Auwal checks both weapons before returning to patrol at night in his village in the northwestern Nigerian state of Kaduna.
“I have decided to arm myself with this weapon to protect my family because the government failed to protect our security,” said Auwal, who like other volunteers did not give his real name and village for security reasons.
Auwal is a volunteer member of a youth patrol who tries to protect the community from criminal gangs who ride motorbikes to kidnap people, steal livestock and spread terror.
With kidnappings and violent attacks rampant in northern Nigeria, some civilians like Auwal became impatient with the inability of government security forces to protect them and decided to take up arms themselves.
Kaduna state is at the center of violence that has traumatized Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Kidnappings for ransom have soared, with the Kaduna government reporting 1,723 people abducted in the first six months of 2021, compared with nearly 2,000 in the previous year. Many of these bandit attacks were deadly, with at least 545 people killed from January to June.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in 2015 after campaigning to increase security, has faced criticism over the escalating violence. In early September, Buhari ordered security agencies to step up their efforts to protect communities, especially in the besieged north. [my/pp]