It is another day for a hasty and uncertain peace deal with menacing bandits in Nigeria. Over 500 bandits are reported to have agreed to embrace peace after striking a deal with Ahmad Gumi, a prominent Islamic cleric in Kaduna State. This development is more problematic than surprising. Some states in the northwest zone are witnessing a ubiquitous banditry wave that is resulting in losses to lives and investment and forced displacement. The reported new peace deal with some bandits in Kaduna state comes as no surprise as past peace deals with bandits have been unsustainable. Banditry in the northwest has defied the numerous peace deals that have been initiated to stem the violence.
The report of the peace deal claims that the negotiator, Ahmad Gumi, is backed by the federal government and the police. While many argue about the veracity of the claims, most concerned parties will be interested in seeing how sustainable a national government-backed peace deal for bandits will be. Regardless, both the federal government and state governments must learn from past peace deals drawn in haste to achieve peace. The Niger Delta amnesty for ex-militant is still a headache for the nation. The different peace deals initiated in some northwest states in 2019 may have temporarily curbed attacks then, but they were unclear and undoubtedly unsustainable.
Middlemen of Peace outlays the roles of repentant bandits in performing policing functions, which resulted in extra-judicial killings. This also includes reported cases of arrests and detentions made by repentant bandits. But these initial efforts were not enough to end the activities of bandits. Considering that banditry seems to be peculiar to the northwest region, state governments need a holistic and robust amnesty programme in the area. This will include both combative and non-combative measures to arrest the security challenge.
If the claims of a new peace deal for some bandits in Kaduna are genuine, government must ensure the terms of peace are realistic and sustainable. Also, efforts must be made to mobilise and identify all willing and repentant bandits. The government must not be seen to be partial or favouring one group over the other. A robust mobilisation of ready bandits is essential to address inclusion issues from the peacebuilding efforts.
As a precaution, state governments with support from the federal government should examine the inherent realities in the affected North-western states that continue to fuel banditry. These include the issue of indigene-settler dichotomy, pastoralism, exclusion, inter-communal and inter-tribal wars, unemployment, out-of-school children and other damaging socio-economic factors. Without urgent holistic policy action, the northwest region is poised to remain the unofficial theatre of violence in the country. This may be the incentive for bandits to embrace peace deals as some of the violence may result from grievance. The failed and choking peace deals in the past should guide the government to seek a more robust and sustainable approach to peace.