Cattle rustling has become one of the major challenges facing Nigeria in recent times. These days, there’s hardly a day that goes by that citizens don’t hear or witness the horrors perpetrated by these cattle rustlers or killer herdsmen as they are fondly called. Each day we hear news of cattle rustlers invading different communities from Agatu to Tse – Atue, Nimbo community in Enugu, and the one that took place in Oke –ako community in Ekiti.
Just this afternoon as I was listening to the news, I heard of how killer herdsmen invaded igbongun community in Benue state killing about 5 people, and leaving several others badly injured. It is no longer uncommon that the primary aim of this cattle rustlers/killer herdsmen is to wreak havoc, and attack defenseless communities, leaving behind completely destroyed arable farmlands and corpses of residents.
I happened to serve in a small community in Ofu local government area, Kogi state to be precise. And I was opportune to witness some of the crimes and atrocities committed by these vicious cattle rustlers. What they do mostly is to invade farm lands and attack unsuspecting farmers, dispossessing them of their belongings, and they sometimes go as far as raping their women on the farm. This practice of atrocities has been going on for years and it has almost become a norm in some of these communities simply because over the years, government has turned blind eyes and deaf hears to some of the atrocities being committed by this vicious set of people.
In some communities in Nigeria, cattle rustling has seemingly become such a lucrative venture that bandit raid unsuspecting communities and slaughtering residents in the process of practising their trade. However, this practise of killing and raping of residents must be put to a halt.
To stop this incessant killings by herdsmen, the following must be put into considerations;
Conducting sensitization programmes: To reduce the incessant attacks on communities by cattle rustlers/killer herdsmen, programmes must be put in place to sensitize residents of various communities about the dangers and threats to which these bandits poses on the lives of indigenes. Traditional rulers, non-governmental organizations, and state government must come together to create some sort of awareness programme to sensitize and educate residents of various communities on how to prevent attacks by cattle rustlers, and also encourage them to alert authorities by passing necessary information to the right bodies whenever they notice any suspicious movements by these bandits.
Community policing: community leaders and traditional rulers should ensure that they encourage community policing in training their hunters and youths to defend their communities. Provisions must be made for the supply of arms for the protection of lives and properties of residents.
In time past, community policing was seen as one of the most effective ways of combating crimes in the rural communities; and so therefore should be encouraged among community leaders.
Funding vigilante groups: Traditional rulers and community leaders must join forces with state government to address the menace of cattle rustling in our communities.
Traditional rulers and community leaders should form alliance with government to fund vigilante groups in their various communities, where residents will be made to pay a certain token as security levy. This token would be contributed by residents on a monthly basis, and will be used to purchase ammunitions for vigilantes to battle cattle rustlers, while the rest will be paid to the vigilantes as a form of remuneration for the services they are rendering. Community leaders and traditional rulers should join hands with government and treat the issue of cattle rustlers as a matter of urgency, and ensure that cattle rustling and invading of farmlands by these set of people becomes a thing of the past.
Conducting proper security surveillance: Government should ensure that proper security surveillance are conducted in communities that are prone to attacks by cattle rustlers. Government should employ the use of drones, helicopters, and patrol vehicles as a means of monitoring the activities of bandits in various communities.
24 hours surveillance should be conducted by the police, or foot soldiers at the boundaries separating one state or community from the other as a means to reduce the horror, and threats this bandits poses on the lives of Nigerians.
Disarmament should be one of the core component of government’s effort at all levels, with which special attention is given to tracking the circulation of small fire arms and light weapons that plays an enormous role in heightening the injuries, deaths and displacements resulting from violent confrontations between farmers and herdsmen.
Grazing reserve development: Grazing reserve should be encouraged for the use of pastoral farming and livestock development. The main purpose of setting up grazing reserves is for the settlement of nomadic pastoralist, as we all know that not all herdsmen are ‘’killers’’. Although a lot of Nigerians will disagree with the grazing reserve bill, due to some of the threats it may pose on the lives of citizens. However, we must learn to understand that clashes between herdsmen and farmers has become more rampant and deadlier than before, and this is why the need for grazing reserve becomes very important. The bill was titled as ‘an act to provide establishment of national grazing reserve (establishment and development) commission for the preservation and control of national grazing reserves and stock routes and other matters that are connected therein’. The bill was first brought before the 8th assembly, but was rejected by the former House of Representatives. In its second outing, the bill has so far scaled through the first and second reading in the national assembly and will soon be passed into law if it survives a third reading and is assented by the president.
But before then, in setting up a grazing reserve, government must ensure that provisions are made for the security of lives and properties of host communities, provision of pastures for livestock’s, and also boundaries should be created for nomads in these communities. Government should also ensure that both nomads and host communities comply strictly with the rules and regulations set up by the appropriate authorities, and ensure that offenders or trespasser’s are being sanctioned accordingly, in order for the grazing reserve to be successful in Nigeria.
In conclusion, government should consider the solutions highlighted above in combating, and eradicating the menace of cattle rustling in Nigeria. Also, proper investigation should be conducted into the grazing reserve bill and put certain measures like; security of lives and properties of host communities into consideration in order not to jeopardize the peace of this nation.