The conflict in the Northwest region of Nigeria, particularly in Sabon Layin Galadima community in Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State, started because of a fight between an ox and a sheep, HumAngle has learnt.
Alhaji Umaru, 82, the oldest man in the village and currently living in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp, told HumAngle that a fight between his ox and a Fulani man’s ram led to the animosity between his community and the Fulani community.
“One fateful Sunday, an incident happened in which my ox kicked up a Fulani man`s ram which eventually led to its death.
“Not long after this happened, a group of Fulani cattle rustlers attacked our village and carted away most of our flock of sheep and herds of cattle in the name of revenge,” Umaru said.
He said before then, the two communities coexisted harmoniously and supported each other.
“It was a long time that we were living with Fulani cattle herders. It was common to lose one or two goats or sheep or even a donkey to rustlers.
“We used to give our flock of sheep or herd of cattle to Fulani shepherds for proper upkeep in peace and harmony on specific agreements,” Umaru said.
He said after the attack by cattle rustlers members of his community realised that they had lost over 200 cattle, more than 300 sheep and other livestock.
Adamu said his community sent a delegation to the herders to plead with them to release their animals “but we found out that our cattle and sheep were loaded on a truck at Tashar Dan kolo in Dandume heading to Lagos State.
“At that time, the youth of the village decided to launch a reprisal attack but the elders cautioned them of the dangers of such attempt.
“The youth did not heed to the warning by the elders and insisted that they must go after the rustlers.
“They were ambushed by the rustlers and they recorded deaths and undisclosed number of people sustained serious injuries,” said Larai Bawa, another resident of the community who corroborated the old man’s account.
Malam Ya`u, the village head of Anguwar Kochi in Dandume Local Government Area, said: “We have been in this situation for over 11 years.
“Till today, every year at the beginning of every rainy season which coincides with Ramadan, they attack our village, rape women and girls , rustle cattle and cart away properties.
“We are continually facing uncertainties every evening after breaking our fast over fear of attacks.
“We believe their plans are to disrupt agricultural activities and expose us more to hunger and abject poverty.”
Bashir Yar Gamji from Batsari said: “They come to confiscate phones either in the town or on our way to the farm and other valuable things they need.
“ Somebody would point a gun over your head and ask you to give your phone, if you refuse to do so, they would mercilessly kill you. ”
A woman, Maryam Zuru from Bangi village, narrated how her family members were killed, saying: “They killed my family members, they killed my brother who had 11 children.
“My husband is here with me but lives in a different house from me. They dislocated my leg, more than 50 of them attacked our family house.”
Another member of the community, Bala Ashiru, said the crisis got out of hand because the relevant authorities failed to address the issue at the beginning.
“They found out that the police failed to protect us from their criminality. They introduced a tax for us.
“If you really want to move freely in Safana villages or our farmlands, you must be paying tax weekly or monthly,” he said.
Ashiru said the tax was paid through village heads, adding: “they succeeded in doing this through our village heads because they asked them to collect the tax from us. Whoever fails to pay will face their deadly attack.”
“We were raising N50, 000 monthly for them around 2018” he added.
Economic activities which the people depend on have come to a halt in the communities and Adamu Damari, a rice farmer in Sabuwa Local Government Area, said: “All the farms in the affected areas have been abandoned by their owners over the fear of being killed or kidnapped.”
Damari said the situation had worsened the poverty level of the people and encouraged many youths to collaborate with or join criminal gangs.
Katsina State is one of Nigeria’s northwestern states facing serious terror attacks from criminal elements.
The attacks which heightened between May and June and sparked off street protests by youths who urged government intervention to end the crisis.
The attacks have created a humanitarian crisis as communities have been sacked and populations forced to live in IDPs camps.
Photos of residents of Faskari in Katsina in an IDP camp.
The Federal Government has reinforced military deployment in the state and insists it has brought the situation under control but the people disagree with the assessment.
An activist in Katsina, Hassan Funtua said “the recent attacks in Katsina communities on daily basis by bandits has proved to us that the government is not ready to end the senseless killing of innocent people.
“They are interested more in the arrest of innocent youths who ask them to wake up from their responsibilities.
“So, people believe government actions and inactions are not enough in fighting banditry in Katsina and most of the people are of the opinion if same energy used in fighting COVID-19 can be used in fighting banditry, the issue of bandits will end.”
On June 6 a coalition of concerned citizens of Katsina State and other civil society groups held a peaceful protest across the state over the killings.
Comrade Yasin Ibrahim, the Chairman of Katsina Home of Hospitality, a civil society group, told HumAngle that “the protest was borne out of the need to put a stop to the incessant killings of poor people in Nigeria, especially in the Northwest.
“This is necessary because of the `I don’t care attitude` from both the president and the state government. We noticed government is not ready to end the senseless killings, destroying of our economy and raping of our women, mothers and sisters by unpatriotic groups of people.
The spokesman for the Police Command in Katsina State, Gambo Isah, while reacting to a recent attack on Kadisau and other communities, said “ the police, military and other security agents are doing their very best to protect lives and property of the residents , particularly in those frontline local governments areas.
“President (Muhammadu) Buhari has already directed the service chiefs, including the inspector-general of police, to deploy more personnel to bring an end to the problem.
“They are already here and different operations are going. We have captured so many bandits’ camps. For instance, we have captured Dunya camp, which for the past 10 years could not be reached by anybody.
“We have seized so many weapons from the bandits, killed a number of them and recovered many animals rustled into the area.
“ What is happening now is like the bandits want to ridicule us, we are doing our best.
“ There are over 5,000 villages sharing borders with Rugu Forest and other neighboring states such as Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger Republic.’’
He stressed that “ the security agents could not be at all those places” at a time.