History and evolution of Banditry in Nigeria

Banditry is destructive violence that groups of armed men carry out. The purpose of this post is to trace the history of banditry in Nigeria. We shall try our best to trace the history of banditry from its earliest occurrence in Nigeria until date.

1901: The Humanitarian has it on record that northwestern Nigeria has some form of banditry in 1901. According to him, the first recorded case was between Western Hausa land and the Niger border in 1901. In this incidence, the bandits attacked a strong camel train of 12,000 capacities, which merchants loaded with different types of grains. Twenty-one merchants died in the attack.History and evolution of Banditry

1930: According to Jaafar (2018, 12), 1930 had some form of rural banditry. During that time, bandits used to ambush travellers and steal their goods by force. The then bandits would stop the donkeys and camels that they were using, snatch their goods and run into the bush for concealment. Sometimes, they would raid farming communities in their villages. In those days, the bandits were killing the farmers and destroying their properties. In some cases, the bandits would destroy everything they see. He noted that this particular culture of rural banditry had been in existence before the colonial masters came to Nigeria. The part of Nigeria that was most affected was the northern areas.Information Guide Nigeria

1970: In 1970, there were records of banditry in the urban cities of southern Nigeria. Notable then was the case of three armed men who went to rob a bank in the city of Kano. The record has it that these robbers robbed the bank of the sum of £27,750.

Read Also: 10 Types and Nature of Banditry in Nigeria

1980: There are also records of banditry in the 80s. In 1980, a bandit by the name of Anini Lawrence was the reigning boy. History has it that Anini Lawrence did not complete his secondary education. He was a notorious boy in the school. He left school to become a terrorist. He terrorized many towns and villages in the then Bendel State from where the present Edo and Delta states were carved out.How to Check MTN Tariff Plan

Surprisingly, some high-ranking police officers were behind him. They were supplying him and his gang members with guns and ammunition. Those notwithstanding, loyal police officers went after him and arrested him. He had to confess to his gang members including the police officers who were aiding him. The then Bendel State government had to kill all of them.

1990: In 1990, another bandit by the name Rambo Shina appeared in the southwestern part of Nigeria. Like Anini Lawrence, he was terrorizing the whole of the southwest, robbing and looting.

1996: In the year 1996, another bandit called Otokoto started his banditry activities in Owerri, Imo State. Otokoto was a ritualist. A boy whom he kidnapped and killed to make money revealed him. When the youths discovered him, they went after him and killed him.Npower Recruitment

2000: In the year 2000, banditry started revolutionising. Bandits started commercial banditry. They started kidnapping people for ransom. Assassinations became rampant. Politicians started killing their fellow politicians to gain power.

A notable case was the man whose nickname was Osisi Kankwu( the tree that is more than a palm tree). His real name was Obioma Nwankwo. He carried out his banditry activities in Abia State and the Niger Delta areas.

Those days were hot in the south-eastern part of Nigeria. A gang by the name Bakasi Boys appeared. They started killing people and raping women and girls.

Read Also: 10 Solutions to Banditry in Nigeria

2011: By 2011, banditry took a full swing in the northern part of Nigeria. Herdsmen and farmers started clashing and killing people. Jihadists also started to attack people and kill them. Suicide bombing became rampant.

In those days, people could see bandits riding motorcycles into the villages kidnapping people and looting. Nobody dared to resist them at that time. They killed those who tried to resist them. Banditry then became a very profitable business for bandits.

Various gangs emerged in the northwest. The government went against them but could not stop them because of the vast forest in this part of the country. They went into the hinterland of the forest that no one could easily reach.

2016: By 2016, banditry in the northern part of Nigeria escalated. Some of the bandits were known for livestock rustling. RUFAI (2016) recorded that more than twenty-nine thousand, two hundred and eighty-one (29,281) livestock were rustled in Zamfara State alone.JAMB Form

2018: Record has it that bandits killed about one thousand, one hundred (1,100) people in six states of the northwest out of the seven states in that region.

Read Also: Top 10 Notable Cases of Banditry in Nigeria

2019: By 2019, the number of people that bandits had killed rose to above two thousand two hundred (2,200) people.

2020: By 2020, Amnesty International reported that bandits killed not less than one thousand, one hundred and twenty-six (1,126) villagers between January and June. The report went further to state that bandits displaced about two hundred and forty-seven thousand (247,000) people.

In that same year, more than eight thousand (8000) people died in Zamfara State. About two hundred thousand (200,000) people had to flee to neighbouring states to take refuge there. Farming activities had to stop in Zamfara State. Bandits closed markets there. It was devastating for Zamfara State that year.

2021: 2021 was a hot year for the northwest region of the country. Nigeria Security Trackers reported that bandits killed five thousand, eight hundred (5,800) persons and kidnapped two thousand, nine hundred and forty-three (2,943) people from January to June.JAMB Result

The report also had it that bandits killed four hundred and ninety-five (495) persons between July and October. On Monday night, August 24, 2021, bandits attacked Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) Kaduna and killed two persons. They also kidnapped one person.

Read Also: Kidnapping in Nigeria; Meaning, Notable Cases, Causes, Effects, Possible Solutions

The year was so hot that the House of Representatives asked the President to declare a state of emergency on the security condition of the north. The government then launched a campaign against armed banditry in the region by September 2021.

In response to the campaign against banditry, the air force arm of the military went against the kidnappers in the region. On their way back, bandits shot down the air force plane that they used for the raid on the border between northern Zamfara and the Kaduna States. The pilot managed to escape.

For three consecutive nights in November, bandits attacked villages in Sokoto State looting, kidnapping and killing people. Bandits entered Gasau village killing every young man that they see. They assumed that all the young men there were local vigilantes who were against them. They made away with livestock and anything valuable that they saw.WAEC Result

They entered other villages killing some people and kidnapping others. About eleven thousand, five hundred (11,500) Nigerians had to flee to Niger for safety. In November 2021, Niger was already hosting more than six hundred thousand (600,000) Nigerian refugees.

Sahara reports that bandits went into President Mohammadu Buhari’s home state and killed two hundred and thirteen people within four months. This was a slap on the President’s face, I must tell you.

Later in 2021, the banditry base shifted from Zamfara State to Sokoto and Kaduna states. On December 6, bandits targeted a bus that was going from Sokoto to Kaduna. They shot at the bus and killed twenty-three (23) persons on the spot.

Read Also: Suicide in Nigeria; Meaning, Notable Cases, Causes, Effects, Solutions

2022: In January 2022, armed bandits killed more than two hundred (200) persons in three consecutive days in many villages in Zamfara State. More than ten thousand (10,000) people had to flee to other places to seek refuge.How to Complain to WAEC and be heard

Banditry activities in Nigeria until 2022 were so devastating that they attracted the international communities. When they saw that armed bandits had endangered the lives of more than 8.7 million people they had to declare a humanitarian emergency for Nigerians. They saw Nigerians as people who needed their help.


The history of banditry in Nigeria is quite touchy. Many people have lost their lives. Bandits have displaced so many people. This is April 2022. Who can tell what the situation would be like by December this year?

In your judgment, has the government done well in this area? 2023 is around the corner. Our vote can change the present situation. Let us choose wisely. Without good leadership, Nigeria would continue to be at the mercy of banditry.

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Isaiah Atawheke

Isaiah is a Content Developer at InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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