Cattle Rustling:Stakeholders Want Grazing Reserves, Review Of Pastoralist Laws
Kano Sets Up Anti-rustling Squad
A FULANI with 270 heads of cattle, 25 sheep and five horses (as disclosed in his asset declaration), and being also “patron of many associations related to nomads”, Muhammadu Buhari is one Nigerian President bound to understand the problem of cattle rustling. Would the government, therefore, find the magic shears to nip the menace in the bud?
Cattle theft might just be to the North West and North Central Nigeria what the Boko Haram insurgency is to the North East. Like the latter, the menace in recent times has jumped from being a worrisome itch in the geopolitical zone to a cancerous disease claiming lives and threatening to spiral into a monster, even as authorities struggle to reign in order.
The absence of grazing reserves, demarcated cattle routes and unemployment has been blamed for cattle rustling across states in the North.
“Almost all the grazing reserves are no more. They have become farmlands. As a result, unemployment bites hard on our youth. For instance, Rahama Roundabout to Tudun Wada (on the way from Kano to Tudun Wada local government area of the state) used to have grazing lands on all sides. Today, that has changed,” Alhaji Muhammad Rimindako, National President of Billital Maroobe Pastoralists Association (BILMPAN) told The Guardian in Kano.
He noted that unemployment among the youth might also be responsible for their taking up arms against fellow pastoralists, stressing that those who engage in cattle rustling are sons of herdsmen, “because you cannot have the guts or know the techniques required to steal cattle if you are not a pastoralist.”
The Programme Officer of Peace Project, an intervention under the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Comrade Abdul Ganiyu Rufai, noted that politicians have robbed the Fulani of their grazing reserves, causing them to relocate into bushes and forests. “This has forced them to loose their everyday economic activities. This ultimately makes them re-group in forests and attack their fellow Fulani,” he said.
Rufai stressed that in the past, when grazing reserves and stock routes were in place, there was relative peace between nomads and their host communities. “But with the selfish interest of some elites, such cordial relationships have turned sour.”
Quite unsettling, the problem of cattle rustling has jostled men of the Kano Police Command, sparking the need for urgent action, more so, as unscrupulous raiders continuously mow down villages, towns and local government areas in the state.
The Police Commissioner, Muhammad Katsina, recently established the Anti-cattle Rustling Squad, in renewed effort by the Command to deal with cattle thieves, and other armed bandits.
Katsina explained that the squad, comprising 500 specially trained officers, is to be led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police. The squad is to be operational in the affected areas in Sumaila local government and other areas around Falgore Forest.
“Tactical Operation Points have also been established along Forest Highway, which links Kano with the neighbouring states of Bauchi, Kaduna and Plateau,” he said.
The Commissioner of Police revealed that dozens of cattle rustlers were arrested within a month of renewed operation. He also visited Gidan Kare, a village that had been sacked by the hoodlums in Sumaila local government. The police recovered 68 cattle, 20 goats and sheep, 31 rifles and pistols and 240 rounds of ammunition.
By our intervention, the deserted villages of Karasa, Murmushi, Gomo, Burun-Burum, Gani, Masu, Sitti and others have now been secured. And that has encouraged villagers to return to their homes,” Katsina said.
Last week, also, the Kaduna State Police Command said it recovered 94 cows and 45 sheep, following a raid on the hideouts of cattle thieves in the state.
Abubakar Zubairu, the Police Public Relations Officer, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the operation was carried out at Katari, Jere, Chikawali and Akilibu villages along the Kaduna-Abuja highway, and that a locally made pistol, AK47 rifle, knives, military uniform and house breaking tools were recovered.
The rustlers reportedly fled after a gun battle, and according to Zubairu, the police are still on their trail. He stressed that the fight against cattle thieves would continue until the practice is wiped out from the state.
In July, this year, the governors of Niger, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kastina and Zamafara entered into an agreement to fund a joint operation to be undertaken by men of the Nigerian military, Directorate of State Security (DSS), the Police and Nigerian Civil Defence Corps. The objective was to clear the Kamuku/Kuyanbana Forests, which border all the states, of bandits and rustlers. An operation, in August, reportedly led to the recovery of hundreds of cattle.
Last month (October), the governors met again in Kaduna to discuss measures towards curbing the menace. According to Kastina State governor, Alhaji Aminu Masari, who chaired the meeting, “the result has been very encouraging.”
He stressed the difficulty of manning the Kamaku/Kuyanbana Forests, saying: “It is not easy to patrol every space there. And you know these dangerous thieves have foreign elements. Many of them that have been caught are not Nigerians. (But) we are going to ensure that the operation covers as many areas as possible.”
The main cattle rustling hotspots remain Bauchi, Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, Plateau and Kano States; the specific theatre of evil being Falgore Forest in Kano and parts of Sumaila local government in Southern Kano; Yandume Forest in Katsina State, Birnin Gwari Forest in Kaduna State and Kamaku/Kuyanbana Forests, which straddles Kaduna, Niger, Katsina and parts of Zamfara States.
Kamaku Forest according to the Programme Officer of Peace Project, Comrade Rufai, is denser than the notorious Sambisa Forest, an enclave of Boko Haram insurgents. “Kamaku is much thicker in terms of the grouping of trees that serve as hideout for criminals. In Kamaku, fight against cattle rustling is a battle difficult to win. That is the reason we introduced Information Technology (IT) to curb the menace,” he said.
He explained that difficulty in terrain and in the fight against cattle rustling prompted the intervention of the Peace Project, an initiative under CITAD, which aims to develop new and modern strategies to combat the problem.
According to Rufai, the project would track information about cattle rustling, to determine location, number of animals affected daily, weekly or monthly within a given year.
Cattle Rustling Information System (CATRIS) is the mobile technology being developed by the Peace Project, Rufai said, adding: “With the new application, we are able to visit the hotspots, and discuss with the victims and pastoralists. We have also developed a unique and accessible coding system.”
Alhaji Rimindako explained that the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) facilitated the creation of two grazing reserves called Panyabo in Falgore and Mekiya in Gabasawa local government, both in Kano State. “Preparations for the commencement of those reserves were made, remaining implementation. But up till this time, the initiative is yet to takeoff,” he said sadly. Former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, established the Pastoralists Farmers Conflict Resolution Committee. This resulted in the creation of five grazing reserves across the state. Again, Rimindako complained: “Preparations were made but there was no implementation. And when Shekarau left office, nothing was done to put the reserves to use.”
The BILMPAN President lamented that government in the last four years has unsuccessfully tried to put in place a stock route, which starts from Niger Republic, through Daura, Kazaure, Dambatta, Gezawa, Minjibir, Garko, Sumaila, Nasaru (in Bauchi) and on to Akwa Ibom State.
The concern raised by Rimindako was echoed by an expert on pastoral issues, and founder of www.gamji.com, Dr. Ismail Iro.
“Grazing land and stock-routes top the list of Fulani’s demands from the government. All the leading presidential aspirants in the previous elections who were seeking the votes of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) had sent letters to the association assuring the Fulani of enough grazing land and stock-paths if elected. Discussions among government officials, traditional rulers, and Fulani leaders on the welfare of the pastoralists have always centered on requests and pledges for protecting grazing spaces and cattle passages. It has become evident that the political party that ignores the Fulani demand for grazing land would during an election attract voter revenge,” Iro noted in his, ‘Grazing Reserve Development: A Panacea to the Intractable Strife Between Farmers and Herders’.
According to him, “The growing pressure from Ardo’en (the Fulani community leaders) for the salvation of what is left of the customary grazing land has made some state governments with large population of herders to include in their development plans the reactivation and preservation of grazing reserves. Quick to grasp the desperation of cattle-keepers for land, the administrators have instituted a Grazing Reserve Committee to find a lasting solution to the rapid depletion of grazing land resources in Nigeria.
He added: “The Fulani believe that the expansion of the grazing reserves will boost livestock population, will lessen the difficulty of herding, will reduce seasonal migration, and will enhance the interaction among farmers, pastoralists, and rural dwellers. Despite these expectations, grazing reserves are not within the reach of about three-quarters of the Fulani. Most reserves, either by sheer distance from settlements or by lack of market facilities, tend to isolate the Fulani from the desired social and economic interdependence with the rest of the rural community. About sixty percent of migrant pastoralists who use the grazing reserves keep to the same reserves every year. The number and the distribution of the grazing reserves in Nigeria range from insufficient to severely insufficient for Fulani livestock.”
To end cattle rustling, Rimindako said: “Grazing reserves provided by President Buhari during his days as head of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) should be revisited. Likewise, the ones established by former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, should also be reconsidered.
“Any law or policy on pastoralism should include our genuine associations, so that we can feel a sense of belonging in the entire process. This ultimately means our interest will be taken care of, as owners of cattle across the country.”
He called for a Ministry of Livestock to be carved out of the Ministry of Agriculture. “In Niger Republic for example, they have a Ministry of Livestock, which stands different from the Agriculture Ministry,” he said.
He also called on the federal government to review pastoralist laws currently in use in the country, saying the laws have become obsolete. “The world is changing and we need a law that is in tandem with present day realities. Unlike the past, there has been rise in human and animal population,” he stressed.
On his part, Rufai said there was need for government and stakeholders to understand the root cause of the problem of cattle rustling and address the same, else government might continue to waste resources. He called for the establishment of a body tasked with reconciling pastoralists and farmers in the event of a crisis.
Rimindako expressed optimism that President Muhammadu Buhari, being a pastoralist, would understand the issues better and put in place machinery to end the problem.