Motorcycle-riding armed bandits operating out of abandoned forest reserves are ransacking communities in Nigeria’s north-west.
The groups are the latest to join Nigeria’s lucrative kidnap for ransom industry, and are quite brazen in their operations.
In the last decade more than 8,000 people have been killed in the states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger and Zamfara, according to the International Crisis Group.
But recent attacks in the president’s home state of Katsina, where more than 100 people were killed in attacks between April and June, have led to protests and calls for his resignation.
On two separate occasions the bandits targeted villagers who had received food handouts from the government during the coronavirus lockdown.
“They were about 200 on motorbikes, each bike rider carried a passenger and they all carried AK-47 guns,” Bashir Kadisau, an eyewitness, told the BBC.
He said he climbed to the top of a tree when he saw the large number of motorcycle riders coming into Kadisau village, and saw the attackers loot shops, steal cattle and grain, and shoot people who were fleeing.
Climate change fuels conflict
The attacks are rooted in decades-long competition over resources between ethnic Fulani herders and farming communities.
The herders are mostly nomadic and can be found on major highways and streets across the country herding their cattle, but they have become involved in deadly clashes with farmers in Nigeria’s north-western and central states.
This is because these areas have suffered massive deforestation, due to the impact of the Sahara Desert spreading south, causing arable farming land to disappear and water to become scarce.