Growing concerns have greeted the rising incidence of cattle theft and accompanying rape of women and children by rustlers, a trend which has continued unabated in some areas of Katsina State.
Cases of cattle-rustling occur in areas like Safana, Faskari, Funtua, Batsari and Danmusa, with allegations of collusion by locals being rife.
Although the details of the total number of cattle stolen by these unidentified rustlers are sketchy, sources revealed that hundreds of cattle have been brazenly stolen by persons who often attack villages at night to carry out the nefarious act.
A resident of Wagini Village, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said he lost over 50 cattle to the rustlers who invaded his community in the dead of the night.
“They invaded our community, assembled all of us and took our cattle while we watched helplessly, because they were heavily armed,” he said.
He also revealed that far-flung villages are now bound by fear of the marauders.
Findings revealed that some villages in Faskari local government had to temporarily relocate, due to constant harassment by the rustlers who not only steal their prized possession, but also rape their wives and girls.
One of such villages is the sleepy Gora Community where residents allege that they have been constantly harassed by rustlers.
Indeed, there are fears that the rustlers may have resorted to using the Rugu Forest as their operating base, from where they come to attack unsuspecting villagers and cart away their cattle in the dead of the night.
In the face of all this, the residents have continued to accuse security agencies of failing to effectively address the menace.
However, disturbed by the incidence of cattle-rustling, the Katsina State government has restricted the movement of vehicles conveying cattle in or out of the state.
Addressing the press recently, the state commissioner of police, Muhammad Hurdi, said cattle can be conveyed within the state between 6am and 7pm.
According to Hurdi, the decision was taken at the state Security Council meeting and noted that the idea was to give security agents and members of the community the go-ahead and ample time to check movement of cattle.
“The idea is that once these animals are moved in the day, people will be able to see them; and if the herds are suspected to have been stolen, we will take appropriate action,” Hurdi said.
Hurdi also disclosed that investigations by the security agents revealed that most of the rustled cattle herds are transported out of the state to be sold to unsuspecting buyers, hence the decision to restrict movement of the cattle-conveying vehicles in the state.
“The essence of this is to ensure that vehicles move during the day. Also, it gives vehicle owners who wish to travel out of the state ample time to do so.
While urging residents of the state to adhere strictly to the new law which has long come into effect, Hurdi insisted that the measure was taken in the best interest of the people.
There are people who buy these stolen cattle herds from the rustlers and if they cannot find customers anymore, rustling will stop.”
A few hours before Hurdi’s warning, the Katsina State chapter of the Former Elected Local Government Chairmen Association (FELGOCAS), appealed for an end to the “high rate of cattle-rustling in the state”.
The secretary of the association, Abdulsamad Yusuf, who spoke on behalf of the former local council chairmen, called for proactive measures to address the ugly development.
He appealed to the state governor to liaise with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that a permanent solution to the incidence of cattle-rustling, which he said has led to loss of hundreds of cattle, is reached.
The association, according to Yusuf, has grown concerned, especially, seeing as the rise in the raids have continued unchecked, especially in areas around the Rugu Forest area which dovetails into council areas of Danmusa, Batsari, Safana, Faskari and Funtua.
“We are appealing to the governor to use his position and liaise with state governors of the states – Niger, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi and Zamfara – which share the forest which has, sadly, become a habitation for these rustlers.
We urge the governor to also liaise with emirates of these states, the Sarkin Fulani in these states and, indeed, all other critical stakeholders, in bringing an end to the spate of cattle rustling,” Yusuf added.
Yusuf also emphasised that the association was convinced that the state governor, Ibrahim Shema, could use his position both as the governor and Sarkin Fulanin Katsina to ensure permanent solution to the menace.