Niger’s beef with rustling, herder attacks
able to provide temporary intervention to mitigate the effect of the attack on the displaced persons, while also taking stock of the property lost in the clash for compensation.
However, unlike the herders and villagers who have cohabited at a specific location for a long period, the spontaneous attacks by cattle rustlers who are mostly migrants, can hardly be resolved through a peace accord. Security agencies through joint operations were able in the past, to curtail the activities by flushing them out of the state.
However, with the seeming end of cattle rustling, kidnapping has increased overtime in the state. Statistics of kidnap cases rose to over 40 monthly across the state among herders, almost doubling those of cattle rustling, thereby giving the police top hierarchy in the state sleepless nights.
“It became a very lucrative enterprise among herders across the state,” DSP Bala Elkana, the command’s public relations officer, said. It therefore became imperative for the command to evolve a “local solution” to solve a “local problem” as community policing advocates had argued.
Security agencies, especially the police, had to return to the drawing board, rethink the strategy and deploy an anti-kidnapping unit to curb the rising menace. The command also went ahead to initiate the idea of a volunteer group of Fulani extraction to fight the new wave of crime. The gesture led to the emergence of the Abubakar Shakallo group as a counter-force to assist the police in the fight against kidnapping.
“When cattle rustling became unattractive because of the risks involved, the perpetrators, who are mostly of Fulani extraction, resorted to kidnapping”, Shakallo noted.
The group is expected to serve as a “neighbourhood watch” to assist the police with information on the activities of criminal elements within their places of abode. The members are also expected to be on the lookout for foreign herders who often migrate with stolen cattle from neighboring states, kidnappers, cattle rustlers and armed bandits.
A non-violent approach aimed at persuading kidnappers to renounce their activities was also evolved. The initiative yielded some results with so many of them laying down their arms and even joining the volunteer group. The effort led to significant reduction in the activities, especially among herders.
However, as the state celebrated its success, there was a sudden resurgence of cattle rustling, especially in Rafin and Shiroro local government areas with the attack on the sleepy Gbada community on October 30 last year. The attack which took place at about 3am left five people dead, with many sustaining injuries, while several cows were stolen.
They also attacked Kukoki in Shiroro Local Government Area about two weeks later, killing six people and seizing 700 cows. The attacks triggered a mass exodus of people from neighbouring communities to Pandogari and Kagara towns.
Following the development, the state police command had to deploy 500 men to areas designated as dangerous points to strengthen the joint task force team already on ground in Alawa, Shiroro Local Government Area. The Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Zubairu Muzau, said the bandits were fleeing military offensive in neighboring states and were taking refuge in forests bordering Kaduna and Zamfara states.
He said the police were taking the battle to the rustlers with the deployment of three units which include counterterrorism, anti-cattle rustling and men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The command also began air surveillance of trouble spots about a week later. However, despite the heavy deployments, the state still experiences pockets of attacks by cattle rustlers and armed bandits.
A 19-year-old senior secondary school student was killed in a night attack by bandits in Angwa Umadi Village in Shiroro on January 7.The deceased was said to have been shot at close range when he went out to ease himself. Fleeing villagers said 15 people were injured in the attack which lasted about an hour, while 212 cattle were rustled.
The war against criminals recorded a boost recently with the groundbreaking ceremony of a mobile police unit in Kontagora by the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim K. Idris. According to the IGP, the mobile police unit will check threats to national security in form of cattle rustling, kidnapping and armed banditry in the North-central and North-west. Security experts are optimistic that the effort would go a long way in reducing criminal activities in the state.