Katsina, Nigeria – The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Abubakar III, has delivered a sobering assessment of the security challenges plaguing the Northwest region of Nigeria, stating that it will take decades to eradicate the menace of banditry.

Speaking at the Inaugural North West Peace and Security Summit in Katsina, the Sultan, who is also the President General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), urged the people of the region to brace themselves for a long-drawn battle against the criminal elements.

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“What we must do is challenge these bandits because we all know the consequences of banditry and insurgency on our lives,” the Sultan said. “But it will take decades to get out of it if at all we get out of it. We all know the consequences and the problems.”

The Sultan’s remarks come at a time when the Northwest region has been grappling with a surge in banditry, with states like Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, and Kebbi bearing the brunt of the attacks. Thousands of lives have been lost, and countless individuals have been displaced due to the activities of these criminal gangs.

The Sultan expressed the readiness of traditional regional rulers to collaborate with security agencies and northern governors to combat the scourge of banditry and insurgency. He expressed hope that the summit would yield proposals to bring the security challenges to the barest minimum, allowing people to go about their lives and businesses without fear. The event was attended by a host of dignitaries, including Vice-President Kashim Shettima, who represented President Bola Tinubu, former President Muhammadu Buhari, governors of the seven states in the North West geopolitical zone, service chiefs, and the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun.

The Sultan’s remarks underscore the magnitude of the security crisis in the region and the need for a comprehensive and sustained approach to address it. The challenges are multifaceted, ranging from the proliferation of small arms, the porosity of the borders, and the socio-economic factors that drive individuals to join these criminal gangs.

Experts have called for a multi-pronged strategy that combines military operations, intelligence gathering, community engagement, and addressing the root causes of the crisis. This, they argue, is the only way to achieve lasting peace and stability in the region.

The region has been experiencing escalating levels of banditry, which has led to:

Increased violence – Banditry has led to a surge in violent attacks, kidnappings, and killings, with over 13,485 deaths attributed to banditry between 2010 and May 2023.

Displacement – The attacks have led to the displacement of over 1,087,875 individuals in rural communities as of December 2022.

Deteriorating security – The situation has been exacerbated by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, as well as the alliance between bandits and terrorist groups like Boko Haram.

Socioeconomic challenges – Banditry has also hindered socioeconomic development, threatened democratic governance, and exacerbated poverty and inequality.

To address these challenges, the Sultan’s warning highlights the need for:

Sustained efforts – A long-term approach is necessary to combat banditry, including addressing the root causes of poverty, inequality, and unemployment.

Multipronged solutions – A combination of security, peacebuilding, and socioeconomic interventions is required to address the complex issue of banditry effectively.

Collaboration – The federal government, state authorities, and local communities must work together to develop and implement effective strategies to combat banditry.

As the summit concluded, the Sultan’s words served as a sobering reminder that the road to eradicating banditry in the Northwest will be long and arduous. However, with the commitment and collaboration of all stakeholders, including the government, security agencies, traditional rulers, and the local communities, there is hope that the region can overcome this challenge and restore a sense of normalcy and security for its people.