he said, they should be fought with the same means as the supporters of the Islamist terrorist militia Boko Haram fighting in northeastern Nigeria. Ultimately, the governor said, the attack could have ended even worse. But the security forces had reacted immediately.
At the same time, such attacks have increased massively since 2019, and there is no improvement of the situation in sight: If first mainly the state of Zamfara was affected, it is now Kaduna. The bandits rob livestock, steal goods, and increasingly murder civilians or kidnap them to extort ransoms.
While organizations or churches officially emphasize that they do not comply with these demands, families often buy kidnapped relatives free with their savings.
The ongoing insecurity has also paralyzed the economy in northwestern Nigeria. Many fields lie fallow, and goods can hardly be transported.