Residents of at least 23 local government areas (LGAs) in Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi states are battling to survive as kidnappers, cattle rustlers and bandits make life difficult for them.

A check by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) indicates that residents of the affected areas have either been forced to migrate, enter into agreements with the criminals or live a life of uncertainty.

In Sokoto State, residents said local government areas worst affected are Isa, Sabon Birni, Gwadabawa, Illela, Tangaza, and Goronyo.

NAN gathered that residents had been forced to abandon their farms, while some villages had been deserted across the affected LGAs.

Abubakar Bawa, the chief press secretary to Governor Ahmed Aliyu, said that the state government was aware of the enormity of the situation.

“We are giving priority to ensuring a safe environment. Addressing security challenges has remained top on our administration’s nine-point agenda.

“Our target as a government is to ensure that citizens sleep with their two eyes closed and continue to live and relate peacefully with one another,” he said.

He assured that the Nigerian Army, police and other security agencies have been sustaining efforts to secure the areas.

The governor’s spokesman said the government would continue to provide all necessary support for the security agencies to address the challenges.

Also, the spokesperson of the police command in Sokoto State, Ahmad Rufai, said the Commissioner of Police, Ali Kaigama, has been engaging residents to facilitate the flow of actionable information to address banditry and other criminalities.

He said the command had adopted measures, deployed personnel and materials, and has been collaborating with other security agencies to end banditry and other criminalities in the state.

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The police spokesperson said local governments in eastern parts of Sokoto State were mostly affected by the security challenges.

In Zamfara, a civil society activist, Faruk Shehu, said many communities in the 14 LGAs of the state have been displaced, with residents of Maru, Anka, Shinkafi, Maradun, Zurmi, Gusau and Bungudu LGAs, worst affected.

He said that previous attempts at dialogue with the bandits had failed, resulting in the escalation of the security challenges in the state.

“The security challenges in the state started as cattle rustling and later transformed into banditry and kidnapping,” Mr Shehu said.

He expressed the hope that the ongoing engagement started by Governor Dauda Lawal with the military and other security agencies would lead to an escalation of attacks on the bandits to secure the areas they have dominated.

Already, the state government has been emphatic that there will be no peace deal with the bandits.

This was emphasised by the Secretary to the State Government, Abubakar Nakwada, who said the government will never dialogue with the bandits as done by previous administrations.

Mr Nakwada added that the state governor would support security agencies and community groups to bring the criminals to their knees.

The situation in Kebbi has already claimed the lives of at least 2,500 people between 2019 and 2023, according to Bamaiyi An’iko, the secretary of Zuru Development Foundation.

Mr An’iko said that 2,500 people were killed in Danko, Wasagu, Fakai, Sakaba and Zuru LGAs, all under Zuru Emirate.

He said bandits have been attacking and displacing rural communities in the emirate, adding that some communities around Bena, Danko, and Wasagu had come under siege or total control of the bandits.