The relocation of hundreds of herders from Zamfara State to forests in Jigawa State is causing fear amongst residents of Gwaram Local Government Area of Jigawa.
Residents of the area, including traditional rulers, have expressed fear that the presence of the herders might lead to unrest in the communities. They also feel that more needs to be done by security agents to avoid the breakdown of law and order in the state.
Zamfara has been plagued with the activities of militants who have carried out killings and abducted residents for ransom over the years. Despite much-vaunted claims by the government at tackling the menace, the atrocities against defenceless peasants and farmers have continued.
A committee set up by Zamfara governor, Bello Matawalle, to find solutions to banditry in the state, has disclosed that over N3 billion was collected by bandits as ransom from relations of abducted victims in the state.
The committee disclosed that their report covered the period from June 2011 to May 29, 2019, and that the money was collected from 3,672 victims, whose relatives paid to secure their freedom.
Also, a total of 4,983 women were widowed, 25,050 children orphaned and 190,340 persons displaced by banditry over a period of nine years in the state.
Also in Zamfara, the community said innocent Fulani herdsmen lost 2,015 cattle, 141 sheep and goats, 2,600 donkeys and camels to rustlers, while 147,800 vehicles, motorcycles and others were burnt at different times and locations within the period.
Fear in Jigawa
The district head of Gwaram Tsohuwa, Tijjani Abubakar, told PREMIUM TIMES that the movement of the herders to the state is causing fear among residents, taking into account the security situation in Zamfara.
Mr Abubakar said some of the relocating herders came with a letter of introduction from security agents and traditional rulers, which he claims is not enough because many others moved into the state unnoticed.
“It would be advisable for the Zamfara State government to notify us about the coming of the herders to Jigawa through the office of the secretaries of the state governments, not only a letter from police or Miyetti Allah organization,” the traditional ruler said.
The monarch added that the traditional rulers in Jigawa have limited ability to tackle the movement of the herders. He said that some of the herders settle in any forest of their choice in Gwaram, sometimes without their knowledge, thus threatening peaceful coexistence in the community.
Also, the village head of Baghdad, a community in Gwaram hosting a large forest called ‘Dajin Bagadaza’, where some of the relocating herders settled, Ahmadu Adamu, said the government should be vigilant and investigate thoroughly before settling the herders.
“We don’t want to witness again the activities of kidnappers in this area. In less than three years, Gwaram community volunteers have successfully secured off the areas from kidnappers hitherto terrorising the areas,” Mr Adamu said.
Bala Musa, the village head of Salmande, another community hosting the relocating herders in their forest, said, “we are more concerned because human beings are difficult to judge in a short time, we cannot say those that are coming are Innocent or not.
“We are scared that there are criminals among them or those that are yet to come can form a gang with even the host children to start unleashing atrocities while hiding under the cover of the forest.
“What we need is peace, nothing more than that. We cannot comment on the exact numbers of those that have relocated, we’re aware that about six trailers loaded with the herders and their livestock were offloaded in the forest.
“Some household leaders came with notification letters while others just came and settled without our knowledge and more are also coming. There is a need for extensive investigation to know more about the relocating herders,” Mr Musa said.
Why we’re relocating
One of the relocating herders, Umaru Dagoje, told PREMIUM TIMES that they are in Jigawa in search of peace following continued attacks and kidnapping in Zamfara.
“I relocated to Jigawa from Anka local government area of Zamfara because the bandits killed my eldest son Muhammadu, and following that we are living in constant fear, which is why we left.
“The militants sent a letter to me that they are coming for me and instead of replying to them, the next day I fled to Jigawa. We are here in search of peace, we are not trouble makers,” Mr Dagoje told PREMIUM TIMES.
He added that when they got to Jigawa, they presented a letter of introduction to officials given to them by Miyetti Allah, Divisional Police Officer and District Head of Anka LGA in Zamfara.
“We’re in the state for peace not trouble,” the relocating herder, Mr Dagoje said.
They’re being monitored – Police
The police in Jigawa said they are in collaboration with sister security agencies to monitor the movement of the herders.
The spokesperson for the police, Audu Jinjiri, said the herders, like other Nigerians, have the constitutional rights to move freely from one location to another and the police cannot stop them.
“More importantly, ever since the herders started coming to Jigawa, there has been no upsurge in crime in the affected area, in which the police sees them, for now, as peace-loving people.
“Also as they come, they introduced themselves and we collated their data to further our investigation about their persons. As for now, there is no cause for alarm,” Mr Jinjiri said.