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Friday, June 14, 2024

The Genesis Of Zamfara Cattle Rustling And Quest For Community Dialogue



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While other part of the northern country are battling with their own peculiar security challenges such as insurgency and other forms of militia attacks, the problems associated with cattle rustling and its aftermath continue to raised serious suspicion among the people of Zamfara on how the phenomenon metamorphosed to bloody circumstances that costs over one thousand lives in less than two years.


From Linyado to Guru attacks, killings of over fifty people in Kizara community, attack on Dansadau, Dangulbi, Rukudawa, and several other communities in Tsafe , Zurmi and Dan-sadau Emirate councils, residents of Zamfara continue to entertain fear as to whether if these daily attacks will not consume both the economic and social development of the state in the long run.


Though stakeholders in the security sector of the state described some of these deadly attacks as ‘’reprisal’’, the excess of these ugly development will no doubt impact negatively on the sustainable peace of the state more or less the conflict is now purely between the hausas who are mostly the peasant farmers and fulani natives residing along the forest borders of the state.


Since 2011 when the conflict reached an advance stage, security measures have been put in place to contain the security challenges and to a large extent federal government intimated the police force headquarters and other sister security agencies to support the state in the fight against these hoodlums ‘’suspected cattle rustlers’’ all in vain, the intervention yielded little or no result because it is either the cause root of the matter is not known or the real people who are the key actors are not fully and adequately contacted.




The scenario at Chile Market in Dansadau where some suspected Fulani persons were arrested and gruesomely murdered by the vigilante groups for alleged involvement in the cattle rustling in 2011, had actually sent a wrong signal to other organized vigilante groups in the neighboring emirate councils who resorted to adapting similar measure that resulted to these ugly situation the state found itself in today.


That tragedy became a common applying factor by the vigilante in Maru, Tsafe, Zurmi, Birnin magaji and some part of Anka and as a result fulani people became a thing of daily target among the hausa farmers in Zamfara and almost every day a fulani person is being arrested and killed for alleged involvement in one form of crime or the other.


Again the challenges of continued encroachment in to the grazing reserve areas by the farmers and tempering with the designated cattle routes has continue to add fuel in to the fire because fulani persons especially those residing along the Dan-sadau Forest are left with no option than to cross the farmlands mostly in the night and destroyed some food crops against the interest of the local farmers.


Again, while these phenomena persist, the issue of ‘’jungle justice’’ on the site of the security agencies where a guilty person will be set free for reason of money or material exchanges has provoked but side of the aggrieved parties to taking laws in to their hand having lost confidence in the security agencies.


The traditional rulers themselves are not helping matters because they continue to support injustice in expectation of something in returns and we have seen several cases where traditional rulers are directly or indirectly indicted on several number of issues involving the conflicts between fulani and farmers there by treating the later as second hand citizens who are always being exploited at the expense of their abundant wealth.

The situation has reached an alarming stage in2012 when the organized vigilante kept mobilizing from one weekly community market to another in search of some suspected fulani cattle rustlers and murdered them in an open market and the worst of all these circumstances is when on July 2012 three suspected cattle rustlers were manhandled and finally cremated the to ashes at Kasuwar-Daji International Market in Kaura-namoda local government area of the state by some organized vigilante in Nasarawar Godal area of Birnin Magaji.


Though government and security agencies kept emphasizing they are on top of the situation, the ordinary person that time believed, there are more harm than good to these type of jungle justice especially as it affect Fulani who are believed to be people with hard mine and never tend to forgive, while many assert that people of Zamfara may be seating on the cake of gun-powder and it will one day explode.


The untimely intervention in most of these problems have made several number of Fulani who spent dozens of years in Zamfara to exit the state for the fear of the unknown and the aftermath of their exit resulted to the hot tension Zamfara state people are endangered with today.





When governor Yari informed members of the state house of assembly in August 2013 that the state has lost over 600 people to attacks by the suspected hoodlums in less than six months, many doubt how the situation became worth to that extent forgetting the facts that the figure reflected only what the security agents in the state forwarded to him as a governor but in reality it may be much high than that.


In reality, the figure may be trice more than that because not all killings in Zamfara in this trial period are recorded or rather reported to the police or other security agencies.


Recalling memory back, the first most deadly attack that attracted condemnation in Zamfara was in August 2011 when some suspected hoodlums attacked Guru and Killed twenty eight people including some vigilante members who are believed to have participated in the murder of some fulani natives along the area.


Less than a week similar attack was launched at the neighboring Tungar Bushe and almost twenty six or seven were lost to the deadly attack.


While people were mourning the attacks, the same suspected hoodlums re-grouped and attacked Lingyado their also, they killed another twenty five and the scenario from there continue to take some deadly dimension as it kept occurring from time to time and from one settlement to another.

Though the Kizara attack was the most deadliest were the hoodlums numbering over one hundred engaged the locally armed vigilante and rest members of the community and killed fifty eight people including women and children, there are several number of attacks that are more heart torching than that of Kizara.

From Kizara attack which was around August last year to date more than fifty communities were either attacked for the first time or re-attacked by these suspected hoodlums and hundreds of lives and properties worth millions of naira were lost.

With all the tension caused by these several number of attacks on various communities around Zamfara, security forces kept emphasizing that the attacks are ”reprisal” and ”revenge” by the fulani people who suffered molestation and harassment by the members of vigilante and the local people.

At least two commissioners of police that served the state before the present CP battled hard to contain the excesses of these security challenges and the effort directly or indirectly has failed because the stick approach which includes the use of weapons and some engagement cannot solve the problem.

CP Tambari Yabo now Assistant Inspector General of police and CP AU Gwary who is currently the Commissioner of Police in charge of Anambara Police Command, experienced the hard time in fighting these suspected cattle rustlers especially when they decided to fighting them instead of reaching g out to the cause root of the problem.


Their effort then has succeeded in minimizing the problem because police are always on ground to respond to emergencies but living the genesis of the problem un-attended to especially by talking to the principal actors is What resulted to resurgence of these deadly attacks from time to time in most part of Zamfara and that is why until their redeployment people of Zamfara doubted how sincere is the government and security forces approach to resolving these ugly situation of daily killings by suspected cattle rustlers.

During the 2014 budget presentation the governor made it very categorical that the state government spent over six hundred million naira monthly in supporting the police and other security agencies to fighting these cattle rustlers but to no avail.

And when that has failed some political figures who does not help matters politicized the whole matter by saying ”the attacks are politically motivated to make the state ungovernable for the serving governor”.

Senator Ahmad Yarima in his usual manner in Bakura attributed the continued killings in Zamfara as the handiwork of the oppositions who deliberately masterminded the killings with a mission of setting a bad ground in the state governance processes.


But observers wondered what a link ”politics” has with the killing of people in the remote areas and burning of houses and places of worship and indeed rustling of cattle.

Again others accused the government of not being sincere in the fight against these cattle rustlers because these people fled after they launched attack and re-grouped again within the forest but whatever the case may be, analysts believed there must be a missing link somewhere which made the situation irresolvable.



Hiring a helicopter and police jet to shelve the forest as well as providing police re-enforcement in some of the hot zone areas can be termed as some of the helping factors but it is just a factor out of hundreds needed to resolve the ongoing crises between these suspected Fuani cattle rustlers and rural farmers.




The present Commissioner of Police in the state CP Ahmed Ibrahim may be getting to the correct genesis of the problem as he opted to applying ”stick and carrot” approach in resolving the lingering crises and it is already yielding positive result.


In the view of Mallam Nasir El-rufai when you failed to apply the stick and carrot approach in fighting the insurgency or any forms of attacks you may end up getting a temporary option but just have it in mind the problem is still there it will continue to re-surface from time to time and that is exactly the situation in Zamfara state.


while the current commissioner is re-enforcing machineries to wins the war against these suspected cattle rustlers, he had visited almost all the seventeen emirate councils twice in less than six months of his redeployment to the state and the objective is principally to intensify more on community dialogue between the local farmers and Fulani herdsmen.


And much interested, the visit is beyond ceremonial visit because it is more of an interface with the Emirs, District and village heads and even heads of the Fulani groups to digest issues on how to rebuild the confidence of the two aggrieved parties and that is the best option one can apply to succeed in fighting insurgents.


What i noticed during the interface is the passion each of the representatives of the two parties have to voicing out their minds on issues of conflicting interest and what is expected of the government and security agencies in case certain issues gets out of hand.


That action alone further exposed me to the knowledge of the fact that dialogue is the best option to winning the heart of an aggrieved person.

Further to these the CP, during his visit kept emphasizing on the need for justice and fairness to all as the best way to avoiding conflicts and that speaks the mind of the two aggrieved parties because the tune of their messages when they spoken is purely the absence of justice and fairness to one party on matters of conflicting interest.


Another good message the CP’s tour tried to expose me and several others is the implication of taking laws in to the hand and the need for the security agencies and even those in the position of authorities to be more open in their dealings.


With that development, i have seen hope in arresting the ugly situation in Zamfara as the people involved are much more willing to resort to dialogue than confrontation and the CP shall not relent in his commitment to actualizing this great job he had started.



Apart from the killing of hundreds of innocent people of Zamfara over the years under review, no one can estimate the high rate of economic lost encountered by the people of the state especially food and other livestock either destroyed or stolen from the affected areas.

The police Commissioner Ahmed Ibrahim at a briefing to mark his seventy days in office informed journalists that, within his days over two thousand stolen cattle have been recovered by the police while over one hundred suspected cattle rustlers have been arrested while some are under prosecution.

But one most bad aspect of these deadly attacks, is that in every single attack, there must be lost of live and properties while severally houses and places of worships are been the target of these hoodlums.

Again it crippled the investment opportunity of the state because foreign investors some time are not willing and interested in coming to Zamfara to invest due to lack of safety of their life and property.

A clear example was the threat on some of the official of road construction companies along the Dansadu area who were ask to quit their location of work or be killed. Again the development has impacted negatively on the mining and solid minerals opportunities henceforth the foreign companies and investors did no longer considered Bagegga and mining communities safer for economic attraction.

Movement of goods and other agricultural product is no longer possible considering the fact people and even the security agencies are been attacked on the daily basis while farmlands are equally destroyed even before harvest and the hope for agricultural is almost dashed out.

Above all the exit of the Fulani people from Zamfara state due to the increasing rates of attack against their settlements and other livestock remain one of the most critical economic challenges heating the state.

There is no doubt to the fact that Fulani in Zamfara according to the recent studies contributes up to eighteen percent of the state GDP and contributes about twenty four percent of the state IGR but with the situation on ground trailers loaded with Fulani people and their luggage’s are been sighted almost on daily basis living the state for lack of safety.

Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in the state insisted that, when the life of the Fulani people is no longer protected and the government has not taken measures to remedy the situation and reach out to them for the provision of socio-economic needs then you should not expect anything than for these secular groups of people to exit the state.

When you visit some of the Fulani settlements along Dan-sadau forest, majority of schools for nomadic education constructed for these people were abandoned because their children are no longer interested in the western education rather than to leave for a safer places out of Zamfara.

So Zamfara State which solidly relied on the allocation serious economic hardship during the reconstruction period that is even if it succeeds in arresting the situation holistically. From the federation account because of the drastic dropped in the internally generated revenue of less than two billion in a year will be one of the most few states of the north to suffer.

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