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Politics of “Localised Legitimacy”, Vigilantism, Non-State Policing and Counter-Banditry in Northwest Nigeria: Evidence from the Epicenter

Politics of “Localised Legitimacy”, Vigilantism, Non-State Policing and Counter-Banditry in... JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH https://doi.org/10.1080/19361610.2023.2240281 Politics of “Localised Legitimacy”, Vigilantism, Non-State Policing and Counter-Banditry in Northwest Nigeria: Evidence from the Epicenter Folahanmi Aina School of Global Affairs, King’s College London, London, UK KEYWORDS ABSTRACT Vigilantism; non-state Northwest Nigeria has been devastated by armed banditry, policing; counter-banditry; with Zamfara state being the epicenter of the crisis. The use localised legitimacy; of vigilantes in non-state policing against armed banditry has Zamfara state accorded legitimacy to these groups. However, their activities also pose significant challenges. Where scholarly work has examined the legitimacy of vigilantes, the focus has mostly been on legitimacy derived from the nation-state. This paper, contributes to the literature by interrogating the legitimacy of vigilantism as a non-state policing tool toward countering armed banditry, derived from affected local communities in Zamfara state. Introduction Armed banditry constitutes one of Nigeria’s most prevalent and existential threats to peace and security. The activities of armed bandits, which have recently received significant attention both locally and internationally, have resulted in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of many others across the country. Armed bandits, mostly operating in their hundreds and numbering well over 30,000, are known to be engaged in nefarious acts, including pillaging, brigandage, thefts, kidnapings, exploitation, and sexual vio- lence. Also worrisome is the increasing prospects of potential partnerships between armed bandits and jihadist groups, further complicating the threat posed by armed banditry in Nigeria (Abdulaziz, 2021). While there is no immediate certainty to this, given that armed bandits are mostly driven by economic opportunism, jihadists, on the other hand, are motivated by a polit- ical ideology, the recent proscription of armed bandits as terrorists by the fed- eral government (Ameh, 2022), provides the basis for this eventuality. CONTACT Folahanmi Aina Talk2fola@hotmail.com School of Global Affairs, King’s College London, London, UK. 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent. 2 F. AINA In response to the scourge of armed banditry, which has crippled eco- nomic activities in most of the affected states in the Northern region, par- ticularly in the Northwest and parts of the country’s Southern region, both the federal and state governments have utilized multifaceted measures. Some of these included deploying the military and other security agencies in ongoing internal security operations, shutting down telecommunication services, and media houses, closing roads and markets, banning the use of motorcycles and the sale of fuel, granting amnesties, and the imposition of no-fly zones and curfews. Others have included the uncoordinated amnesty to armed bandits, and social welfare programmes, to mention a few. These meas- ures, which have yielded some results, have mostly failed to address the pre- ventive causes of the rise of armed banditry in the affected region, such as the underlying socio-economic root causes, which include high poverty levels, inequality, unemployment, and high illiteracy rates. Others are associated with political and environmental conditions such as poor governance, weak institu- tions, and the devastating effects of climate change. Rather, these responses, such as the dominance in the use of force, have tended to contribute to the protractedness of the armed banditry-induced con- flict thereby resulting in the over militarization of the conflict (Aina, 2022). Given the constitutional constraints on the ability of sub-national entities in Nigeria to meet their security needs, most of the affected sub-national entities have resorted to the services of local vigilante groups who derive their legitim- acy from the nation-state and the sub-national entities in mitigating the threat of armed banditry. While this has had its advantages, especially given their vast knowledge and familiarity with the terrain and the affected local com- munities, it has also been met with attendant problems at the heart of under regulation and, in some instances, the un-regulation of these groups. The implications of this have been that while vigilantism serves as a non-state policing political tool toward ensuring peace and security at community levels, it has also contributed toward aggravating the problem due to issues such as extrajudicial killings, corruption, and disregard for the rule of law, to mention a few. In Northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state which is remains the epicenter of the armed banditry crisis in Nigeria owing to the number of violent incidents compared to other states, the utility of vigilante groups has been met with dif- ferent reactions. Therefore, this study contributes to the literature through empirical evi- dence, by interrogating the legitimacy derived by vigilantism as a non-state policing political tool toward countering armed banditry in the affected local communities in Zamfara state. This is significant as a departure from studies on vigilantism that focus on legitimacy derived from the nation- state, and sub-national entities. Moreover, the significance of the study to the body of knowledge is both timely and relevant, given that vigilantism JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 3 has long been overlooked by political scientists to the discipline’s detriment (Bateson, 2021, p. 945). The study offers insights on the “localised legit- imacy” of vigilante groups derived from the affected local communities. The rationale for the study is further informed by the challenges associated with policing un(der)governed spaces given the inherent weaknesses in the state’s capacity to adequately address the scourge of armed banditry in Zamfara state, which has recorded the highest death rates across the troubled region in recent times. This is done by answering the research’s question on how the utility of vigilantism as a non-state policing political tool contributes toward countering armed banditry. Therefore, the paper’s central argument is that the localized legitimacy accorded to vigilantism as a non-state policing tool by the affected local communities validates its per- missibility in the absence of formally recognized constitutionality toward counter-banditry. The paper is divided into six parts. Following the introduction, the study lays out its methodology, after which it offers a conceptual and theoretical discourse on vigilantism within the contexts of legitimacy, non-state polic- ing, and counter-banditry. The study’s structure then proceeds to discuss the historicity of vigilantism and the armed banditry threat landscape across Northwest Nigeria. The contributions of vigilantism toward non- state policy and counter-banditry in Zamfara state are then explored. This is followed by the section that examines the challenges to the legitimization of vigilantes within the context of counter-banditry in Zamfara state. The study ends with a conclusion. Methodology This qualitative study draws on primary data from in-depth semi-struc- tured interviews conducted during extensive fieldwork in Zamfara state with key informants including vigilantes, members of affected local com- munities, traditional rulers, state government officials, youth and women leaders and security officials. The interviews were conducted in Hausa lan- guage, which is the prominent local language in the state, and were subse- quently transcribed in English. In conducting these interviews, the ethnographic style rather than the journalistic style was adopted. This was particularly useful in ensuring that the questions directed at the interview- ees were not intended at preempting particular outcomes. The questions asked mostly focused on the counter-banditry efforts by vigilantes and per- ceptions on their acceptability or otherwise, and legitimacy amongst the affected local communities. A total of 30 respondents were interviewed over a period of seven months from January to July 2022. Each interview lasted for about 45 minutes to an hour. In selecting the interviewees, the 4 F. AINA non-probability sampling approach was adopted over the random sampling approach toward ensuring that the risk of excluding important respondents was significantly minimized. Specifically, the type of non-probability sampling approach which was adopted for this research is the snowball/ chain-referral sampling. Those who qualified to be interviewed were those residing in the affected local communities, in addition to being knowledge- able of the activities of vigilantes in these communities. Access to the rele- vant stakeholders was provided through the traditional rulers of these local communities. The adoption of this approach is also useful in helping to corroborate what has been mostly established from other sources. Specifically, the type of non-probability sampling adopted for the research is snowball/chain-referral. The study also adopts the thematic data analysis method to data analysis, which is useful in identifying and reporting pat- terns within the data. This method to data analysis is particularly advanta- geous for coding specific research questions as well as to reflect reality and to unravel its surface, given the research’s objectives. It is therefore more explicitly analyst driven. Additionally, secondary data were obtained from books, journal articles, local and international news sources, as well as offi- cial reports. Content analysis was used to derive relevant information toward the attainment of the objectives of the research from these second- ary sources. Legitimacy, vigilantism, non-state policing and counter banditry: a conceptual/theoretical discourse Vigilantism and the politics of legitimacy Vigilantes have existed across the world for many years. Nation-states become increasingly confronted with security threats, which often stretch the limits of their traditional coercive apparatuses, including the military and other security forces. As Joshua Barker (2006) rightly notes, the state’s sole prerogative is to ensure law enforcement and punishment, which is done through certain instruments such as the police, the courts, and the prison system. States sometimes look to alternative security arrangements, including the services of local vigilante groups. This accords some forms of legitimacy to the activities of these groups in non-state policing through state-sponsorship. However, there are also concerns over the issues of illegitimate coercion that follow from state-sponsored armed groups such as vigilantes in non-state policing efforts. These concerns also have conse- quences for how vigilantes are perceived and accepted by local commun- ities. These concerns are mostly centered on vigilantes taking the law into their own hands. In this regard, Kirschner (2011, p. 566) argues that while vigilantes create a form of law and order that tends to oppose the state, JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 5 they are inclined to depend on it as their point of reference. On this, Belgin San Akca (2009), argue that it is significant to note that state sup- port for non-state armed groups (NSAGs) could be attributed to the state’s vulnerability toward generating and mobilizing the required resources for security purposes within its borders. Rosenbaum and Sederberg (1974) define vigilantism as the establishment of violence, consisting of acts or threats of coercion in violation of the formal boundaries of the socio-polit- ical order, even though its intentions might be toward preventing the sub- version of that order. Having acknowledged that the principal goal of vigilantism is deterrence, they categorize vigilantism into three broad typol- ogies: crime control vigilantism, social group vigilantism, and regime con- trol vigilantism. While the first two are concerned with preserving the status quo and mostly arise owing to the ineffectiveness or irrelevance of the formal rule enforcement system, the third is mostly directed against the regime itself (Rosenberg & Sederberg, 1974). This study is, however, situated in crime control vigilantism, which is targeted at curtailing the activities of dissi- dents and other criminal elements mostly through the extra-legal use of force within contested areas of the nation state. These conditions are par- ticularly evident where confidence in the government’s ability to manage internal security remains questionable. In a departure from the conceptual- ization of vigilantism as ‘established violence’, Les Johnson (1996) notes that the concept of vigilantism is enigmatic and therefore defines it as a social movement giving rise to premeditated acts of force – or threatened force – by autonomous citizens. He further argues that vigilantism has six necessary features: planning, premeditation and organization, private volun- tary agency, autonomous citizenship, the use or threatened use of force, reaction to crime and social deviance, personal and collective security (Johnson, 1996). The concept of vigilantism has also been associated with community-based armed groups (CBAGs), which act against threats to local communities, including counter insurgency (Agbiboa, 2019). Nwangbo et al. (2022) define vigilantism as the informal mobilization of voluntary civilians to form a policing team to ensure societal control and order. This, according to them, involves partnerships, collaborations and adopting collective crime-fighting strategies and other related vises at the community level. Similarly, Eduardo Moncada (2017, 408) defines vigilant- ism as the collective use or threat of extra-legal violence in response to an alleged criminal act. This definition is limiting, and reflects part of the con- ceptual challenges associated with defining vigilantism in that it does not account for the offensive vigilantism intended to prevent criminal acts. Andrea Krischer (2011, p. 572), while arriving at similar conclusions, notes that vigilantism could be understood as being in reaction to a perceived or 6 F. AINA feared loss of order, particularly regarding physical and legal security intended to ensure stability or the restoration of the old order. Noting the limitations of the existing definitions of vigilantism, which are contradict- ory, tautological, and lacking easy operationalization, Regina Bateson (2021) defines vigilantism as the extra-legal prevention, investigation, or punishment of offenses. This study subscribes to this definition as it offers conceptual clarity that foregrounds its central thesis. Vigilantism in con- tested spaces is often a reflection of the deficiency in the state’s capacity to mitigate existential threats, thereby creating a void which necessitates the reliance on nontraditional coercive tools. Alemika and Okoli (2004) provide a useful categorization of vigilantism into four types; neighborhood or community (these include neighborhood watch and community vigilante groups that are organized by community associations), ethnic based vigilante groups (which are organized along ethnic lines to defend ethnic interests), religious based vigilante groups (those accustomed to upholding faith-based idioms), and state sponsored vigilante groups (based on the support of the state and local government). This study’s focus reflects an intersection between community-based and state-sponsored vigilante groups given that most times, the former is sub- sumed by the sub-national entity as a hybrid security apparatus, thereby giving it access to support, sponsorship, and recognition. Dany Frank Tiwa (2022), therefore, argues that in addition to being a personal endeavor, the decision to become a vigilante often originates from a feeling of injustice, given the ostracized tendency of segments of crime- beset communities. This argument negates the schools of thought which postulates that the motivation for joining such groups is attributed to polit- ical and economic opportunism. For instance, in the case of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Northeast Nigeria, which first started as a vigi- lante outfit before it was subsumed as a government backed paramilitary security apparatus working alongside the Nigerian military, as a hybrid security model, youths who joined the CJTF to fight against Boko Haram, did so out of a feeling of personal loss (Agbiboa, 2021). While different names have been used to describe non-state actors in the field of contemporary security studies, including “irregular armed actors”, “militias”, and “gangs” amongst others which contributes to the already blurry line that exists with the conceptualization of these groups. This paper, adopts “community-based armed groups” as a terminology that cap- tures the essence of its central arguments. This is particularly so given that vigilantes emanate from within the local communities which they serve and are not integrated into it as external non-state actors. CBAGs can be understood as a subtype of the broader category of NSAGs (Schuberth, 2015). It is significant to note that CBAGs are often unregulated and do JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 7 not harbor political ideologies. The implied ramifications of this is that they even though they exist within the state’s political system, they are often not immune to its machinations. Offering a typology of CBAGs, Schuberth (2015, 301) argues that when the security dimension is most pronounced, this reflects a CBAG’s categorization as a vigilante group, not- ing that these groups can be subdivided into crime-control groups, self- defense forces, and para-states. He further notes that other dimensions include the political and economic dimensions which are mostly associated with militias and criminal gangs respectively. The propensity of vigilantes to exert violence in the execution of their objectives of providing security has attracted concerns over their abuse and (mis)use. This has resulted in another issue which has received insufficient atten- tion in the literature regarding non-state armed groups, which is legitimacy, particularly that which is derived from local communities. Much of the lit- erature about legitimacy has mostly focused on the state, with few scholars devoting attention to the legitimacy of other actors other than the state, as argued by Duyvesteyn (2017, 672). As Sukanya Podder (2014, 221) notes, legitimacy is multifaceted and at times associated with authority, control over violence and institutional power. It is pertinent to note that the litera- ture on the politics of legitimacy of armed groups still presents several unanswered questions requiring empirical inquiry. Schlichte and Scheckener (2015) define legitimacy within this context as the belief in the rightfulness of an armed group’s agenda and violent struggle. Noting that the belief might exist not only within the organization itself, but also out- side it as well. They however point out that legitimacy may not necessarily lead to active support, as according to them, active support could depend on the concrete opportunities (Schlichte and Scheckener, 2015). Civilians are therefore inclined to support non-state armed groups such as vigilantes through acts of cooperation which can be in three ways. This includes through obedience; spontaneous support or enlistment as Arjona (2017) argues. The absence of this is reflected in acts of resistance. Referring to the Bottoms-Tankebe model, which establishes traditional predictors of legitimacy as constituting elements of legitimacy, Tankebe and Asif (2016,p. 346) argue that obligation is a central mechanism through which legitimacy might influence support for vigilante violence. Non-state armed groups such as vigilantes are therefore able to maintain local order through massive obedi- ence and the existence of modest support (Arjona, 2017, p. 760). It is there- fore to be noted that non-state armed groups such as vigilantes, could derive legitimacy from outside threats and established enemy images whereby they claim that their actions are situated around the need to liberate, protect, and defend threatened communities. The basis upon which this legitimacy rests is in the need to address mutually linked security concerns between them and 8 F. AINA the affected local communities. Doing so is useful in ensuring that solidarity toward its cause is guaranteed, also toward projecting itself and its violent actions as being necessary, appropriate, and comparatively less destructive than those of the common enemy (Schlichte and Scheckener, 2015, p. 418). It is however pertinent to note that support and cooperation from civil- ians or local communities might not necessarily translate to legitimacy, as legitimacy itself can only truly be accorded by the legal backing of the state. This explains the basis for the attendant legitimacy of state-sponsored armed groups. Given that the absence of social order is chaos, it is pertin- ent to note that ensuring the delivery of social order could be viewed as a vehicle through which it is conferred on the giver (Dutvesteyn, 2017,p. 679). Noting the case of Nigeria’s Bakassi Boys, a local vigilante group operating in the Southeast of the country, Meagher (2012) argues that they enjoyed enormous popular support because of their reputation for fairness and resistance to corruption, as well as the joy that comes with a sense of security, all of which conferred “local legitimacy” on them. All of which was before the sub-national state governments subsumed them under their control. As Nwangbo et al. (2022, p. 5) rightly note, the dynamism of the Nigerian configuration and the interplay of political forces complicates vigi- lantism within the Nigerian context. The nature of relationships between vigilante groups and the state as well as society, plays a significant role in determining the extent of support and legitimacy accorded to these groups. Podder (2017) notes that there are three types of relationships associated with the existence of armed groups. These include relationships with civilian communities, the state or regime in power and with external factors which may include regional or international sponsors. Regarding relations with civil- ian communities, which could be one of the most important sources of domestic legitimacy, voluntary compliance is sought over coercive control. However, she argues that the state’s relationship with armed groups on the other hand exists in three ways, which include collusive, conciliatory, and con- flictual relationships. This study which focuses on vigilantes as CBAGs is mostly aligned with conciliatory relationship, whereby the state accepts the autonomy of non-state armed actors which could be because it lacks the mili- tary capacity to recapture territory under the control of armed groups (Podder, 2017, p. 695). These relationships also reflect the extent of the legit- imacy armed groups might enjoy from the state. Bateson (2021)also provides useful variations in vigilantism across individual versus collective vigilantism, violent versus nonviolent vigilantism, public versus private vigilantism, spon- taneous versus institutionalized vigilantism, and offensive versus defensive vigilantism. This study draws attention toward defensive vigilantism which is targeted at protecting vulnerable local communities against armed banditry. JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 9 Vigilantism and non-state community policing Policing has been defined as measures and actions taken by a variety of institutions and groups to regulate social relations and practices intended to secure members of a community, in addition to ensuring conforming with societal norms and values (Alemika, 2019, p. 96). Non-state policing therefore refers to efforts centered on ensuring the provision of security that is outside the established coercive apparatus of the state. Confronted with multiple security threats, nation-states have resorted to what is consid- ered a hybrid approach to securitization. This form of security arrangement sees the use of both state and non-state policing actors and measures in mitigating security threats. This has also raised questions on the state’s abil- ity to maintain its monopoly over the control and use of force. As David Pratten (2008, p. 4) rightly notes, the proliferation of privatized and decen- tralized policing signals a new paradigm which contradicts our common understanding of the state’s provision of security through its monopoly of force, as an essential function of government. Where citizens have lost confidence in the ability to the state to perform one of its most fundamental responsibilities, which is the protection of lives and property, their disenchantment toward the state potentially leads to a “transfer of legitimacy” to other alternatives such as non-state armed groups. This position is echoed by Kirschner (2011, 576) who argues that in places such as Nigeria vigilantism as a form of violent “self-help” is legitimized because of popular dissatisfaction with the state’s inability to provide security. This study argues that the result of this is the creation of ‘localized legitimacy’ accorded to these non-state armed groups who are perceived as avengers or saviors, mostly by the affected local communities with or without the backing of the state or sub-national entity. Nicole Hass et al. (2014) have argued for instance that when the police have been less responsive to crime, people tended to be more supportive of vigilantism. According to their findings, the reverse could also be said to be the case. Similarly, Ivanov et al. (2021) posit that vigilantism emanates because of the failures of political institutions created to protect the interests of citi- zens in addition to being the product of the existence of ethnic and social divides. This is clearly the case with countries such as Nigeria. In other words, diffused confidence in the police is a significant predictor of public support for vigilantism. Similarly, Daniel Zizumbo-Colunga (2017, p. 993) argues that given that the rationale behind vigilantism reflects an attempt to confront and prevent alleged crime independent of the state, law enforcement authorities and other community members therefore play significant roles in shaping the emergence of collective vigilantism. Where public confidence in the ability of the state to guarantee security is lacking, which is often reflected in the 10 F. AINA incapacity and ineffectiveness of law enforcement authorities, the civilian community is more inclined to repose public support toward alternative actors such as local vigilantes. As Niel Jarman (2007, p. 4) rightly notes, in some cases, vigilantism entails public forms of policing activities which are designed to act as a deterrent or to prevent something from eventually hap- pening. On the emergence of vigilantism, Schuberth (2013, p. 48) posits that these can be attributed to the outcome of socio-political processes such as polarization, marginalization, criminalization, and securitization, all of which are triggered by policy choices. Laurent Fouchard (2008) therefore argues that the changing forms of non-state policing could be attributed to the apparent rise of vigilante groups, such as the case is, in Nigeria for instance. He further contends that in Nigeria, vigilantism is a top-down political response to issues of policing in the country (Fouchard, 2008, 33). The findings of Peter Boettke et al. (2016) on community policing has also challenged popular beliefs concerning the consolidation and centralization of services as being the sole ways of effectively providing citizens with public goods such as secur- ity by localities. This holds especially in conflict affected contexts where vigilantes have been actively involved in counter insurgency efforts intended at ensuring peace and security in local communities. Vigilantism and counter-banditry Alemika (2019, 106) rightly notes that the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has altered the architecture, doctrine, and mentality of security ser- vice delivery. The same could also be said of armed banditry which contin- ues to ravage a significant portion of the country’s Northern regions, particularly the Northwest and Northcentral regions.As the Nigerian state continues in its struggle to curtail the scourge of armed banditry, in add- ition to the constitutionally imposed restriction on sub-national states to take lead on their security provision, the need for other non-state policing mechanisms become inevitable. This has resulted in the proliferation of non-state policing tools such as vigilante groups. Nwangbo et al. (2022, 10) contend that given the high unreachability of rural communities in parts of Nigeria for instance, which often limits the capacity of the police force to attend to the security needs of such communities, vigilante groups become a necessity. This partly reflects the reality confronting most of the armed banditry affected local communities in Nigeria’s Northwest region. This problem is understood within the context of ungoverned spaces whereby the state’s presence is either lacking or limited (Nwokolo, 2020; Ojo, 2020). Such realities have resulted in using vigilantes to fill these “policing gaps” as a counter measure against armed banditry in Northwest Nigeria. On JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 11 this, Agbiboa (2018) has argued that in the context of risk, radical uncer- tainty, powerlessness and heightened fear, local youth have turned to vigi- lantism to reclaim a sense of control and agency. Specifically, in the case of Zamfara state, this led to the formation of community self-defense vigilante groups in response to the threat of armed banditry (Lar, 2019, p. 124). Furthermore, following the recent proscription of armed bandits as terro- rists, by the federal government of Nigeria, and the threat they pose to national security, the need to intensify counterterrorism efforts against this threat particularly by the affected local communities has become impera- tive. As Marie Robin (2022) has argued, vigilantism could potentially con- tribute toward instilling a sense of accountability and respect for the law within a society, thereby likely averting future unlawful behavior. Vigilantism and sub-national fragility – a theoretical anchor The ability of the state to meet the needs of society has attracted a wide dis- course in the literature, including a confluence of terms such as “state failure”, “failed state”, “state weakness”, “state collapse”,and “state fragility” amongst others. Of these terms, state collapse connotes an extreme case of a collapsed state (Rotberg, 2002). Adding to this, scholars such as Hanna and Besada (2007) have argued that a collapsing state refers to a state that has not only lost its legitimacy, and ability to ensure security, but one in which there are only a few or no functioning institutions at all. Similarly, Saha and Mallayarapu (2006) note that the state’s inability to protect its citizens’ lives, in addition to contending with legitimacy issues, qualifies it as a failed state. State failure therefore ideally entails a situation whereby the state is no longer able to carry out its basic functions (Zartman, 1995). In other words, a failed state is one in which the social contract is either absent or no longer exists. State fragility on the other hand reflects a condition of state failure, which does not translate to state failure itself. Rather, a fragile state is mostly charac- terized by conditions in which the state’s legitimacy, authority, and the cap- acity of state institutions are in rapid decline, weak or even broken (Nay, 2013, p. 327). Given these distinctions, state weakness could be understood as a situation whereby the conditions leading to state failure are ripe. It is there- fore pertinentto note thatwhile a weak state may struggle to functionprop- erly in every area, its ability to still do so in some areas distinguishes it from a failed state. David Carmet (2003) therefore describes state failure as a non- linear process of relative decay. It is, however, useful to note that the applicability of state weakness as a theoretical basis for understanding the emergence of vigilantism is con- tested. This is especially so in strong, viable, and modern states, which could be understood as exceptions. Using the examples of both Brazil and 12 F. AINA South Africa, Moritz Schuberth (2013) challenges the prevalent belief that the emergence of informal security structures, such as vigilante groups, reflects state weakness. Similarly, Rebecca Tapscott (2023) has argued with the framework of “security assemblage” that while non-state actors could be a response to state absence, fragility, or failure, they could potentially be the cause of these as well. She further notes that within this framework, actors (both state and non-state) could be both mutually reinforcing or contradictory of one another (Tapscott, 2023, p. 13). This study however adopts state fragility as a theoretical anchor given its suitability in explain- ing the current realities of the deteriorating insecurity situation in Nigeria’s troubled Northwest region which has necessitated the proliferation of vigi- lante groups. Establishing linkages with state fragility and the inability to effectively manage conflict, Ikpe (2007) situates this on the state’s capacity to not only protect itself and its citizens but also manage conflict without having to resort to the use of violence. While the literature provides an extensive analysis of these issues, an exist- ing gap in this regard remains that of sub-national fragility. Sub-national enti- ties which make up a federating system, tend to depend on the federal government for monthly handouts as part of their monthly allocations. As most sub-national entities in places such as Africa continue to rely on the nation-state to meet their security needs as enshrined in their constitutions, they are sometimes inclined to resort to alternative security provisions such as community policing. Wisler and Onwudiwe (2008, p. 434), therefore, argue that a key variable with vigilant forms of community policing is the lack of service delivery capacity of the state, as weak states tend to create a “policing gap”.Kirschner (2011, p. 571) contends for instance that the significant pres- ence of vigilante groups across Nigeria provides corroborative evidence that indeed the country appears to be fragile, if not failed. While these arguments reflect the situation of the nation-state, they have mostly tended to ignore sub-national entities which constitute the broader state, thereby providing little or no explanation for how dynamics at this level of statehood manifest out- comes. As Okoli and Abubakar (2021) note, armed bandits have taken control over chunks of hinterland communities in places such as Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna which are all located in Northwest Nigeria amongst other ban- ditry-infested areas in the country. This attests to the gravity of the situation in the region, depicting sub-national state fragility. Historicity of vigilantism and the threat landscape of armed banditry in northwest Nigeria Vigilantism as a form of self-policing is not new in Africa (Kirschner 2011, p. 574). Similarly, it has had a long history in Nigeria, as Fouchard (2008) JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 13 contends. During pre-colonial times, vigilantism was manifested in Nigeria through various youth organizations, including warrior bands, secret soci- eties, militias, and small groups of night-guards (Kirschner 2011, p. 575). David Pratten (2008) further notes that there has been a proliferation of vigilantism in Nigeria since 1999, which marked the country’s return to democratic rule. Some of these vigilante groups include the O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), the Bakassi Boys, the Hisba and Yan banga, amongst others. Offering a distinctiveness to vigilantes in Nigeria, he notes that they are mostly located within contests over citizenship, which is defined in terms of the politics of identity, gender, as well as generation thereby invoking notions of themselves as protectors of a ‘moral commu- nity’ (Pratten, 2008, p. 6). In this sense, most contemporary vigilante groups draw their legitimacy from both ethnic-based history and religion (Olayoku 2017, p. 388). It is however pertinent to note that the practise itself only became an independent variable for explanation in the 2000s as argued by Dany Frank Tiwa (2022). Vigilantism in contemporary Nigeria is characterized by the existence of neighborhood watchers and hunters who are gradually being integrated into the formal security architecture of the nation-state, mostly at the level of regional geopolitical zones such as Ebube Agwu in the Southeast, Amotekun in the Southwest, and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in the Northeast amongst others. In Nigeria’s Post-1999 era, it has been argued that the practice of vigilantism has come to fruition, giving them the role of state governors and shifting within the state (Pratten, 2008). Echoing this position, Iloh and Nwokedi (2019, p. 532) note that the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN), the official umbrella body of all vigi- lante groups in Nigeria was formally registered on February 18, 1999, with its headquarters moved from Kaduna in Northwest Nigeria to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. It is also pertinent to note that VGN in Kaduna state dates as far back to 1982, during which it provided voluntary surveillance against criminality to the Tudun Wada community in Kaduna North Local Government Area (Ogbozor, 2016). Despite this, the success of vigilante groups could be attributed not only to the popular support they enjoy but also to local politicians and business- men (Kirschner, 2011, p. 581). Pratten (2007, 170) contends that in the late 1980s, following the structural adjustment policies which were characterized by dwindling economic opportunities, and rising crime rates, local govern- ment by-laws which legalized vigilante groups were encouraged by the Nigerian federal government. Building on this argument, Njoku and Akintayo (2021, p. 163) argue that the emergence of new vigilante groups in Nigeria has more to do with promoting the elite’s economic and political interests than aiding the state based on nationalism or solving its security 14 F. AINA challenges. Moritz Schuberth (2015, p. 303), however, argues that ideal-type vigilantes are distinguished from militias and gangs concerning their pri- mary function, providing security rather than pursuing political and eco- nomic interests. Dany Frank Tiwa (2022) further argues that in the case of Nigeria, many communities established and endorsed vigilante groups to gain access to the country’s wealth and political authority. This submission connotes the exist- ence of a political economy dimension of the rise of vigilantism. As Schlichte and Scheckener (2015,p.417)rightly point out,armed groups (including non-state armed groups such as local vigilantes) might use local communities’ socio-economic and political aspirations as justification for their own actions andto underscore their claims. Byso doing, they try to become representa- tivesof these communitiesaswell astheir agendas. It has, however, been argued that contemporary vigilantism in Northern Nigeria, is situated around religious idioms following popular calls for Sharia law, emanating from the grassroots in response to the government’s failure and moral bankruptcy (Agbiboa, 2021). Vigilantes have also emerged in Northern Nigeria because of the need to support the policing efforts of the state toward fighting crime and ensuring the maintenance of law and order in society. While banditry has existed in Nigeria for a long time, transhuman move- ments around 2011 marked the origins of contemporary armed banditry in the country. This established the first bandit organization in Northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state (Rufai, 2021). Their initial goal was to fend off per- ceived social injustice against Fulani pastoralists in Zamfara state before eventually being extended to other states such as Kaduna, and Sokoto states in Northwest Nigeria (Rufai, 2021). Following the attacks on rural Hausa communities in Zamfara state in 2016, local vigilantes were mobilized to provide security against armed Fulani gangs. Those in long-established Fulani communities felt that they were innocent and had nothing to do with armed bandits and as such, the attacks against them were unjustified, hence the need to protect themselves as well. As the situation began to deteriorate, some Fulani leaders in their communities responded by organ- izing themselves with the intent of revenge, having identified their attackers. The situation was further escalated by the complexities of the existing farmer herder crisis across the region, which has been worsened by rural armed banditry (Rufai, 2018). These tensions have since seen local vigi- lantes, acting in the security interest of the affected local populations, com- pleting state policing efforts toward fighting the scourge of rural armed banditry. Local vigilantes in the region, considered a quasi-defence force thus received wide acceptance and support from traditional rulers who were convinced that they were the most potent means of mitigating the JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 15 threat of armed banditry (Rufai, 2018). Some of the tools used by local vigilante groups operating in Zamfara state include sticks, bindiga mai batur, mai pulogo (local guns), cutlasses, axes, and swords. They are also instrumental in securing borders linking other villages at night by mount- ing checkpoints (Personal interview with vigilante in Karikai, 2022). In Zamfara state they go by the name Yan tasro Gari in Hausa language, which loosely means “town securers”. The root cause of rising armed banditry in Northwest Nigeria remains contested. However, some conditions that have sustained the proliferation of armed banditry in the troubled region include the farmer-herders crisis, poor governance, weak institutions, climate change resulting in environ- mental degradation, and socio-economic grievances. As of 2021, there were over 30,000 armed bandits in Zamfara state which remains the most affected state and the epicenter of the crisis, and across the remaining 5 states of the Northwest region (Yaba, 2021). The nefarious activities of these groups have led to the death of over 2,600 civilians as of 2021 (Ayandele and Goos, 2021). In addition to perpetuating acts of pillaging, theft, sexual violence, cattle rustling, illicit gold mining, armed bandits operating in the region are notorious for kidnapings for ransom. Between 2020 and 2021, over 1,000 school pupils were reportedly kidnapped by armed bandits operating mostly in the Northwest region (Reuters, 2021). The threat of armed banditry is further complicated by its crime-terror nexus and the connections with drugs (Okoli, 2022), as well as the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons (SALWs) across the region. Contributions of vigilantism to non-state policing and counter banditry in Zamfara state Pratten (2008, p. 83) argues that recognizing internal imperatives is neces- sary toward understanding the local legitimacy of vigilantism in post-colo- nial Nigeria. This according to him encompasses narratives of contested rights, which are enshrined in everyday practises. These also include under- standings of personhood and knowledge, and in alternative, older registers of governability. Furthermore, Kirschner (2011, p. 576) contends that the existence of pre-colonial vigilantes in Nigeria serve both as a discursive ref- erence point, and as a source of legitimacy for present-day vigilante groups in the country. Higazi (2016, p. 376) for instances notes that regarding the farmer herder crisis in Northcentral Plateau state, the registration of vigi- lantes with the police through the divisional police headquarters and the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGA) demonstrates the acceptance of vigilant- ism in the state. As Iloh and Nwokedi (2019, p. 536) rightly argue, the 16 F. AINA Figure 1. Map showing Zamfara state in Northwest Nigeria. Source: The Guardian Nigeria, 2015. importance of vigilante groups cannot be overemphasized given their immense contributions to internal security management in Nigeria. On the involvement of vigilantes in counterinsurgency in Northeast Nigeria, Okoli (2017) contends that while they have been effective in degrading the Boko Haram insurgency through localized reconnaissance, and counter-offensive operations, their involvement in counterinsurgency as a strategic option given Nigeria’s fragile security regime could result in counterproductive and abusive outcomes. The focus of this section shall be on the contributions of vigilantes as non-state policing tools toward coun- try-banditry in contemporary Northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state, which remains the epicenter of the armed banditry crisis in the country. This is in view of providing empirical insights into the localized legitimacy that these groups have been able to attract from the affected local communities (Figure 1). There is a general sense of acceptance toward vigilantes across Zamfara state as members of the affected local communities attribute their presence to some forms of security. In this regard, a respondent had this to say when asked if he felt safe with the existence of vigilantes in his community: “Yes, they always come to our rescue, so I feel safe when I see them.” The JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 17 Figure 2. Armed banditry attacks and fatalities across Northwest states in Nigerian (2013-2022). Source: Designed by the author with data extracted from the Nigerian Security Tracker (NST) Database localized legitimacy accorded to vigilante groups is also derived from the frequency of their counter banditry successes, and the awareness of the same by members of the local communities. As one respondent noted; “Yes we have numerous successes like last week they repelled an attack in Bagega community.” Another respondent in Bagega Local Government Area notes that: “they contribute to law and order here and you see these bandits are now afraid of coming close to our village because they know they can be killed.” A resident of Karikai community states categorically that: “if not for vigilantes our village would have been raised and we would have been displaced now.” Some of these counter-banditry operations are also conducted in collab- oration with other security forces. This is especially given that the advan- tage the vigilantes poses of being knowledgeable of the local terrain and in providing local surveillance. Referring to such collaborations, one vigilante who was interviewed notes that: “We do work together by taking them to bandit hideouts.” Figure 2 above shows the distribution of armed bandit attacks and fatal- ities across Northwest Nigeria, with Zamfara state recording the highest fatalities over a sustained period, with Jigawa, Kano and Kebbi states recording the lowest. Other states affected in the region include Kaduna, and Sokoto. It is significant to note that the Localized legitimacy accorded to vigilantes by the affected local communities has also in part been influ- enced by the support they have enjoyed from traditional rulers. Attesting to the effectiveness of vigilante groups which were formed by the local community to mitigate the threat of armed banditry, one of such trad- itional rulers in Kucheri community notes that they have been “very 18 F. AINA Figure 3. Incidences and fatalities from armed banditry attacks in Zamfara state (2013-2022). Source: Designed by the author with data extracted from the Nigerian Security Tracker (NST) Database effective in fact some of our neighbouring villages had to adopt our kind of strategy.” Similarly, concerning vigilantes the head of Maru community notes that “they are our only source of security and hope and am fully in support of them”. Figure 3 above shows the incidents of armed bandit attacks and the fatal- ities from these attacks between the period of 2013 to 2022, with fatalities rising significantly in 2019 and reaching an all-time high in 2021. Zamfara state remains the most affected state by the scourge of armed banditry, which has dire consequences for its peace and security. Other successes recorded by vigilantes in Zamfara state have included repelling and preventing attacks by armed bandits, rescue operations, patrols and border security. A member of one of the affected local com- munities in Saminaka had this to say: “To the best of my knowledge some success recorded were kind of not much because they lack necessary equipment or resources to fight these bandits, but they are really trying. There was a time they attacked the bandits’ den and seized their Motorcycles and weapons, and the bandits came to our village the next day to revenge the attack on them but were stopped by again by the vigilantes.” Concerning the effectiveness of vigilantes, a former kidnapped victim by armed bandits however notes that: “They have numerous groups but the most hardworking vigilante group here is headed by Nuhu Raul and his father they are the ones helping us fight against bandits at any time and any day. We even gave Nuhu Raul a name called ‘kukan machine yafi kukan jirgi’ meaning the sound of his motorcycle is louder than that of an airplane. Because if these bandits hear the sound of his motorcycle, they mostly run away it scares them than even the fighter jets of the military.” JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 19 These examples demonstrate the wide acceptance and support accorded to vigilantes by members of the affected local communities thereby foster- ing localized legitimacy on vigilantism in the state. A respondent, cap- tured this succinctly when he noted that: “If we want peace there is a need for the government to develop and adopt vigilantism for sustainable peace because it is only a son of the soil that knows the value and importance of his soil, where he comes from. Only someone with knowledge can devise a solution to a problem.” These findings are consistent with the localized legitimacy being accorded to vigilante groups in Zamfara state in the wake of rising inci- dents of attacks and deaths caused by armed banditry. Furthermore, they also convey a sense of acceptance and reliance by the affected local com- munities toward vigilantes as a viable alternative to the state’s traditional security apparatus. The implications of these could have the (un)intended over dependence on these non-state policing tools toward addressing the threat posed by armed banditry in the state, which could potentially under- mine confidence in the state’s traditional security forces such as the mili- tary, the police and paramilitary services in counter-banditry. Challenges of vigilantism against counter banditry in Zamfara state Daniel Zizumbo-Colunga (2017, p. 990) contends that while vigilantism has the potential to reduce crime in the short term, it comes with significant costs and risks for those who are engaged in it, while also infringing on the individual rights of alleged criminals and state’s capacity to maintain its monopoly over the use of force. For instance, despite weakening local sup- port for Boko Haram, the CJFT in Northeast Nigeria has increased the risks to local communities through vengeful attacks on civilians by insur- gents (Agbiboa, 2020, p. 369). Furthermore, Schlichte and Scheckener (2015, p. 409) note that the challenges related to the politics of legitimacy of armed groups (which also includes non-state armed groups such as vigi- lantes) are their need to legitimize the use of violent means; secondly their dependence on beliefs of legitimacy for moral and material support and thirdly; their need to simultaneously address various domestic and inter- national audiences. This study however is situated in the challenges to the utility of vigilantes as part of non-state policing efforts toward countering the threat of armed banditry in Zamfara state. One of the major challenges with the use of vigilantes in non-state polic- ing in Zamfara state and in other parts of Nigeria has been the issue of mistrust between them and security forces. One of such cases is with the Ombatse, a vigilante group in Northcentral Nigeria’s Nassarawa state, whereby the mutual distrust between them and security agents has resulted 20 F. AINA in the failure to negotiate certain territories of operation, in addition to affecting the prospects of collaborations (Olayoku, 2017, p. 392). Citing an example, a respondent who was interviewed in a community in Anka Local Government Area, had observed that: “Recently the vigilantes arrested some bandits and seized their weapons and the next day the military came and requested they should be handed over to them, but the vigilantes refused which almost led to a clash between the two of them.” Ensuring that trust is built between vigilantes and the security forces is not only crucial to reinforcing shared goals and objectives of addressing the issue of armed banditry, it also serves to foster improved relations between the two as this research’s findings show. This could potentially reduce the associated frictions that arise from mistrust between vigilantes and the security forces. The absence of this, provides armed bandits with a widow of opportunity to exploit which would have detrimental consequen- ces for the prospects of peace and security in Zamfara state. There have also been challenges associated with the extrajudicial killings and other excesses perpetuated by vigilantes. This has had the tendency to also erode the localized legitimacy enjoyed by vigilantes in Zamfara state as it conveys the notion amongst some members of the affected local com- munities that they are part of the problem and not only part of its solution. As one respondent, in Anka local government area noted during field- work interview: “I can vividly recall incident weeks back were they slaughtered an innocent man who is not a bandit though it was said he had a personal grudge with one of the vigilantes because he was dating his girlfriend. So, he was falsefully accused of being a bandit.” For other members of the affected local communities in Zamfara state, it has been mixed feelings given that they are not able to reconcile the evils perpetuated by vigilantes which often contradicts the good they do within the affected local communities. As one respondent, noted when referring to the activities of vigilantes: “Innocent people are killed mostly especially when they see you are Fulani man. But they are actually trying in repelling attacks and identifying informers helping the bandits.” Similarly, a military personnel deployed to Anka community, while refer- ring to some of the atrocities committed by vigilantes noted that: “this peo- ple cause much more problems for us, at times they kill innocent Fulani men or people that are not bandits”. These findings draw attention to the need to curtail these excesses perpe- tuated by vigilantes. Addressing the excesses of vigilante groups in Zamfara sate and across the Northwest region would require more concerted efforts JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 21 toward ensuring their proper regulation, under the provisions of the law. This would also increase the prospects of accountability and transparency in the conduct of their operations, while potentially reducing incidences of misconduct. It is however significant to point out that for this to yield any significant results in the long run, it would have to entail a deliberate and sustainable effort on the part of the state overtime, as failure to do so would only lead to more related issues. Another challenge impeding the entrenchment of localized legitimacy toward vigilantes has to do with informants from within the affected com- munity turning against them. On this, a respondent notes that: “we have informers everywhere here in Anka even within the midst of the vigilantes there are informers of the bandits, so you see it is problem for us all.” Similarly, some vigilantes have also been accused of being informants themselves. A vigilante, observed that: “some of our members do give information to the bandits about our plans though some of them were fished out and killed so you see the problem is everywhere.” Echoing some of these concerns, a member of Dansadau community had this to say; “Honestly I feel less safe because most of these vigilantes are repentant thieves or even bandits from other villages and their ways of working are not sincere or pure.” The challenges posed by vigilantes acting as informants from this research’s finding snot also acts as a serious breach in counter-banditry efforts across the state, it also questions the credibility of other vigilantes as reliable non-state policing tools. This in turn undermines localized legitim- acy as it makes it erodes cooperation and collaboration from members of the affected local communities, making it difficult for them to demonstrate confidence and willingness in providing much needed information toward rescue operations for instance. This further poses serious challenges for human intelligence (HUMINT) gathering efforts which are crucial not only for conducting successful operations by other vigilante groups, but also for the military and other security forces offensive and defensive strategies against armed banditry in Zamfara state. There is also the issue of corruption amongst vigilantes which erodes the prospects of localized legitimacy. In some instances, this has been attrib- uted to their lack of proper training and funding. A vigilante who was interviewed in Karikai, acknowledged this. He notes that: “we lack proper training and honestly some of us are corrupt so if we can be trained and enjoined as security forces as salary earners, we will do a lot.” Corroborating this, the head of vigilantes in Magami community, notes that: “most of the corrupt vigilantes we have here know where these ban- dits are and won’t tell us. Some even set their fellow vigilantes up to be 22 F. AINA killed.” It is therefore imperative to note that while vigilantes have recorded significant successes against armed banditry, they also continue to encoun- ter significant challenges which potentially erodes localized legitimacy toward them from the affected local communities they seek to protect. Findings from this research show that corruption amongst vigilante groups has tended to undermine the localized legitimacy they have enjoyed in local communities across Zamfara state affected by armed banditry. This poses a serious challenge for how vigilantes are generally perceived across the state, despite the significant contributions they have made toward coun- ter-banditry efforts. While completely eradicating corruption amongst vigi- lante groups might prove to be a difficult undertaking, especially considering their un(der)regulated nature across the state, addressing it remains worthwhile. Doing so efficiently and effectively would require designing and implementing initiatives by the state in partnership with the leadership of vigilante groups that are particularly intended at disincentivis- ing vigilantes who embrace corruption. Despite these challenges, it is pertinent to note that vigilantes continue to enjoy wide acceptance in Zamfara state. This has reinforced localized legitimacy accorded to them by the affected local communities. However, sustaining their localized legitimacy in the long run, requires efforts at addressing these challenges which are crucial toward peace and security. Conclusion The proliferation of vigilantism as a non-state policing tool in Nigeria reflects the need to augment the policing gaps that have been created because of the state’s incapacity to adequately address its multiple security threats. This includes the rise of armed banditry in Northwest Nigeria. The utility of vigi- lantism as a hybrid security intervention in counter- banditry has attracted both successes and attendant challenges, mostly concerning the conduct of these non-state actors. As Badiora (2018,p.249)notes,the public’ssatisfaction with vigilantes in Nigeria reflects the use of procedural justice practices in encounters with the public. This is not to say that the under-regulation of vig- ilantes in armed conflict settings such as in Zamfara state does not attract its attendant issues which this study clearly articulates. However, this study which contributes to the literature by examining the legitimacy of vigilantes as non-state armed groups as part of non-state policing efforts, with a focus on its localized origins, offers a modest attempt at filling this gap. As the evidence shows, vigilantes in Zamfara state have been instru- mental in several counter-banditry operations some of which have included rescuing kidnapped victims, assisting the military, providing intelligence and protecting vulnerable communities. They have also been complicit in revenge JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 23 killings, which includes extra judicial killings and going beyond the law in other instances. Yet despite these excesses, they are mostly recognized and perceived as being legitimate by the local communities in which they operate, which has contributed toward their acceptance. Future research could potentially explore the circumstances leading to the delegitimization of vigilantes by local communities and its consequen- ces on counterterrorism efforts. Such as the reasons for the recognition and support given to armed bandits by members of the affected local commun- ities who remain sympathetic to their cause. This should also include the case of informants working to truncate the counter-banditry efforts of local vigilante groups in Zamfara state and across Northwest Nigeria. Disclosure statement The authors report no conflicts of interest. Notes 1. Anonymous member of local community in Magami, Zamfara, June 2022. 2. Anonymous member of local community in Bagega, Zamfara, March 2022. 3. Anonymous member of local community in Bagega, Zamfara, February 2022. 4. Anonymous member of local community in Karika, Zamfara, April 2022. 5. Anonymous member of local community in Karikai, Zamfara, March 2022. 6. The dataset for the year 2022 is available up to the month of July. 7. Anonymous traditional ruler in Kucheri, Zamfara, April 2022. 8. Head of Maru community, Maru, Zamfara, April 2022 9. The dataset for the year 2022 is available up to the month of July. 10. Anonymous member of local community in Saminaka, Zamfara, April 2022. 11. Anonymous former armed bandit kidnapped victim of Nahuche, Zamfara June 2022. 12. Anonymous member of local community in Saminaka, Zamfara, March 2022. 13. Anonymous member of local community in Anka, Zamfara, February 2022. 14. Anonymous member of local community in Anka, Zamfara, April 2022. 15. Anonymous member of local community in Anka, Zamfara, January 2022. 16. Anonymous Military personnel deployed to a local community in Anka, Zamfara, February 2022. 17. Anonymous member of a vigilante group in a local community in Zamfara, June 18. Anonymous member of a local community in Dansadau, Zamfara, May 2022. 19. Anonymous member of a vigilante group in a local community in Zamfara, February 20. Head of vigilantes in Magami community, Zamfara, March 2022. Funding This work was supported by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF), Switzerland. 24 F. AINA ORCID Folahanmi Aina http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4999-2042 References Abdulaziz, A. (2021). 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Between vigilantism and ethnocultural preservation: An investigation into the legitimacy of the non-state policing activities of the Ombatse group among the Eggon people of Nassarawa State, Nigeria. African Security Review, 26(4), 378–398. https://doi.org/10.1080/10246029.2017.1359639 Oshita, O. O., Alumona, I. M., & Onuoha, F. C., eds., (2019). Internal security management in Nigeria perspectives, challenges and lessons. Retrieved September 18, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-8215-4 Podder, S. (2014). Mainstreaming the non-state in bottom-up state-building: Linkages between rebel governance and post-conflict legitimacy. Conflict, Security and Development, 14(2), 213–243. https://doi.org/10.1080/14678802.2014.889878 JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 27 Podder, S. (2017). Understanding the legitimacy of armed groups: A relational perspective. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 28(4-5), 686–708. https://doi.org/10.1080/09592318.2017. Pratten, D. (2008). 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(2022). Prevention of revenge acts and vigilantism in response to acts and campaigns of terrorism. In A. P. Schmid (Ed.), Handbook of terrorism prevention and preparedness (pp. 1027–1058). International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https://icct.nl/handbook-of-terrorism-prevention-and-preparedness/ Rosenbaum, H. J., & Sederberg, P. C. (1974). Vigilantism: An Analysis of Establishment Violence. Comparative Politics, 6(4), 541–570. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https:// www.jstor.org/stable/421337 https://doi.org/10.2307/421337 Rotberg, R. I. (2002). The new nature of nation-state failure. The Washington Quarterly, 25(3), 83–96. https://doi.org/10.1162/01636600260046253 Rufa’I, M. A. (2021). “I am a Bandit” a decade of research in Zamfara State Bandit’s Den, th presented at the 15 University Seminar Series, Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria on September 9. 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Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https://dailytrust.com/matawalle-there-are-30000- armed-bandits-across-the-north Zartman, I.W. ed., (1995). Collapsed states: The disintegration and restoration of legitimate authority. Lynne Rienner. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from https://www.rienner.com/ title/Collapsed_States_The_Disintegration_and_Restoration_of_Legitimate_Authority Zizumbo-Colunga, D. (2017). Community, authorities, and support for vigilantism: Experimental evidence. Political Behavior, 39(4), 989–1015. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from https://www.proquest.com/openview/f409d788f66207758e82eee66cd20745/1.pdf?pq- origsite=gscholar&cbl=54052 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-017-9388-6 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Applied Security Research Taylor & Francis

Politics of “Localised Legitimacy”, Vigilantism, Non-State Policing and Counter-Banditry in Northwest Nigeria: Evidence from the Epicenter

Journal of Applied Security Research , Volume 19 (1): 28 – Jan 2, 2024

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10.1080/19361610.2023.2240281
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JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH https://doi.org/10.1080/19361610.2023.2240281 Politics of “Localised Legitimacy”, Vigilantism, Non-State Policing and Counter-Banditry in Northwest Nigeria: Evidence from the Epicenter Folahanmi Aina School of Global Affairs, King’s College London, London, UK KEYWORDS ABSTRACT Vigilantism; non-state Northwest Nigeria has been devastated by armed banditry, policing; counter-banditry; with Zamfara state being the epicenter of the crisis. The use localised legitimacy; of vigilantes in non-state policing against armed banditry has Zamfara state accorded legitimacy to these groups. However, their activities also pose significant challenges. Where scholarly work has examined the legitimacy of vigilantes, the focus has mostly been on legitimacy derived from the nation-state. This paper, contributes to the literature by interrogating the legitimacy of vigilantism as a non-state policing tool toward countering armed banditry, derived from affected local communities in Zamfara state. Introduction Armed banditry constitutes one of Nigeria’s most prevalent and existential threats to peace and security. The activities of armed bandits, which have recently received significant attention both locally and internationally, have resulted in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of many others across the country. Armed bandits, mostly operating in their hundreds and numbering well over 30,000, are known to be engaged in nefarious acts, including pillaging, brigandage, thefts, kidnapings, exploitation, and sexual vio- lence. Also worrisome is the increasing prospects of potential partnerships between armed bandits and jihadist groups, further complicating the threat posed by armed banditry in Nigeria (Abdulaziz, 2021). While there is no immediate certainty to this, given that armed bandits are mostly driven by economic opportunism, jihadists, on the other hand, are motivated by a polit- ical ideology, the recent proscription of armed bandits as terrorists by the fed- eral government (Ameh, 2022), provides the basis for this eventuality. CONTACT Folahanmi Aina Talk2fola@hotmail.com School of Global Affairs, King’s College London, London, UK. 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent. 2 F. AINA In response to the scourge of armed banditry, which has crippled eco- nomic activities in most of the affected states in the Northern region, par- ticularly in the Northwest and parts of the country’s Southern region, both the federal and state governments have utilized multifaceted measures. Some of these included deploying the military and other security agencies in ongoing internal security operations, shutting down telecommunication services, and media houses, closing roads and markets, banning the use of motorcycles and the sale of fuel, granting amnesties, and the imposition of no-fly zones and curfews. Others have included the uncoordinated amnesty to armed bandits, and social welfare programmes, to mention a few. These meas- ures, which have yielded some results, have mostly failed to address the pre- ventive causes of the rise of armed banditry in the affected region, such as the underlying socio-economic root causes, which include high poverty levels, inequality, unemployment, and high illiteracy rates. Others are associated with political and environmental conditions such as poor governance, weak institu- tions, and the devastating effects of climate change. Rather, these responses, such as the dominance in the use of force, have tended to contribute to the protractedness of the armed banditry-induced con- flict thereby resulting in the over militarization of the conflict (Aina, 2022). Given the constitutional constraints on the ability of sub-national entities in Nigeria to meet their security needs, most of the affected sub-national entities have resorted to the services of local vigilante groups who derive their legitim- acy from the nation-state and the sub-national entities in mitigating the threat of armed banditry. While this has had its advantages, especially given their vast knowledge and familiarity with the terrain and the affected local com- munities, it has also been met with attendant problems at the heart of under regulation and, in some instances, the un-regulation of these groups. The implications of this have been that while vigilantism serves as a non-state policing political tool toward ensuring peace and security at community levels, it has also contributed toward aggravating the problem due to issues such as extrajudicial killings, corruption, and disregard for the rule of law, to mention a few. In Northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state which is remains the epicenter of the armed banditry crisis in Nigeria owing to the number of violent incidents compared to other states, the utility of vigilante groups has been met with dif- ferent reactions. Therefore, this study contributes to the literature through empirical evi- dence, by interrogating the legitimacy derived by vigilantism as a non-state policing political tool toward countering armed banditry in the affected local communities in Zamfara state. This is significant as a departure from studies on vigilantism that focus on legitimacy derived from the nation- state, and sub-national entities. Moreover, the significance of the study to the body of knowledge is both timely and relevant, given that vigilantism JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 3 has long been overlooked by political scientists to the discipline’s detriment (Bateson, 2021, p. 945). The study offers insights on the “localised legit- imacy” of vigilante groups derived from the affected local communities. The rationale for the study is further informed by the challenges associated with policing un(der)governed spaces given the inherent weaknesses in the state’s capacity to adequately address the scourge of armed banditry in Zamfara state, which has recorded the highest death rates across the troubled region in recent times. This is done by answering the research’s question on how the utility of vigilantism as a non-state policing political tool contributes toward countering armed banditry. Therefore, the paper’s central argument is that the localized legitimacy accorded to vigilantism as a non-state policing tool by the affected local communities validates its per- missibility in the absence of formally recognized constitutionality toward counter-banditry. The paper is divided into six parts. Following the introduction, the study lays out its methodology, after which it offers a conceptual and theoretical discourse on vigilantism within the contexts of legitimacy, non-state polic- ing, and counter-banditry. The study’s structure then proceeds to discuss the historicity of vigilantism and the armed banditry threat landscape across Northwest Nigeria. The contributions of vigilantism toward non- state policy and counter-banditry in Zamfara state are then explored. This is followed by the section that examines the challenges to the legitimization of vigilantes within the context of counter-banditry in Zamfara state. The study ends with a conclusion. Methodology This qualitative study draws on primary data from in-depth semi-struc- tured interviews conducted during extensive fieldwork in Zamfara state with key informants including vigilantes, members of affected local com- munities, traditional rulers, state government officials, youth and women leaders and security officials. The interviews were conducted in Hausa lan- guage, which is the prominent local language in the state, and were subse- quently transcribed in English. In conducting these interviews, the ethnographic style rather than the journalistic style was adopted. This was particularly useful in ensuring that the questions directed at the interview- ees were not intended at preempting particular outcomes. The questions asked mostly focused on the counter-banditry efforts by vigilantes and per- ceptions on their acceptability or otherwise, and legitimacy amongst the affected local communities. A total of 30 respondents were interviewed over a period of seven months from January to July 2022. Each interview lasted for about 45 minutes to an hour. In selecting the interviewees, the 4 F. AINA non-probability sampling approach was adopted over the random sampling approach toward ensuring that the risk of excluding important respondents was significantly minimized. Specifically, the type of non-probability sampling approach which was adopted for this research is the snowball/ chain-referral sampling. Those who qualified to be interviewed were those residing in the affected local communities, in addition to being knowledge- able of the activities of vigilantes in these communities. Access to the rele- vant stakeholders was provided through the traditional rulers of these local communities. The adoption of this approach is also useful in helping to corroborate what has been mostly established from other sources. Specifically, the type of non-probability sampling adopted for the research is snowball/chain-referral. The study also adopts the thematic data analysis method to data analysis, which is useful in identifying and reporting pat- terns within the data. This method to data analysis is particularly advanta- geous for coding specific research questions as well as to reflect reality and to unravel its surface, given the research’s objectives. It is therefore more explicitly analyst driven. Additionally, secondary data were obtained from books, journal articles, local and international news sources, as well as offi- cial reports. Content analysis was used to derive relevant information toward the attainment of the objectives of the research from these second- ary sources. Legitimacy, vigilantism, non-state policing and counter banditry: a conceptual/theoretical discourse Vigilantism and the politics of legitimacy Vigilantes have existed across the world for many years. Nation-states become increasingly confronted with security threats, which often stretch the limits of their traditional coercive apparatuses, including the military and other security forces. As Joshua Barker (2006) rightly notes, the state’s sole prerogative is to ensure law enforcement and punishment, which is done through certain instruments such as the police, the courts, and the prison system. States sometimes look to alternative security arrangements, including the services of local vigilante groups. This accords some forms of legitimacy to the activities of these groups in non-state policing through state-sponsorship. However, there are also concerns over the issues of illegitimate coercion that follow from state-sponsored armed groups such as vigilantes in non-state policing efforts. These concerns also have conse- quences for how vigilantes are perceived and accepted by local commun- ities. These concerns are mostly centered on vigilantes taking the law into their own hands. In this regard, Kirschner (2011, p. 566) argues that while vigilantes create a form of law and order that tends to oppose the state, JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 5 they are inclined to depend on it as their point of reference. On this, Belgin San Akca (2009), argue that it is significant to note that state sup- port for non-state armed groups (NSAGs) could be attributed to the state’s vulnerability toward generating and mobilizing the required resources for security purposes within its borders. Rosenbaum and Sederberg (1974) define vigilantism as the establishment of violence, consisting of acts or threats of coercion in violation of the formal boundaries of the socio-polit- ical order, even though its intentions might be toward preventing the sub- version of that order. Having acknowledged that the principal goal of vigilantism is deterrence, they categorize vigilantism into three broad typol- ogies: crime control vigilantism, social group vigilantism, and regime con- trol vigilantism. While the first two are concerned with preserving the status quo and mostly arise owing to the ineffectiveness or irrelevance of the formal rule enforcement system, the third is mostly directed against the regime itself (Rosenberg & Sederberg, 1974). This study is, however, situated in crime control vigilantism, which is targeted at curtailing the activities of dissi- dents and other criminal elements mostly through the extra-legal use of force within contested areas of the nation state. These conditions are par- ticularly evident where confidence in the government’s ability to manage internal security remains questionable. In a departure from the conceptual- ization of vigilantism as ‘established violence’, Les Johnson (1996) notes that the concept of vigilantism is enigmatic and therefore defines it as a social movement giving rise to premeditated acts of force – or threatened force – by autonomous citizens. He further argues that vigilantism has six necessary features: planning, premeditation and organization, private volun- tary agency, autonomous citizenship, the use or threatened use of force, reaction to crime and social deviance, personal and collective security (Johnson, 1996). The concept of vigilantism has also been associated with community-based armed groups (CBAGs), which act against threats to local communities, including counter insurgency (Agbiboa, 2019). Nwangbo et al. (2022) define vigilantism as the informal mobilization of voluntary civilians to form a policing team to ensure societal control and order. This, according to them, involves partnerships, collaborations and adopting collective crime-fighting strategies and other related vises at the community level. Similarly, Eduardo Moncada (2017, 408) defines vigilant- ism as the collective use or threat of extra-legal violence in response to an alleged criminal act. This definition is limiting, and reflects part of the con- ceptual challenges associated with defining vigilantism in that it does not account for the offensive vigilantism intended to prevent criminal acts. Andrea Krischer (2011, p. 572), while arriving at similar conclusions, notes that vigilantism could be understood as being in reaction to a perceived or 6 F. AINA feared loss of order, particularly regarding physical and legal security intended to ensure stability or the restoration of the old order. Noting the limitations of the existing definitions of vigilantism, which are contradict- ory, tautological, and lacking easy operationalization, Regina Bateson (2021) defines vigilantism as the extra-legal prevention, investigation, or punishment of offenses. This study subscribes to this definition as it offers conceptual clarity that foregrounds its central thesis. Vigilantism in con- tested spaces is often a reflection of the deficiency in the state’s capacity to mitigate existential threats, thereby creating a void which necessitates the reliance on nontraditional coercive tools. Alemika and Okoli (2004) provide a useful categorization of vigilantism into four types; neighborhood or community (these include neighborhood watch and community vigilante groups that are organized by community associations), ethnic based vigilante groups (which are organized along ethnic lines to defend ethnic interests), religious based vigilante groups (those accustomed to upholding faith-based idioms), and state sponsored vigilante groups (based on the support of the state and local government). This study’s focus reflects an intersection between community-based and state-sponsored vigilante groups given that most times, the former is sub- sumed by the sub-national entity as a hybrid security apparatus, thereby giving it access to support, sponsorship, and recognition. Dany Frank Tiwa (2022), therefore, argues that in addition to being a personal endeavor, the decision to become a vigilante often originates from a feeling of injustice, given the ostracized tendency of segments of crime- beset communities. This argument negates the schools of thought which postulates that the motivation for joining such groups is attributed to polit- ical and economic opportunism. For instance, in the case of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Northeast Nigeria, which first started as a vigi- lante outfit before it was subsumed as a government backed paramilitary security apparatus working alongside the Nigerian military, as a hybrid security model, youths who joined the CJTF to fight against Boko Haram, did so out of a feeling of personal loss (Agbiboa, 2021). While different names have been used to describe non-state actors in the field of contemporary security studies, including “irregular armed actors”, “militias”, and “gangs” amongst others which contributes to the already blurry line that exists with the conceptualization of these groups. This paper, adopts “community-based armed groups” as a terminology that cap- tures the essence of its central arguments. This is particularly so given that vigilantes emanate from within the local communities which they serve and are not integrated into it as external non-state actors. CBAGs can be understood as a subtype of the broader category of NSAGs (Schuberth, 2015). It is significant to note that CBAGs are often unregulated and do JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 7 not harbor political ideologies. The implied ramifications of this is that they even though they exist within the state’s political system, they are often not immune to its machinations. Offering a typology of CBAGs, Schuberth (2015, 301) argues that when the security dimension is most pronounced, this reflects a CBAG’s categorization as a vigilante group, not- ing that these groups can be subdivided into crime-control groups, self- defense forces, and para-states. He further notes that other dimensions include the political and economic dimensions which are mostly associated with militias and criminal gangs respectively. The propensity of vigilantes to exert violence in the execution of their objectives of providing security has attracted concerns over their abuse and (mis)use. This has resulted in another issue which has received insufficient atten- tion in the literature regarding non-state armed groups, which is legitimacy, particularly that which is derived from local communities. Much of the lit- erature about legitimacy has mostly focused on the state, with few scholars devoting attention to the legitimacy of other actors other than the state, as argued by Duyvesteyn (2017, 672). As Sukanya Podder (2014, 221) notes, legitimacy is multifaceted and at times associated with authority, control over violence and institutional power. It is pertinent to note that the litera- ture on the politics of legitimacy of armed groups still presents several unanswered questions requiring empirical inquiry. Schlichte and Scheckener (2015) define legitimacy within this context as the belief in the rightfulness of an armed group’s agenda and violent struggle. Noting that the belief might exist not only within the organization itself, but also out- side it as well. They however point out that legitimacy may not necessarily lead to active support, as according to them, active support could depend on the concrete opportunities (Schlichte and Scheckener, 2015). Civilians are therefore inclined to support non-state armed groups such as vigilantes through acts of cooperation which can be in three ways. This includes through obedience; spontaneous support or enlistment as Arjona (2017) argues. The absence of this is reflected in acts of resistance. Referring to the Bottoms-Tankebe model, which establishes traditional predictors of legitimacy as constituting elements of legitimacy, Tankebe and Asif (2016,p. 346) argue that obligation is a central mechanism through which legitimacy might influence support for vigilante violence. Non-state armed groups such as vigilantes are therefore able to maintain local order through massive obedi- ence and the existence of modest support (Arjona, 2017, p. 760). It is there- fore to be noted that non-state armed groups such as vigilantes, could derive legitimacy from outside threats and established enemy images whereby they claim that their actions are situated around the need to liberate, protect, and defend threatened communities. The basis upon which this legitimacy rests is in the need to address mutually linked security concerns between them and 8 F. AINA the affected local communities. Doing so is useful in ensuring that solidarity toward its cause is guaranteed, also toward projecting itself and its violent actions as being necessary, appropriate, and comparatively less destructive than those of the common enemy (Schlichte and Scheckener, 2015, p. 418). It is however pertinent to note that support and cooperation from civil- ians or local communities might not necessarily translate to legitimacy, as legitimacy itself can only truly be accorded by the legal backing of the state. This explains the basis for the attendant legitimacy of state-sponsored armed groups. Given that the absence of social order is chaos, it is pertin- ent to note that ensuring the delivery of social order could be viewed as a vehicle through which it is conferred on the giver (Dutvesteyn, 2017,p. 679). Noting the case of Nigeria’s Bakassi Boys, a local vigilante group operating in the Southeast of the country, Meagher (2012) argues that they enjoyed enormous popular support because of their reputation for fairness and resistance to corruption, as well as the joy that comes with a sense of security, all of which conferred “local legitimacy” on them. All of which was before the sub-national state governments subsumed them under their control. As Nwangbo et al. (2022, p. 5) rightly note, the dynamism of the Nigerian configuration and the interplay of political forces complicates vigi- lantism within the Nigerian context. The nature of relationships between vigilante groups and the state as well as society, plays a significant role in determining the extent of support and legitimacy accorded to these groups. Podder (2017) notes that there are three types of relationships associated with the existence of armed groups. These include relationships with civilian communities, the state or regime in power and with external factors which may include regional or international sponsors. Regarding relations with civil- ian communities, which could be one of the most important sources of domestic legitimacy, voluntary compliance is sought over coercive control. However, she argues that the state’s relationship with armed groups on the other hand exists in three ways, which include collusive, conciliatory, and con- flictual relationships. This study which focuses on vigilantes as CBAGs is mostly aligned with conciliatory relationship, whereby the state accepts the autonomy of non-state armed actors which could be because it lacks the mili- tary capacity to recapture territory under the control of armed groups (Podder, 2017, p. 695). These relationships also reflect the extent of the legit- imacy armed groups might enjoy from the state. Bateson (2021)also provides useful variations in vigilantism across individual versus collective vigilantism, violent versus nonviolent vigilantism, public versus private vigilantism, spon- taneous versus institutionalized vigilantism, and offensive versus defensive vigilantism. This study draws attention toward defensive vigilantism which is targeted at protecting vulnerable local communities against armed banditry. JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 9 Vigilantism and non-state community policing Policing has been defined as measures and actions taken by a variety of institutions and groups to regulate social relations and practices intended to secure members of a community, in addition to ensuring conforming with societal norms and values (Alemika, 2019, p. 96). Non-state policing therefore refers to efforts centered on ensuring the provision of security that is outside the established coercive apparatus of the state. Confronted with multiple security threats, nation-states have resorted to what is consid- ered a hybrid approach to securitization. This form of security arrangement sees the use of both state and non-state policing actors and measures in mitigating security threats. This has also raised questions on the state’s abil- ity to maintain its monopoly over the control and use of force. As David Pratten (2008, p. 4) rightly notes, the proliferation of privatized and decen- tralized policing signals a new paradigm which contradicts our common understanding of the state’s provision of security through its monopoly of force, as an essential function of government. Where citizens have lost confidence in the ability to the state to perform one of its most fundamental responsibilities, which is the protection of lives and property, their disenchantment toward the state potentially leads to a “transfer of legitimacy” to other alternatives such as non-state armed groups. This position is echoed by Kirschner (2011, 576) who argues that in places such as Nigeria vigilantism as a form of violent “self-help” is legitimized because of popular dissatisfaction with the state’s inability to provide security. This study argues that the result of this is the creation of ‘localized legitimacy’ accorded to these non-state armed groups who are perceived as avengers or saviors, mostly by the affected local communities with or without the backing of the state or sub-national entity. Nicole Hass et al. (2014) have argued for instance that when the police have been less responsive to crime, people tended to be more supportive of vigilantism. According to their findings, the reverse could also be said to be the case. Similarly, Ivanov et al. (2021) posit that vigilantism emanates because of the failures of political institutions created to protect the interests of citi- zens in addition to being the product of the existence of ethnic and social divides. This is clearly the case with countries such as Nigeria. In other words, diffused confidence in the police is a significant predictor of public support for vigilantism. Similarly, Daniel Zizumbo-Colunga (2017, p. 993) argues that given that the rationale behind vigilantism reflects an attempt to confront and prevent alleged crime independent of the state, law enforcement authorities and other community members therefore play significant roles in shaping the emergence of collective vigilantism. Where public confidence in the ability of the state to guarantee security is lacking, which is often reflected in the 10 F. AINA incapacity and ineffectiveness of law enforcement authorities, the civilian community is more inclined to repose public support toward alternative actors such as local vigilantes. As Niel Jarman (2007, p. 4) rightly notes, in some cases, vigilantism entails public forms of policing activities which are designed to act as a deterrent or to prevent something from eventually hap- pening. On the emergence of vigilantism, Schuberth (2013, p. 48) posits that these can be attributed to the outcome of socio-political processes such as polarization, marginalization, criminalization, and securitization, all of which are triggered by policy choices. Laurent Fouchard (2008) therefore argues that the changing forms of non-state policing could be attributed to the apparent rise of vigilante groups, such as the case is, in Nigeria for instance. He further contends that in Nigeria, vigilantism is a top-down political response to issues of policing in the country (Fouchard, 2008, 33). The findings of Peter Boettke et al. (2016) on community policing has also challenged popular beliefs concerning the consolidation and centralization of services as being the sole ways of effectively providing citizens with public goods such as secur- ity by localities. This holds especially in conflict affected contexts where vigilantes have been actively involved in counter insurgency efforts intended at ensuring peace and security in local communities. Vigilantism and counter-banditry Alemika (2019, 106) rightly notes that the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has altered the architecture, doctrine, and mentality of security ser- vice delivery. The same could also be said of armed banditry which contin- ues to ravage a significant portion of the country’s Northern regions, particularly the Northwest and Northcentral regions.As the Nigerian state continues in its struggle to curtail the scourge of armed banditry, in add- ition to the constitutionally imposed restriction on sub-national states to take lead on their security provision, the need for other non-state policing mechanisms become inevitable. This has resulted in the proliferation of non-state policing tools such as vigilante groups. Nwangbo et al. (2022, 10) contend that given the high unreachability of rural communities in parts of Nigeria for instance, which often limits the capacity of the police force to attend to the security needs of such communities, vigilante groups become a necessity. This partly reflects the reality confronting most of the armed banditry affected local communities in Nigeria’s Northwest region. This problem is understood within the context of ungoverned spaces whereby the state’s presence is either lacking or limited (Nwokolo, 2020; Ojo, 2020). Such realities have resulted in using vigilantes to fill these “policing gaps” as a counter measure against armed banditry in Northwest Nigeria. On JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 11 this, Agbiboa (2018) has argued that in the context of risk, radical uncer- tainty, powerlessness and heightened fear, local youth have turned to vigi- lantism to reclaim a sense of control and agency. Specifically, in the case of Zamfara state, this led to the formation of community self-defense vigilante groups in response to the threat of armed banditry (Lar, 2019, p. 124). Furthermore, following the recent proscription of armed bandits as terro- rists, by the federal government of Nigeria, and the threat they pose to national security, the need to intensify counterterrorism efforts against this threat particularly by the affected local communities has become impera- tive. As Marie Robin (2022) has argued, vigilantism could potentially con- tribute toward instilling a sense of accountability and respect for the law within a society, thereby likely averting future unlawful behavior. Vigilantism and sub-national fragility – a theoretical anchor The ability of the state to meet the needs of society has attracted a wide dis- course in the literature, including a confluence of terms such as “state failure”, “failed state”, “state weakness”, “state collapse”,and “state fragility” amongst others. Of these terms, state collapse connotes an extreme case of a collapsed state (Rotberg, 2002). Adding to this, scholars such as Hanna and Besada (2007) have argued that a collapsing state refers to a state that has not only lost its legitimacy, and ability to ensure security, but one in which there are only a few or no functioning institutions at all. Similarly, Saha and Mallayarapu (2006) note that the state’s inability to protect its citizens’ lives, in addition to contending with legitimacy issues, qualifies it as a failed state. State failure therefore ideally entails a situation whereby the state is no longer able to carry out its basic functions (Zartman, 1995). In other words, a failed state is one in which the social contract is either absent or no longer exists. State fragility on the other hand reflects a condition of state failure, which does not translate to state failure itself. Rather, a fragile state is mostly charac- terized by conditions in which the state’s legitimacy, authority, and the cap- acity of state institutions are in rapid decline, weak or even broken (Nay, 2013, p. 327). Given these distinctions, state weakness could be understood as a situation whereby the conditions leading to state failure are ripe. It is there- fore pertinentto note thatwhile a weak state may struggle to functionprop- erly in every area, its ability to still do so in some areas distinguishes it from a failed state. David Carmet (2003) therefore describes state failure as a non- linear process of relative decay. It is, however, useful to note that the applicability of state weakness as a theoretical basis for understanding the emergence of vigilantism is con- tested. This is especially so in strong, viable, and modern states, which could be understood as exceptions. Using the examples of both Brazil and 12 F. AINA South Africa, Moritz Schuberth (2013) challenges the prevalent belief that the emergence of informal security structures, such as vigilante groups, reflects state weakness. Similarly, Rebecca Tapscott (2023) has argued with the framework of “security assemblage” that while non-state actors could be a response to state absence, fragility, or failure, they could potentially be the cause of these as well. She further notes that within this framework, actors (both state and non-state) could be both mutually reinforcing or contradictory of one another (Tapscott, 2023, p. 13). This study however adopts state fragility as a theoretical anchor given its suitability in explain- ing the current realities of the deteriorating insecurity situation in Nigeria’s troubled Northwest region which has necessitated the proliferation of vigi- lante groups. Establishing linkages with state fragility and the inability to effectively manage conflict, Ikpe (2007) situates this on the state’s capacity to not only protect itself and its citizens but also manage conflict without having to resort to the use of violence. While the literature provides an extensive analysis of these issues, an exist- ing gap in this regard remains that of sub-national fragility. Sub-national enti- ties which make up a federating system, tend to depend on the federal government for monthly handouts as part of their monthly allocations. As most sub-national entities in places such as Africa continue to rely on the nation-state to meet their security needs as enshrined in their constitutions, they are sometimes inclined to resort to alternative security provisions such as community policing. Wisler and Onwudiwe (2008, p. 434), therefore, argue that a key variable with vigilant forms of community policing is the lack of service delivery capacity of the state, as weak states tend to create a “policing gap”.Kirschner (2011, p. 571) contends for instance that the significant pres- ence of vigilante groups across Nigeria provides corroborative evidence that indeed the country appears to be fragile, if not failed. While these arguments reflect the situation of the nation-state, they have mostly tended to ignore sub-national entities which constitute the broader state, thereby providing little or no explanation for how dynamics at this level of statehood manifest out- comes. As Okoli and Abubakar (2021) note, armed bandits have taken control over chunks of hinterland communities in places such as Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna which are all located in Northwest Nigeria amongst other ban- ditry-infested areas in the country. This attests to the gravity of the situation in the region, depicting sub-national state fragility. Historicity of vigilantism and the threat landscape of armed banditry in northwest Nigeria Vigilantism as a form of self-policing is not new in Africa (Kirschner 2011, p. 574). Similarly, it has had a long history in Nigeria, as Fouchard (2008) JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 13 contends. During pre-colonial times, vigilantism was manifested in Nigeria through various youth organizations, including warrior bands, secret soci- eties, militias, and small groups of night-guards (Kirschner 2011, p. 575). David Pratten (2008) further notes that there has been a proliferation of vigilantism in Nigeria since 1999, which marked the country’s return to democratic rule. Some of these vigilante groups include the O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), the Bakassi Boys, the Hisba and Yan banga, amongst others. Offering a distinctiveness to vigilantes in Nigeria, he notes that they are mostly located within contests over citizenship, which is defined in terms of the politics of identity, gender, as well as generation thereby invoking notions of themselves as protectors of a ‘moral commu- nity’ (Pratten, 2008, p. 6). In this sense, most contemporary vigilante groups draw their legitimacy from both ethnic-based history and religion (Olayoku 2017, p. 388). It is however pertinent to note that the practise itself only became an independent variable for explanation in the 2000s as argued by Dany Frank Tiwa (2022). Vigilantism in contemporary Nigeria is characterized by the existence of neighborhood watchers and hunters who are gradually being integrated into the formal security architecture of the nation-state, mostly at the level of regional geopolitical zones such as Ebube Agwu in the Southeast, Amotekun in the Southwest, and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in the Northeast amongst others. In Nigeria’s Post-1999 era, it has been argued that the practice of vigilantism has come to fruition, giving them the role of state governors and shifting within the state (Pratten, 2008). Echoing this position, Iloh and Nwokedi (2019, p. 532) note that the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN), the official umbrella body of all vigi- lante groups in Nigeria was formally registered on February 18, 1999, with its headquarters moved from Kaduna in Northwest Nigeria to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. It is also pertinent to note that VGN in Kaduna state dates as far back to 1982, during which it provided voluntary surveillance against criminality to the Tudun Wada community in Kaduna North Local Government Area (Ogbozor, 2016). Despite this, the success of vigilante groups could be attributed not only to the popular support they enjoy but also to local politicians and business- men (Kirschner, 2011, p. 581). Pratten (2007, 170) contends that in the late 1980s, following the structural adjustment policies which were characterized by dwindling economic opportunities, and rising crime rates, local govern- ment by-laws which legalized vigilante groups were encouraged by the Nigerian federal government. Building on this argument, Njoku and Akintayo (2021, p. 163) argue that the emergence of new vigilante groups in Nigeria has more to do with promoting the elite’s economic and political interests than aiding the state based on nationalism or solving its security 14 F. AINA challenges. Moritz Schuberth (2015, p. 303), however, argues that ideal-type vigilantes are distinguished from militias and gangs concerning their pri- mary function, providing security rather than pursuing political and eco- nomic interests. Dany Frank Tiwa (2022) further argues that in the case of Nigeria, many communities established and endorsed vigilante groups to gain access to the country’s wealth and political authority. This submission connotes the exist- ence of a political economy dimension of the rise of vigilantism. As Schlichte and Scheckener (2015,p.417)rightly point out,armed groups (including non-state armed groups such as local vigilantes) might use local communities’ socio-economic and political aspirations as justification for their own actions andto underscore their claims. Byso doing, they try to become representa- tivesof these communitiesaswell astheir agendas. It has, however, been argued that contemporary vigilantism in Northern Nigeria, is situated around religious idioms following popular calls for Sharia law, emanating from the grassroots in response to the government’s failure and moral bankruptcy (Agbiboa, 2021). Vigilantes have also emerged in Northern Nigeria because of the need to support the policing efforts of the state toward fighting crime and ensuring the maintenance of law and order in society. While banditry has existed in Nigeria for a long time, transhuman move- ments around 2011 marked the origins of contemporary armed banditry in the country. This established the first bandit organization in Northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state (Rufai, 2021). Their initial goal was to fend off per- ceived social injustice against Fulani pastoralists in Zamfara state before eventually being extended to other states such as Kaduna, and Sokoto states in Northwest Nigeria (Rufai, 2021). Following the attacks on rural Hausa communities in Zamfara state in 2016, local vigilantes were mobilized to provide security against armed Fulani gangs. Those in long-established Fulani communities felt that they were innocent and had nothing to do with armed bandits and as such, the attacks against them were unjustified, hence the need to protect themselves as well. As the situation began to deteriorate, some Fulani leaders in their communities responded by organ- izing themselves with the intent of revenge, having identified their attackers. The situation was further escalated by the complexities of the existing farmer herder crisis across the region, which has been worsened by rural armed banditry (Rufai, 2018). These tensions have since seen local vigi- lantes, acting in the security interest of the affected local populations, com- pleting state policing efforts toward fighting the scourge of rural armed banditry. Local vigilantes in the region, considered a quasi-defence force thus received wide acceptance and support from traditional rulers who were convinced that they were the most potent means of mitigating the JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 15 threat of armed banditry (Rufai, 2018). Some of the tools used by local vigilante groups operating in Zamfara state include sticks, bindiga mai batur, mai pulogo (local guns), cutlasses, axes, and swords. They are also instrumental in securing borders linking other villages at night by mount- ing checkpoints (Personal interview with vigilante in Karikai, 2022). In Zamfara state they go by the name Yan tasro Gari in Hausa language, which loosely means “town securers”. The root cause of rising armed banditry in Northwest Nigeria remains contested. However, some conditions that have sustained the proliferation of armed banditry in the troubled region include the farmer-herders crisis, poor governance, weak institutions, climate change resulting in environ- mental degradation, and socio-economic grievances. As of 2021, there were over 30,000 armed bandits in Zamfara state which remains the most affected state and the epicenter of the crisis, and across the remaining 5 states of the Northwest region (Yaba, 2021). The nefarious activities of these groups have led to the death of over 2,600 civilians as of 2021 (Ayandele and Goos, 2021). In addition to perpetuating acts of pillaging, theft, sexual violence, cattle rustling, illicit gold mining, armed bandits operating in the region are notorious for kidnapings for ransom. Between 2020 and 2021, over 1,000 school pupils were reportedly kidnapped by armed bandits operating mostly in the Northwest region (Reuters, 2021). The threat of armed banditry is further complicated by its crime-terror nexus and the connections with drugs (Okoli, 2022), as well as the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons (SALWs) across the region. Contributions of vigilantism to non-state policing and counter banditry in Zamfara state Pratten (2008, p. 83) argues that recognizing internal imperatives is neces- sary toward understanding the local legitimacy of vigilantism in post-colo- nial Nigeria. This according to him encompasses narratives of contested rights, which are enshrined in everyday practises. These also include under- standings of personhood and knowledge, and in alternative, older registers of governability. Furthermore, Kirschner (2011, p. 576) contends that the existence of pre-colonial vigilantes in Nigeria serve both as a discursive ref- erence point, and as a source of legitimacy for present-day vigilante groups in the country. Higazi (2016, p. 376) for instances notes that regarding the farmer herder crisis in Northcentral Plateau state, the registration of vigi- lantes with the police through the divisional police headquarters and the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGA) demonstrates the acceptance of vigilant- ism in the state. As Iloh and Nwokedi (2019, p. 536) rightly argue, the 16 F. AINA Figure 1. Map showing Zamfara state in Northwest Nigeria. Source: The Guardian Nigeria, 2015. importance of vigilante groups cannot be overemphasized given their immense contributions to internal security management in Nigeria. On the involvement of vigilantes in counterinsurgency in Northeast Nigeria, Okoli (2017) contends that while they have been effective in degrading the Boko Haram insurgency through localized reconnaissance, and counter-offensive operations, their involvement in counterinsurgency as a strategic option given Nigeria’s fragile security regime could result in counterproductive and abusive outcomes. The focus of this section shall be on the contributions of vigilantes as non-state policing tools toward coun- try-banditry in contemporary Northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state, which remains the epicenter of the armed banditry crisis in the country. This is in view of providing empirical insights into the localized legitimacy that these groups have been able to attract from the affected local communities (Figure 1). There is a general sense of acceptance toward vigilantes across Zamfara state as members of the affected local communities attribute their presence to some forms of security. In this regard, a respondent had this to say when asked if he felt safe with the existence of vigilantes in his community: “Yes, they always come to our rescue, so I feel safe when I see them.” The JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 17 Figure 2. Armed banditry attacks and fatalities across Northwest states in Nigerian (2013-2022). Source: Designed by the author with data extracted from the Nigerian Security Tracker (NST) Database localized legitimacy accorded to vigilante groups is also derived from the frequency of their counter banditry successes, and the awareness of the same by members of the local communities. As one respondent noted; “Yes we have numerous successes like last week they repelled an attack in Bagega community.” Another respondent in Bagega Local Government Area notes that: “they contribute to law and order here and you see these bandits are now afraid of coming close to our village because they know they can be killed.” A resident of Karikai community states categorically that: “if not for vigilantes our village would have been raised and we would have been displaced now.” Some of these counter-banditry operations are also conducted in collab- oration with other security forces. This is especially given that the advan- tage the vigilantes poses of being knowledgeable of the local terrain and in providing local surveillance. Referring to such collaborations, one vigilante who was interviewed notes that: “We do work together by taking them to bandit hideouts.” Figure 2 above shows the distribution of armed bandit attacks and fatal- ities across Northwest Nigeria, with Zamfara state recording the highest fatalities over a sustained period, with Jigawa, Kano and Kebbi states recording the lowest. Other states affected in the region include Kaduna, and Sokoto. It is significant to note that the Localized legitimacy accorded to vigilantes by the affected local communities has also in part been influ- enced by the support they have enjoyed from traditional rulers. Attesting to the effectiveness of vigilante groups which were formed by the local community to mitigate the threat of armed banditry, one of such trad- itional rulers in Kucheri community notes that they have been “very 18 F. AINA Figure 3. Incidences and fatalities from armed banditry attacks in Zamfara state (2013-2022). Source: Designed by the author with data extracted from the Nigerian Security Tracker (NST) Database effective in fact some of our neighbouring villages had to adopt our kind of strategy.” Similarly, concerning vigilantes the head of Maru community notes that “they are our only source of security and hope and am fully in support of them”. Figure 3 above shows the incidents of armed bandit attacks and the fatal- ities from these attacks between the period of 2013 to 2022, with fatalities rising significantly in 2019 and reaching an all-time high in 2021. Zamfara state remains the most affected state by the scourge of armed banditry, which has dire consequences for its peace and security. Other successes recorded by vigilantes in Zamfara state have included repelling and preventing attacks by armed bandits, rescue operations, patrols and border security. A member of one of the affected local com- munities in Saminaka had this to say: “To the best of my knowledge some success recorded were kind of not much because they lack necessary equipment or resources to fight these bandits, but they are really trying. There was a time they attacked the bandits’ den and seized their Motorcycles and weapons, and the bandits came to our village the next day to revenge the attack on them but were stopped by again by the vigilantes.” Concerning the effectiveness of vigilantes, a former kidnapped victim by armed bandits however notes that: “They have numerous groups but the most hardworking vigilante group here is headed by Nuhu Raul and his father they are the ones helping us fight against bandits at any time and any day. We even gave Nuhu Raul a name called ‘kukan machine yafi kukan jirgi’ meaning the sound of his motorcycle is louder than that of an airplane. Because if these bandits hear the sound of his motorcycle, they mostly run away it scares them than even the fighter jets of the military.” JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 19 These examples demonstrate the wide acceptance and support accorded to vigilantes by members of the affected local communities thereby foster- ing localized legitimacy on vigilantism in the state. A respondent, cap- tured this succinctly when he noted that: “If we want peace there is a need for the government to develop and adopt vigilantism for sustainable peace because it is only a son of the soil that knows the value and importance of his soil, where he comes from. Only someone with knowledge can devise a solution to a problem.” These findings are consistent with the localized legitimacy being accorded to vigilante groups in Zamfara state in the wake of rising inci- dents of attacks and deaths caused by armed banditry. Furthermore, they also convey a sense of acceptance and reliance by the affected local com- munities toward vigilantes as a viable alternative to the state’s traditional security apparatus. The implications of these could have the (un)intended over dependence on these non-state policing tools toward addressing the threat posed by armed banditry in the state, which could potentially under- mine confidence in the state’s traditional security forces such as the mili- tary, the police and paramilitary services in counter-banditry. Challenges of vigilantism against counter banditry in Zamfara state Daniel Zizumbo-Colunga (2017, p. 990) contends that while vigilantism has the potential to reduce crime in the short term, it comes with significant costs and risks for those who are engaged in it, while also infringing on the individual rights of alleged criminals and state’s capacity to maintain its monopoly over the use of force. For instance, despite weakening local sup- port for Boko Haram, the CJFT in Northeast Nigeria has increased the risks to local communities through vengeful attacks on civilians by insur- gents (Agbiboa, 2020, p. 369). Furthermore, Schlichte and Scheckener (2015, p. 409) note that the challenges related to the politics of legitimacy of armed groups (which also includes non-state armed groups such as vigi- lantes) are their need to legitimize the use of violent means; secondly their dependence on beliefs of legitimacy for moral and material support and thirdly; their need to simultaneously address various domestic and inter- national audiences. This study however is situated in the challenges to the utility of vigilantes as part of non-state policing efforts toward countering the threat of armed banditry in Zamfara state. One of the major challenges with the use of vigilantes in non-state polic- ing in Zamfara state and in other parts of Nigeria has been the issue of mistrust between them and security forces. One of such cases is with the Ombatse, a vigilante group in Northcentral Nigeria’s Nassarawa state, whereby the mutual distrust between them and security agents has resulted 20 F. AINA in the failure to negotiate certain territories of operation, in addition to affecting the prospects of collaborations (Olayoku, 2017, p. 392). Citing an example, a respondent who was interviewed in a community in Anka Local Government Area, had observed that: “Recently the vigilantes arrested some bandits and seized their weapons and the next day the military came and requested they should be handed over to them, but the vigilantes refused which almost led to a clash between the two of them.” Ensuring that trust is built between vigilantes and the security forces is not only crucial to reinforcing shared goals and objectives of addressing the issue of armed banditry, it also serves to foster improved relations between the two as this research’s findings show. This could potentially reduce the associated frictions that arise from mistrust between vigilantes and the security forces. The absence of this, provides armed bandits with a widow of opportunity to exploit which would have detrimental consequen- ces for the prospects of peace and security in Zamfara state. There have also been challenges associated with the extrajudicial killings and other excesses perpetuated by vigilantes. This has had the tendency to also erode the localized legitimacy enjoyed by vigilantes in Zamfara state as it conveys the notion amongst some members of the affected local com- munities that they are part of the problem and not only part of its solution. As one respondent, in Anka local government area noted during field- work interview: “I can vividly recall incident weeks back were they slaughtered an innocent man who is not a bandit though it was said he had a personal grudge with one of the vigilantes because he was dating his girlfriend. So, he was falsefully accused of being a bandit.” For other members of the affected local communities in Zamfara state, it has been mixed feelings given that they are not able to reconcile the evils perpetuated by vigilantes which often contradicts the good they do within the affected local communities. As one respondent, noted when referring to the activities of vigilantes: “Innocent people are killed mostly especially when they see you are Fulani man. But they are actually trying in repelling attacks and identifying informers helping the bandits.” Similarly, a military personnel deployed to Anka community, while refer- ring to some of the atrocities committed by vigilantes noted that: “this peo- ple cause much more problems for us, at times they kill innocent Fulani men or people that are not bandits”. These findings draw attention to the need to curtail these excesses perpe- tuated by vigilantes. Addressing the excesses of vigilante groups in Zamfara sate and across the Northwest region would require more concerted efforts JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 21 toward ensuring their proper regulation, under the provisions of the law. This would also increase the prospects of accountability and transparency in the conduct of their operations, while potentially reducing incidences of misconduct. It is however significant to point out that for this to yield any significant results in the long run, it would have to entail a deliberate and sustainable effort on the part of the state overtime, as failure to do so would only lead to more related issues. Another challenge impeding the entrenchment of localized legitimacy toward vigilantes has to do with informants from within the affected com- munity turning against them. On this, a respondent notes that: “we have informers everywhere here in Anka even within the midst of the vigilantes there are informers of the bandits, so you see it is problem for us all.” Similarly, some vigilantes have also been accused of being informants themselves. A vigilante, observed that: “some of our members do give information to the bandits about our plans though some of them were fished out and killed so you see the problem is everywhere.” Echoing some of these concerns, a member of Dansadau community had this to say; “Honestly I feel less safe because most of these vigilantes are repentant thieves or even bandits from other villages and their ways of working are not sincere or pure.” The challenges posed by vigilantes acting as informants from this research’s finding snot also acts as a serious breach in counter-banditry efforts across the state, it also questions the credibility of other vigilantes as reliable non-state policing tools. This in turn undermines localized legitim- acy as it makes it erodes cooperation and collaboration from members of the affected local communities, making it difficult for them to demonstrate confidence and willingness in providing much needed information toward rescue operations for instance. This further poses serious challenges for human intelligence (HUMINT) gathering efforts which are crucial not only for conducting successful operations by other vigilante groups, but also for the military and other security forces offensive and defensive strategies against armed banditry in Zamfara state. There is also the issue of corruption amongst vigilantes which erodes the prospects of localized legitimacy. In some instances, this has been attrib- uted to their lack of proper training and funding. A vigilante who was interviewed in Karikai, acknowledged this. He notes that: “we lack proper training and honestly some of us are corrupt so if we can be trained and enjoined as security forces as salary earners, we will do a lot.” Corroborating this, the head of vigilantes in Magami community, notes that: “most of the corrupt vigilantes we have here know where these ban- dits are and won’t tell us. Some even set their fellow vigilantes up to be 22 F. AINA killed.” It is therefore imperative to note that while vigilantes have recorded significant successes against armed banditry, they also continue to encoun- ter significant challenges which potentially erodes localized legitimacy toward them from the affected local communities they seek to protect. Findings from this research show that corruption amongst vigilante groups has tended to undermine the localized legitimacy they have enjoyed in local communities across Zamfara state affected by armed banditry. This poses a serious challenge for how vigilantes are generally perceived across the state, despite the significant contributions they have made toward coun- ter-banditry efforts. While completely eradicating corruption amongst vigi- lante groups might prove to be a difficult undertaking, especially considering their un(der)regulated nature across the state, addressing it remains worthwhile. Doing so efficiently and effectively would require designing and implementing initiatives by the state in partnership with the leadership of vigilante groups that are particularly intended at disincentivis- ing vigilantes who embrace corruption. Despite these challenges, it is pertinent to note that vigilantes continue to enjoy wide acceptance in Zamfara state. This has reinforced localized legitimacy accorded to them by the affected local communities. However, sustaining their localized legitimacy in the long run, requires efforts at addressing these challenges which are crucial toward peace and security. Conclusion The proliferation of vigilantism as a non-state policing tool in Nigeria reflects the need to augment the policing gaps that have been created because of the state’s incapacity to adequately address its multiple security threats. This includes the rise of armed banditry in Northwest Nigeria. The utility of vigi- lantism as a hybrid security intervention in counter- banditry has attracted both successes and attendant challenges, mostly concerning the conduct of these non-state actors. As Badiora (2018,p.249)notes,the public’ssatisfaction with vigilantes in Nigeria reflects the use of procedural justice practices in encounters with the public. This is not to say that the under-regulation of vig- ilantes in armed conflict settings such as in Zamfara state does not attract its attendant issues which this study clearly articulates. However, this study which contributes to the literature by examining the legitimacy of vigilantes as non-state armed groups as part of non-state policing efforts, with a focus on its localized origins, offers a modest attempt at filling this gap. As the evidence shows, vigilantes in Zamfara state have been instru- mental in several counter-banditry operations some of which have included rescuing kidnapped victims, assisting the military, providing intelligence and protecting vulnerable communities. They have also been complicit in revenge JOURNAL OF APPLIED SECURITY RESEARCH 23 killings, which includes extra judicial killings and going beyond the law in other instances. Yet despite these excesses, they are mostly recognized and perceived as being legitimate by the local communities in which they operate, which has contributed toward their acceptance. Future research could potentially explore the circumstances leading to the delegitimization of vigilantes by local communities and its consequen- ces on counterterrorism efforts. Such as the reasons for the recognition and support given to armed bandits by members of the affected local commun- ities who remain sympathetic to their cause. This should also include the case of informants working to truncate the counter-banditry efforts of local vigilante groups in Zamfara state and across Northwest Nigeria. Disclosure statement The authors report no conflicts of interest. Notes 1. Anonymous member of local community in Magami, Zamfara, June 2022. 2. Anonymous member of local community in Bagega, Zamfara, March 2022. 3. Anonymous member of local community in Bagega, Zamfara, February 2022. 4. Anonymous member of local community in Karika, Zamfara, April 2022. 5. Anonymous member of local community in Karikai, Zamfara, March 2022. 6. The dataset for the year 2022 is available up to the month of July. 7. Anonymous traditional ruler in Kucheri, Zamfara, April 2022. 8. Head of Maru community, Maru, Zamfara, April 2022 9. The dataset for the year 2022 is available up to the month of July. 10. Anonymous member of local community in Saminaka, Zamfara, April 2022. 11. Anonymous former armed bandit kidnapped victim of Nahuche, Zamfara June 2022. 12. Anonymous member of local community in Saminaka, Zamfara, March 2022. 13. Anonymous member of local community in Anka, Zamfara, February 2022. 14. Anonymous member of local community in Anka, Zamfara, April 2022. 15. Anonymous member of local community in Anka, Zamfara, January 2022. 16. Anonymous Military personnel deployed to a local community in Anka, Zamfara, February 2022. 17. Anonymous member of a vigilante group in a local community in Zamfara, June 18. Anonymous member of a local community in Dansadau, Zamfara, May 2022. 19. Anonymous member of a vigilante group in a local community in Zamfara, February 20. Head of vigilantes in Magami community, Zamfara, March 2022. Funding This work was supported by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF), Switzerland. 24 F. AINA ORCID Folahanmi Aina http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4999-2042 References Abdulaziz, A. (2021). 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Journal

Journal of Applied Security ResearchTaylor & Francis

Published: Jan 2, 2024

Keywords: Vigilantism; non-state policing; counter-banditry; localised legitimacy; Zamfara state

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