Maiduguri Cattle Market which used to be one of the most flourishing livestock markets in West Africa is now a ghost of itself due to the over decade-long Boko Haram insurgency which continues to finish its influence.
Almost all livestock supply routes to the market in the Lake Chad Region have closed and it struggles to survive and hold its influence under the insurgency which end seems not to be in sight with traders highly frustrated and fearing a beef crisis.
Fanning away the rising fume of dust from his masked face is a man in his early 60s facing his herd of cattle in the midst of the noisy Maiduguri Cattle Market. “The market is just something we manage to survive. This is a market where herds of cattle were being brought in from Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
“Some were sold here and others were transported down to the south,” the man known as Modu Kurram, said. Modu is also one of the dealers in the Maiduguri Cattle Market. He went on to speak of despair associated with the unending Boko Haram crisis and added that the market would continue to suffer decline in the years ahead.
A livestock trader, Mallam Baba Gana, said, ‘In addition to cattle, rams, sheep, goats, even horses were brought to this market from within and outside the country before the outbreak of Boko Haram.
Gana said Chad was the major source of cattle supply to the market, adding, “some are sold here for local consumption and fattening while others are taken to the South. Those coming from Chad now go to Mubi via Cameroon and most of those loading them to the South no longer come here because of the risk and cost.”
Scrutinising Cattle Supply Lines
Finance has been the bedrock for sustaining any armed struggle as with the Boko Haram insurgency. The most visible source of finance for the operation of Boko Haram terrorists is cattle rustling, followed by other sources like proxy trading, smuggling and racketeering. So, it became imperative in the counter-insurgency operation by the Nigerian Government that mutilating the deep tentacles of cattle rusting as a key finance channel for Boko Haram is an inevitable option for success in the anti-insurgency war.
The second exodus of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) into Maiduguri in 2016 was largely prompted by rising cases of cattle rustling by Boko Haram in areas under their control. The displaced persons initially stayed back with their flocks in their communities when others were massively migrating to Maiduguri in 2014 to escape Boko Haram attacks and rule. However, the rising tide of seizure of their livestock assets to the insurgents became unbearable for the people and hence they decided to withdraw their loyalty and rush to Maiduguri as IDPs with their livestock for outright sale than lose them and their lives to Boko Haram fighters.
“My elder brother lost a herd of cattle to Boko Haram,” Buji Kadai, an IDP from Mafa Local Government Area of Borno State, said, adding, “They just came and took them away.”
“They would go and do the work of Allaah with them (indicating selling them to fund their arms struggle against the Nigerian Government). So we decided to rush down here with our livestock so that they would not lay siege on us and seize them,” he said.
Kadai, who currently lives in Muna Kumburi community in Maiduguri, said he sold off his livestock at Maiduguri Cattle Market and settled in Maiduguri in a house he bought from the proceeds.
Maiduguri Cattle Market has, in recent times, witnessed an unprecedented upsurge in livestock supply from displaced people rushing to dispose of their livestock and settle in Maiduguri.
The inflow of the livestock to the market also created a window for the Boko Haram terrorists to dispose of their stolen livestock, often, through proxies covertly operating in Maiduguri and environs. The rampantly reported cases of the sect infiltrating the livestock market in Maiduguri and its surroundings prompted the Borno State Government to suspend market operations in key satellite markets in the state in March 2016.
An additional measure taken by the state in collaboration with security operatives to stem the activities of the terrorists included the imposition of strict scrutiny to ascertain that all incoming livestock into the Maiduguri Cattle Market did not originate from Boko Haram sources.
Goni Amsami, a middleman who used to guide potential buyers in the market, said “the dealers in this section are genuine and certified by the security and market committee” and pointed to one of the shades in the market. The stringent measure taken in collaboration with the Nigerian military sparked off an acute shortage of beef and unemployment in the market and beef industry.
Mallam Abba is a middleman in the market and an IDP from Bama Local Government Area. He is one of those hit by the low tempo of activities in the market. Abba believes that the road to the recovery of the market is far and said, ‘I have now resorted to hawking textile in the Cattle Market as an alternative for survival.”
“This market cannot sustain us any longer. If I had enough capital, I would have relocated to Mubi because the market is booming there and the big shots are there already,” Abba said, holding out his hand showcasing assorted fabrics he was hawking.
Scrutiny by authorities for sources of cattle supply has been relaxed in Northeast cattle markets. However, direct cattle inflow from the Chad Republic which used to account for a reasonable number of livestock in the market is closed. The market manages with supplies from Gubio, Giedam and Monguno cattle markets which routes also have safety concerns because of Boko Haram activities.
Mallam Abdu, a cattle dealer and a Fulani leader, said, “when bringing in livestock from either Monguno or Gubio, you should always make available some cash to settle Boko Haram levies at their checkpoints. On bad days, they seize the livestock, abduct or even kill you.” Abdu went on, ‘‘the case is very rampant and the chances of not meeting them on the highway are always slim.” Meanwhile, he accused the military of not doing anything about the situation.
The rising tempo of looting by Boko Haram fighters has been bringing hundreds of IDPs into Maiduguri from satellite villages in Northern Borno since the early part of the year. The displaced persons also come along with their livestock for disposal at the cattle market.
Bunu Aisami is one of such displaced persons from Aisa Wulomari village of Magumeri Local Government Area. When a middleman told him that his livestock, consisting of an ox, cow and her calf, would fetch him N200, 000, Aisami pleaded, “let them add something. This is all we have brought along and we are selling all of them to start a new life here. If we don’t sell them, those boys would come and take them away.”
Fear Of Beef Shortage
Alhaji Garba, a butcher, making a projection of beef shortage, said, “if the trend is left to continue in the current pattern, I am afraid we would run into a shortage of beef in the state.
Garba asked: “if those from Chad are no longer coming through here and the people from the villages are emptying their herds in the market and access to outreach markets has become risky, what do you expect?’
The security situation surrounding the state capital, Maiduguri, has been worsening for some time, further erasing the hope that the Boko Haram insurgency would end soon. The Maiduguri-Kano road previously considered the most secure route has become the most vulnerable to Boko Haram attacks and abductions. The most recent was the abduction of 35 people along Auno-Jakana road which compelled the Borno State Governor, Prof. Umara Zulum, to blame the development on the failure of the Nigerian military.
The governor, during an assessment visit to the scene of the abduction, expressed shock and annoyance on how such magnitude of attack was being perpetrated under the watch of the soldiers and police special squads deployed on the road.
The state governor is frustrated by the security situation, particularly with regard to the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency and so cried out on his Facebook page.
“I have had occasions to defend the Nigerian military in order to boost the morale of commanders and their troops at the frontlines because I know the true picture of things, however, I am really disappointed that despite all support from both the federal government and from us in Borno state, our military is failing to secure an area of 20 kilometres,” Zulum wrote.
Nigeria Mourns, an NGO reported that 162 people were killed in November this year due to insecurity in Borno State.
Ahmadu Abubakar, a security analyst in Maiduguri, meanwhile said “the only remedy to the failing security situation in the state is to strengthen the capacities of local security outfits in the state.
“The military has failed to contain the security challenge which is taking its toll even on them. They are second to the civilians in casualty figures of this war.”