Residents of some communities in Zamfara State, Northwest Nigeria, lament what they described as ‘double shots’ at them by both state and non-state actors in the wake of recurring attacks in the region.
“We suffer gross injustice from the government for its inability to protect our lives and properties. We are always attacked by terrorists of various groups who kill our people and rustle our cows. What else are we enjoying in this world as citizens?” Auwal Ibrahim ‘Yarkatsina, a victim, asked.
Residents of communities such as Shinkafi, Gummi, Zurmi, Birnin Magaji, Bakura, and Maru, including those under Bungudu Local Government Area (LGA) said authorities deny them access to their stolen cows discovered at major markets in the state.
They pointed out that they suffer from cattle rustling, wanton killings, incessant kidnapping, rampant raping and maiming. This, according to them, has disturbed the once peaceful atmosphere while the government remained inactive in the area.
Some locals claim government authorities are aware that Shinkafi market has become a hub where rustled cows are sold for quite a long time. A resident of Shinkafi who asked not to be named confirmed that rustled cattle have often been discovered in the market. He claimed that officials close to the state governor always ordered their release to the notorious ‘bandits’. This is to dodge reprisal attacks from the terrorists on the concerned communities.
Once cows are identified in Shinkafi Market by their owners, they are usually reported to the nearest police division, a source told HumAngle. But when the police seized the cows for the real owners, the division received directives from the Governor’s office that “those cows be released to the bandits who brought them to the market in the name of peace negotiation in the state.”
This has been happening unchallenged, the source said, adding that it was led by terrorist leaders such as Turji, Dan-Bakwalo, and their likes in Shinkafi Market.
Another local wondered if the Zamfara State government was aware of the recurring incidence at all major markets in the state’s local government areas. He said: “It is open that there are sections and demarcated locations in those market squares where only stolen and rustled cows are exclusively sold.”
HumAngle investigations in Anka LGA revealed that members of the terrorist groups often brought rustled cattle to markets for sale in Anka, but they cannot be reclaimed by their real owners whenever they are discovered due to fear of retaliation.
“No farmer can attempt to point out his own cows whenever they are seen in the market brought by the bandits. They can bring to Anka market as many as 200 stolen cows, but we cannot raise alarm or reclaim our pride,” Muhammadu Jatau explained.
Again, “if you dare to ask for your own cows, what these terrorists say is that they risked their own lives to steal the cows from villages, yet the owner will now come to reclaim such,” he added.
Another source disclosed that “one of the intricate cases of blatant terrorism in the area is the involving of village heads into these banditry and terrorism activities in Anka Emirate.”
“When my friend, a fellow villager, saw his cow on sale at Bagega market, he reported it to the Bawon Bagega — the District Head of the area. The Bawon Bagega directed for the immediate release of the cow back to the owner. Unfortunately, as the owner was on his way back home with the cow, he received a quick phone call and message directing him to return the cow back to Shadari, an Anka based notorious bandit leader,” he revealed. “And there was no option for my friend but to comply or face death.”
HumAngle learned that at those places customers are usually told upon purchase that some cows should not be taken to some specific locations where they were stolen.
A source, who does not want his name published because of ties with the government, told HumAngle that “the worst situation is that whenever bandits bring the stolen cows to the markets, Shinkafi police division is often directed to give protection to the bandits who brought them. So, even if the owners see their cows, they cannot talk or claim ownership.”
But another resident who relocated from Gusami to Gusau metropolis owing to insecurity said, “Though it is not everybody that comes and finds his rustled cows here, I was lucky to find mine. I got five out of eight discovered by security personnel after they were stolen.”
Still another victim of cattle rustling from Kagara village in Gummi LGA of the state, Alhaji Gide Kagara, said his “herd of cattle was unjustly rustled about two months now, during the Barikin Daji terrorist attack, and yet only two cows were found in another market far from our location. They are yet to be released to me. I reported to the nearest police division in Zamfara central and the matter is under serious investigation.”
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Zamfara State Police Command, S.P. Muhammad Shehu, told HumAngle that, “residents from Dansadau, Magami, Kagara LGA, including Mashema, Gusami in Zurmi local government, and many other villages in the state, often receive an open invitation so anyone whose cows were rustled can come forward at the Zamfara Trade Fair Centre, in Gusau, to identify and reclaim them.”
This report is supported by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) to unmask the impact of rising insecurity in Northwest Nigeria.
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