Nigerian citizens living in parts of Jigawa, Bauchi and Yobe states annually play host to Malian nomads, who come with hundreds of camels, donkeys and horses as seasonal guests. For several years these nomads source food for their animals on vast farmlands of Jigawa, Bauchi and Yobe states people throughout the dry season. Travelers along major highways, especially Kano-Azare-Potiskum road will testify to the number of camels grazing, and even the women and children of herders selling milk and urine (for medicinal purpose) of camels at military check points. These animals normally move about, freely with no one guiding them.
Unlike the foreign nomads, our indigenous herders follow their animals to wherever they go, perhaps simply because an animal knows no wrong or right, and whatever trouble or offense the animal commits it’s the owner that will be held responsible, this is reasonable. This “brother’s keeper” mentality is the control mechanism alerting our herders to illegal conduct.
Until recently Malian nomads come and go without leaving their host communities with devastating effect of their camping. Nowadays, they scatter these animals across farmlands and the animals sometimes destroy stored farm produce left on the farm (juga in Hausa) and fruits on trees. An issue worthy of everybody’s attention is the unbearable recklessness of these nomads allowing their camels to cross roads at their wish, which has resulted in the loss of lives of many travelers along Kiyawa-Jama’are-Azare-Bukachuwa, Gamawa-Udubo, Bulkachuwa-Chinade-Misau roads, because camels normally appear suddenly on the roads, crashing into speeding vehicles.
I recall a particular incident in February this year, along Azare-Jama’are road, when fifteen people died after their bus hit a camel that suddenly appeared on the road. There are many incidences which claimed lives and properties which ordinarily will have been saved if the right measures were put in place. Sometime I get myself thinking whether our authorities have concern for the lives of their people at all, because if they do, the frequency of these unfortunate incidences is a reason to force them take a proper decision on these foreign nomads in order to save the lives of their people. From the time these people came to Nigeria some months back, no less than 30 lives were lost, let alone vehicles that completely got damaged.
Unfortunately, ever since this horrible scenario began unfolding no single Malian nomad was charged to court for committing any offense or causing lost of lives and properties, I am sure that will not be obtainable in their country, why then is it obtainable in ours? Should we go to other countries and obey their laws and avoid going against their laws, so also they do the same to us, unless we want to create the impression that we don’t care about our people to the extent that a foreigner can cause death of our citizens and go free.
It seems these nomads value their animals more than the lives of our citizens, because in one incident that happened along Gamawa-Udubo road, a 15 seater Toyota Hiace hit a camel that suddenly appeared to cross the road, the vehicle got its windscreen, headlights, bumper and everything at the front smashed while the camel had injuries including broken legs. Thank God no death was recorded from the incident except minor injuries by the passengers, thereafter the car owner looked for the camel owner but no one was found. A source revealed that they are afraid of what is going to happen, that’s the reason they decline owning up. Meanwhile the camel has suffered injuries and it was concluded the only option was to slaughter it and sell it otherwise it will just die. It was sold and the car owner used part of the money to repair his vehicle, although that should be function of a legal body to decide. Later a gentleman who claimed to be the owner went to the police asking that his camel be returned. When he was needed, he did not show up but after hearing that the camel is gone he was asking for its replacement not even minding what the camel had caused. I decided to share this story to show how they care about their animals and not lives of their host communities, people that gave them their farmlands to feed their animals, people that gave them a place to stay, this is to say the least.
Our authorities must liberate us from this worrisome carelessness. We are not saying harsh laws must be provided to completely ban them, no, but traditional leaders, the government and security agencies should collaborate and come up with laws to guide the conduct of these nomads so that their presence does not become a horrible nuisance to the citizens. In the past herders are restricted to grazing areas, and that has helped maintain the peace as well as prevented occurrence of unfortunate incidences, the same thing or similar can be a way out to this menace.
Hamza Ibrahim Chinade, is of the Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) Kano 08039467382.