The Maradi region, as one of the highlighted high-risk zones in the Niger Republic, receives less coverage as opposed to the insurgent-besieged zones of Tillabéri and Diffa. However, southern Maradi, particularly towns located close to the northern Nigerian border, are victims of cross-border banditry on a large scale.
Although banditry is not a novel crisis in the region, in recent years, it has become more organised with its expansion into the Tahoua and Dosso regions in western Niger. Not only is the coverage spreading, but the violence rate also escalated significantly between 2019 till date.
The following are some of the most heavily impacted zones: Guidan-Roumdji and Madarounfa departments in Maradi region, Dogondoutchi department in the region of Dosso, and lastly Birni N’Konni, Keita, and Madaoua departments, in the Tahoua region.
The instigators/causes of the predominance of banditry in southern and western Niger can be summed up into three:
1) Insurgency-driven poverty: Insecurity that spawns from the raging violence propelled by insurgency groups, and Non-State armed groups not only leads to displacements but negatively impacts economic activities and raises the poverty rate.
2) Demographic pressure: According to reports, an increase in demographic pressure leads to a shortage of resources, which has resulted in the most violence This situation not only stirs up tensions between ethnic groups but it also creates a wedge by laying the groundwork for the emergence of insurgencies as Jihadist groups present in this border zone often exploit communal violence to recruit.
3) The crisis of pastoralism: this crisis is a common challenge across the Sahel and herders in the regions of Tahoua, Maradi and Dosso are also not left out. The expansion of agricultural land vastly diminishes the space available for livestock grazing, thereby sparking conflict between herders and other land users, especially crop farmers. As long as grievances of herders impoverished by the pastoral crisis remain unattended, many will continue to resort to banditry and looting as a means of survival, a culture that has taken deep roots in Nigeria and is now spreading into Niger Republic.
The most recent attacks noted include: the abduction attack of 10 persons in Kouakaré town in the Guidan-Roumdji department on 16 September 2021, and the attack recorded in Sarkin Yamma Sofoua and Safor communes, in the Madarounfa department on 10 September 2021.
While efforts to neutralize these bandit factions have not waned, notable operations by Government Security Forces (GSF) targeting bandit infested zones have been captured in Maradi and Tahoua regions in recent weeks. On 20 September 2021, a GSF raid was carried out in four different communes namely; Kwayaji, Kwanda, Kobri and Dogon Farou communes in the Guidan Roumdji department, while on 17 September 2021, operations were recorded in Birni Zango, Tamaske, and Garhanga communes in the Keita department.
The efforts of communities located along the Nigeria/Niger border, such as the Illela Local Government Area of Sokoto State and Konni commune in the Niger Republic, have also yielded significant results. Their joint efforts to forestall bandits and other criminal activities within their communities such as the apprehension of seven suspected bandit informants on 27 September 2021, are notable mentions.
Conclusively, the synergy between communities and the persistent efforts of security forces to prevent the continued spread of cross-border banditry in southern and western parts of Niger Republic is sustainable; however, if the instigators of banditry are not directly tackled, the security circumstances of the zone would only continue to degenerate.