By Nurudeen Dauda
In my thesis, soon after the Nigerian Civil War, Highways Armed robbery became the commoness security challenges of our country aside from the intermittent ethno-religious clashes in the country. The cases of armed robberies then were mostly found in the sourthern part of the country and in our Highways across the country.
The modern cattle-rustlers were mostly the highways armed robbers who have decided to switch to cattle- rustling due to technological advancement which has virtually phased- out traveling with “cash” in our highways .Although, Cattle-rustling has been in existence long enough, but In the past it was mostly perpetrated through the connivance of our local butchers. Its escalation in the North began sometimes in 2004 in our big farms owned by both retired generals and senior retired public servants. Having rustled virtually all the cattle at the said farms and at last discouraged the powefuls from further establishments of the said farms, the rustlers resort to the cattle- rustling of our local herdersmen cattle.
Thousands of cattle owned by the local herders were rustled with impunity. Their cattle is their only means of livelihood. It was at point that some local herders were initiated into cattle- rustling . Other herders who could not join cattle rustling began to arm themselves in order to protect their cattle from being rustled. We have not done quite well in the areas of the education of our local herders. We have squandered billions for many years on nomadic education with no results.
The highway armed robbers soon discovered that kidnapping for ransom is more profitable than cattle -rustling and soon switched to kidnapping for ransom. Some of our local herders too were initiated on this and switched to kidnapping having realized that it is more profitable than both rearing and cattle -rustling. However, in truth in the recent times most of the suspects are a few bad eggs from a certain ethnic group. There are a number of decent people from our herders . In fact some of them are victims too.
FROM FARMERS-HERDERS CLASHES TO ARMED BANDITRY
In my observation, clashes between”farmers” and “herders”led to Armed banditry which is essentially caused by the”struggle”for land resources. From independence to date both human and cattle population have increased , but the size of the “land” has even reduced due to desertification and or climate change.
Other reasons often adduced for the aggravation of the clashes are the deliberate destruction of farms by herders, bastardization of cattle routes, neglect and or encroachment of grazing reserves, Jungle justice, maiming and killings of cattle without compensation . There were the allegations of extortion by the local judges, the village heads, and the police against the herders where cattle destroyed crops. That allegedly made the herders violent.
This is not unaware of the allegations of the “infiltration”of all”sorts of criminals”to armed banditry due to high rate of unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, proliferation of small and light weapons, drug abuse and thousands of kilometres of our porous borders.
Clashes among them usually occurred in our rural communities where police posts that are supposed to maintain law and order are hundreds of kilometres away. The herders allegedly became well-armed due to high rate of cattle rustling in order to protect their wealth .The near absence of state authorities in the farming communities led to the formation of “vigilante”groups known as ‘Yan Sa Kai . Soon after its formation, they were alleged to assume the role of the police, the prosecutor and the judge. That allegedly made the herders angrier! A whole group was often attacked due to the alleged crime of their kisman.
The moment herders entered towns , they were caught , beaten up, and sometimes got killed by the vigilante groups. It got to a point where they could not enter towns for weekly markets. These alleged suffering of herders made them formed resistance groups.They often prevented farmers from going to their farms in the bushes and those who dared them got killed in their farms .They often attacked, looted, raped, maimed and killed rfarming communities members with impunity to due near absence of state authorities in most of our rural communities.
For us to get it right, on the issues of both armed banditry and kidnapping, we must deal with their causes with all the sincerity its deserves . Justice must prevail! Let’s deal with the “causes” not to be overwhelmed by its consequences alone. Wiping out kidnappers or armed bandits without dealing with their roots causes will only be a temporary solution. The use of Military “might” is only part of the solution, but certainly not all of it. We must approach the crisis from the following fronts :
Firstly, the political front. On this front, cattle rearing which is part of agricultural activities must be supported as a business not as an ethnic thing. We must give extra ordinary attention to”cattle business”for us to end armed banditry. It is wrong to opine that it is a private business which the government should not interven in. Farming as a private business got (and is still getting) a lot of interventions from the government. Both farmers and herders are victims in the crisis. Both farmers and herders are Nigerians! There must be genuined effort at cattle business modernization.
Secondly, the legal front, there must be justice in handling famers-herders clashes. We must work hard towards addressing the allegations of corruption among our judges and extortion among the policemen against herders .
Thirdly, the Socio-economic front. The issues of illiteracy, poverty, drug abuse and unemployment have contributed immensely to criminal activities in our society . For us to get it right, the government should and or must pursue deliberate policies towards combating same . We must educate our herders in both religious and western education.
Fourthly, we must properly secure our “forests” which are generally insecured. Our vast unmanned forests in the country serve as hideouts to criminals. Something serious must be done on them. Our porous borders must be properly secured. Let’s deploy technology in securing our borders .The NDLEA must be strengthened to do more on the fight against drugs importation which is the energizer to all sorts of crimes.
Fifthly, Small and light weapons are too many in our midst which must be mopped up. We must frustrate its supply to non -state actors . We must properly “kits”our security agencies. Their welfare must be taken very seriously. We must invest more on Intelligence gathering/sharing.It is high time we deploy technology driven approach to security challenges .
May God bless Nigeria