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Border Communities Struggle Under Banditry, Smuggling Amid Sanctions

Economic Sanctions on Niger Leave Nigerian Border Towns Grappling with Crime, Poverty

by Adenike Adeodun

In the shadow of economic sanctions imposed on the Niger Republic, the border communities of Nigeria are grappling with a new and dire reality. Six months into the sanctions, towns across seven Nigerian states—Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa, Yobe, and Borno—are besieged not only by economic hardship but also by a surge in smuggling and banditry.

This distressing situation stems from Nigeria’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with its neighbor, following a military coup that ousted Nigerien President Mohammed Bazoum. The ensuing economic sanctions, led by the ECOWAS under President Bola Tinubu’s chairmanship, have had unintended yet profound consequences on the Nigerian side of the border.

A once bustling region, known for its vibrant trade and cultural exchanges, is now a shadow of its former self. The Guardian’s recent investigations reveal communities largely abandoned and in a state of disrepair. The closure of the border has not only disrupted the local economy but has also given rise to a more sinister element.

With formal trade and business activities at a standstill, many residents, previously engaged in agriculture and small-scale trade, find themselves out of work. This economic vacuum has been swiftly filled by smugglers and bandits who now claim large swathes of these territories. The rise in criminal activities further exacerbates the residents’ plight, making an already challenging situation even more perilous.

Personal accounts from locals paint a bleak picture. In Jibia, Musa Ahmed, a laundry business owner, saw his earnings plummet dramatically. Similarly, Abdulmalik Suleiman, a commercial driver in Mai’Adua, finds himself struggling to make ends meet. These individual stories are emblematic of the widespread distress affecting the region.

The situation is made more complex by the involvement of youths in smuggling activities, driven by desperation and lack of alternatives. These dangerous paths have also made them vulnerable to attacks by bandits and terrorists, adding a layer of insecurity to the already struggling communities.

According to a report by The Guardian, Authorities on both sides of the border recognize the challenges. Efforts to curb smuggling and banditry are underway, but the path to stability seems fraught with difficulties. The economic impact is staggering – with the Arewa Economic Forum estimating a weekly loss of N13 billion for Northern Nigerian businessmen.

As these communities continue to bear the brunt of the sanctions, the crisis serves as a stark reminder of the far-reaching consequences of geopolitical decisions. The turmoil in these border towns underscores the need for urgent and effective solutions to restore peace and economic stability in the region.

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