Insecurity: Herders Used By Influential Nigerians

Insecurity: Herders Used By Influential Nigerians

Although the herders have been seen as causing mayhem as they move their cattle southward in search of greener pasture, investigations reveal that the actual cause of the turmoil are the cattle owners who arm the herders, DAUDA ISMAIL reports.

Abdallah is a Fulani pastoralist who says he is from Sokoto State. He says himself and other pastoralists were moving southward due to environmental degradation in the far North, and the Lake Chad and other water bodies drying up. He says their age long trade of herding cattle has not been absent of problems which according to Abdallah (not real name), are getting worse by the day as they are prone to attack by cattle rustlers and communities. He is worried the way the crisis is going and what it will mean for him, his people, and their traditional way of rearing cattle. “We have been attacked in many places but we must continue to look for food for our cattle because the owners have engaged us to take care of their cattle”.

According to a recent policy and research paper, “Cattle rustlings have become a major crime in Nigeria recently, with the northern region being the hardest hit. In the past few years, rustling activities have resulted in the theft of a huge number of cows, deaths of people and destruction of property. Daily reports across the northern region have confirmed that cattle rustlings have significantly contributed to the increasing security challenges facing the Nigerian state and seem to have become big business involving the herders, big-time syndicates, and heavily armed bandits. However, despite the growing level of cattle rustling and its consequences for society, the situation has yet to receive adequate scholarly interrogation. This paper investigates the causes and consequences of, and state responses to cattle rustling in Nigeria”.

Violence between Nigerian herders and farmers has become a major issue killing thousands in the last eight years. The conflict has evolved from spontaneous reactions to provocations and now to deadlier planned attacks which has spread to the southern states. These conflicts are caused by the southward migration of the herders driven by desertification, insecurity and the loss of grazing land to expanding settlements.

But as the violent crisis continues, it exposed the brains behind the crisis and those empowering the herders AK-47 rifles while herding their cattle. With the AK-47 assault rifle costing $1,292 in in the black market in Nigeria, which is about N500,000.00 at the exchange rate of $1 to N381, it is way beyond the reach of a herder contracted to heard a herd of about 50 cattle where he owns only about two, making his money for the upkeep of the family from the milking of the cow and selling the bye-products from the milk. For a herder like Abdallah (not real name) who has 11 children from two wives, and with two of his children as undergraduates, “I cannot afford to buy riffles and those who carry rifles, are usually given by the owners of the cattle who are usually big business people, politicians, and senior military officers who would do anything to protect their cattle”. When asked: who owns his herds that are about 32 in number, he said it was owned by a politician from one of the North-central states.

Investigations by AljazirahNigeria revealed that a vast majority, if not all the herds of cattle are not owned by the herders but by prominent Nigerians across the ethnic nationalities. Muhammad, who is a former herder and a graduate of Business Administration from the University of Abuja, said he is not happy about the ethnic profiling of his tribe ‘the Fulani’ because they have been suffering from rustlers, and bad eggs among the host communities. “I was in the bush herding cattle which my father takes care of. We herd cattle, we farm too, and our mothers also sell the cow milk, cheese which we call ‘wara’ and the animal fat which we call ‘mai shanu’. Our sisters and mothers also sell our farm produce like okra, tomato and other vegetable. If I am to say what the problem is, when our people began to be attacked especially by cattle rustlers, they complained to the owners of the cattle who do not want to lose their investments, so they buy AK47 rifles so that the herders can repel the rustlers. This was the beginning of the arming of the herders.

“But when the herders defend themselves from attacks using the rifles gotten from the owners of the cows, everyone will be talking about the herders while not talking about the cause of their retaliation which are always herders or communities who do not want them around. That is the plight of my people.

Also of a truth, during the time I was herding, we usually (not me) have issues of trespassing and forceful canal knowledge of the females seen in the bush. These two evil actions have caused bad blood between us and the host communities. I have moved to several states in the south-south and South-east and the two issues have always been our problem. When asked if their actions were good; he responded no! But that the leaders and these owners (bosses) of cattle have made them untouchables even if they are at fault just because of their business and nothing more. 

To say the truth, (please, don’t mention my name), the majority of these people involved in the act of kidnapping are not herders like us but hide under the guise of the herders to cause mayhem but majority are Fulani who for me are newFulani because we speak English, Fula and Hausa but they speak Fula and French; also few of our local Fulani have joined them because of the fast way of making money from the crime; and the real herders cannot withstand these persons because they will kill us all”. He further said that these kidnappers hide under cattle herders to commit crime using some of the guns given to them by the cattle owners but as time goes on they become stronger than the herders whose masters equipped with AK47.

When reminded about violent attacks such as kidnapping and armed robberies which victims have identified the attackers are Fulani herdsmen, and the account of sheik Gunmi that some of the bandits are persons whose cattle have been rustled which leads them into banditry, he responds: “You know as humans, it is only a few persons who have rifles at their disposal which they can use without fear of being accosted by law enforcement, that can stand it are the ones using such rifle for criminal ways of making money. He, however, said that the real cattle herders will not use their rifles except to defend themselves from attackers.

“Another thing I want to say here is that not all bandits and herdsmen are Fulani, but once people have seen Fulani as bandits, every bandit is perceived as a Fulani.

He also said that the Federal and State government should find out the real owners of cattle and demand to see their ranch. By so doing you would reduce banditry and kidnapping using the cattle rearing style. These criminals have further stigmatized his tribe, especially the traditional herders but call on the governments to do everything to fish out the owners of the cows because they are very influential in the country and the cause of the insecurity stemming from the herders.

Speaking with AljazirahNigeria on the profiling of the Fulani as criminals, National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan said, “There are criminals everywhere. There are Yoruba criminals, Ibo, Itsekiri as well as every other tribe including the Fulani so criminals should be treated as criminals irrespective of where they come from.

Meanwhile on February 12 at the closing ceremony of the annual Press Week of the Bauchi State chapter of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Bauchi State Council, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, said Fulani herdsmen who have been indicted in criminal activities across the country have no option but to carry arms because of the insecurity they are confronted with in the course of herding their cattle through forests in Nigeria.

According to the Governor Fulani herders carry AK-47 for self-defence because they are being attacked by cattle rustlers.

Aside defending the rights of Fulani herdsmen to carry weapons, Mohammed also condemned the attitude of Samuel Ortom, his Benue State counterpart and some governors in the southern states over their handling of the issues of criminality and farmers/ herders conflict.

Meanwhile, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State had called on the Federal Government to enact a law banning movement of cattle from the North to other parts of the country in order to resolve the incessant incidences of clashes between farmers and herders.

He made the call in an interview with journalists after a special lunch the All Progressives Congress, APC, governors had with President Muhammadu Buhari in his Daura private residence in Katsina State on February 1.

Fielding questions on how far he had gone with the Ruga project in his state, Ganduje said:   “We are building a Ruga settlement in Samsosua Forest, our border with Katsina and we have succeeded in curtailing the effect of banditry in that area. “So, we are building many houses, we are constructing a dam; we are establishing a Cattle Artificial insemination Centre; we are establishing a veterinary clinic and already, we have started building houses for herdsmen. “My advocacy is that we should abolish the transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the northern part of Nigeria to the Middle Belt and Southern part of Nigeria. “There should be a law that will ban open grazing, otherwise we cannot control the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers and cannot control the cattle rustling which is affecting us greatly”.

If all the cattle owners who use the Fulani to cause mayhem by arming pastoralists, set up ranches, it would put a complete stop to the crises between herders and farmers, while also putting a stop to those who hide under the guise of herders, to perpetuate mayhem in the communities they find themselves.

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