Jigawa State has always had a volatile story of unregulated movement of herders. It came to a climax in 1995/6 when two District Heads lost their position after an inquiry by the military regime. In this piece, Aminu Ali from the Department of Sociology, Bayero University, Kano brings to light the current dimension of the threat from herders and their herds in the case of Jigawa State.
I am compelled to write and relay to you the ordeal of your subjects. If the security reports you receive do not capture this menace, my letter brings to your notice the daily pangs of your people. If the reports do, this is then a reminder.
I traveled to my natal home two weeks ago, spending four days there. The visit afforded me, once again, the opportunity to interact with my people and to know their quotidian experiences. One of the issues that eminently dominated our conversations is the high rate of road accidents in the area, which – in recent times – are mostly caused by wandering camels. Coincidentally, the Federal Road Safety Commission was, in the same week, reported to have said that road accidents claim more lives than the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency! It should be noted, however, that our conversation was not prompted by the FRSC’s claim, as the interlocutors were not aware of it. In fact, if I can remember very well, it took place a day before the FRSC made the above disclosure.
Every year, herders looking for pasture troop into Jigawa State from the neighboring Niger Republic with hundreds of camels. They likely come in through the Maigatari border and, subsequently, spread to other parts of the State – notably Taura, Ringim, Gumel, Garki, Jahun, Kiyawa, Dutse and Buji Local Government Areas. The herders spend at least four to five months in those areas with their camels grazing. They usually arrive in December and leave in April. Therefore, unlike the regular herders, the timing of their migration minimizes the risk of crops destruction.
Unfortunately, however, the herders do not tame their camels in the bush. Instead, they release them to wander – crossing our highways indiscriminately and causing accidents. The impunity of these herders is unthinkable. They allow the camels to graze in areas around highways without anyone controlling them. And since the herders do not accompany the camels, no one is always there to be vicariously liable for the damages they cause. Consequently, thousands of commuters who use our roads on daily basis are entangled in seething anguish and fear that they or their relatives may one day fall victims.
In the last three years, several people have been severely injured and killed as a result of accidents caused by the recklessness of the camel herders. It is imperative to mention a few cases. Two weeks ago, a fatal accident reportedly occurred in Katuka village, along Jahun-Kiyawa highway, when a herd of camels suddenly crossed the highway. The driver rammed into them and, as a result, two persons were killed. Sometimes in 2019, a brand new Hummer Bus believed to be coming from Yola, Adamawa State, was involved in an accident near Balago village, Jahun – Kiyawa road. A report I gathered from the locals revealed that the driver of the bus attempted to escape the crossing camels that abruptly came his way. In the process, the vehicle somersaulted, leaving many with serious injuries. In the same year, another victim was reported to have been killed in Dunguzun village, along Jahun-Kiyawa road in a similar circumstance.
Also in 2019, the former Secretary of Jahun Local Government Council (a chieftain in your party) was involved in a road accident caused by a camel. Though he survived with minor injuries, his vehicle was seriously damaged. In the same year, one A’isha Tahir, the then All Progressive Congress Women’s Leader (Birnin Kudu Chapter), was killed in Yar Jigawa village, along Jahun-Kiyawa road. Her driver, according to newspaper reports, lost control of the vehicle when he spotted a camel that was not anticipated, crossing the highway. In Garki-Ringim road, one Nasiru, a veterinary doctor, died in a similar circumstance.
Still in 2019, one Zaharadeen Hussaini Kaita, a lecturer at the Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic and Isah Sani Birnin Gwari, also a lecturer at the Kaduna State University, suffered the same fate. The accident occurred on Ringim-Taura highway. The victims, according to their friend’s account, died on their way to attend a wedding ceremony in Hadejia. In another ghastly accident near Sabon Garin Ya’ya/Yangayami, along Gujungu-Taura road, a camel rammed into a Golf (wagon) conveying passengers. Many of them reportedly sustained injuries. There was another fatal accident on Gujungu-Gumel road in 2018, where one woman was killed. A year earlier, there was a report of another accident that led to the death of one person in the same highway.
Also, some few years ago, one Alhaji Salisu Ajaura, who was riding a bike along Gujungu-Jahun highway, was overrun and headbutted by a camel. He died at the Gumel General Hospital, where he was rushed after being conked by the marauding camel. There were also reported incidents in Gantsa (Buji LGA) and Karnaya (Dutse LGA) in recent years. In Hara and Jaudi villages, there were cases of camel destroying gardens and silos.
The helpless locals languish in agony while the authorities seem unconcerned about this unceasing tragedy. They are worried that neither the security officials nor their elected representatives, who are obviously aware of the situation, have made concrete efforts to end the incessant accidents. Even the involvement of the ruling party’s chieftains did not make them to act. There is growing suspicion that the refusal of the authorities to take necessary measures is largely because either the camels are owned by some influential persons in the country or the herders bribe security agents and traditional rulers to get away with their atrocities. While both may be untrue, the refusal to act is unjustifiable. No responsible government will condone the killing of its citizens by foreigners. Protecting lives is one of the essential duties of any government. Inability to do this means that the government has awfully failed.
Your Excellency, this is the ordeal of the people who elected and reelected you because they, presumably, have faith in your leadership. It is not too late for you to intervene in order to stop this killing spree. My investigation revealed that the herders are in possession of entry documents and have a leadership. This makes it very easy for the State Government to engage them with a view to finding solutions to the problem. I strongly believe that your government is responsible enough not to allow the killings to continue.
Finally, I hope your government will take necessary action as urgently as possible.
The author is reachable via firstname.lastname@example.org