In this report, MUSA M. BUBA looks at how Boko Haram attacks have affected the largest livestock market in West Africa ‘the Potiskum cattle market’, in Yobe state, since the terror war started about six years ago
According to the United Nations recent report, no fewer than 500, 000 lives have been dispatched to their early graves, while about 49,000 persons have been displaced, and 50,000 persons have become refugees in different camps in the north east and even Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital territory.
Although blessed with economic potential such as Potash, Gum Arabic, Kaolin, among others, and of course, the largest livestock market in the whole of West Africa, Yobe is one of the states in the North East geo-political zone worst hit by the insurgency.
The state became the largest producer of livestock as a result of migration of herders from Tchad, Cameroon and Niger Republics, in order to benefit from the free vaccination of all animals and supply of the food supplements offered by the Yobe State government.
One of the governors of the north east had reported in December last year to the United Nations that; “no fewer than 100,000 people were killed and 2,114,000 displaced in the year 2016 alone. Also the deputy Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN had said last year that Nigeria needed $1billion in 2017 for the provision of aid to victims of Boko Haram terrorists in the North East, Nigeria.
In May 2012, the Potiskum cattle market in Yobe state was set on fire by a group of well armed gunmen with explosives and assault rifles leading to the killing of 34 people and 29 injured as reported by the BBC.
With the frequent terror attacks, it was not only government’s activities that were paralyzed but also the economic activities of the state. Businessmen and women who come all the way from the south east, south and the middle belt areas of the country could no longer take the risk of coming to the state because of the regular suicide bombings that occur on frequent basis, especially in Potiskum, where the largest livestock market is located. Every strange face is considered as a security personnel and will automatically be killed despite the fact that everybody to a large extent is also a target. This has led to mass exodus of people for their dear lives causing business and social activities to a halt. With the economic depression in the country, many breadwinners have been rendered redundant , because the insurgency has fueled food shortage. Worse still, their means of livelihood were lost to the terror regime causing thousands to start life a fresh.
Blueprint investigation shows that, before the insurgency, about 60-70 trucks were loaded with livestocks to the eastern or southern part of the country weekly. But since the insurgency, two or three trucks could hardly be loaded, a development which having adverse effect on the state and the region at large.
Alhaji Ya’u Dogo, chairman of the cattle sellers association in Potiskum, said, many of their members and business partners were killed, some ran away, while those who had the courage to stay have been in depression.
The chairman also said, some of them that are in the livestock business were forced to relocate to other towns where peace is reigning to learn other trades as apprentices. “They can hardly feed their families in strange towns, their houses were burnt down, paying of children’s school fees becomes a big challenge because of what the insurgency caused them”. He said.
For most of the traders, the insurgency is the worst crisis that has befallen them, as the insurgency is the longest crisis the community has ever witnessed.
Relative peace returning
One of the campaign promises of President Buhari to Nigerians is tackling the insurgency, which he has fulfilled. Almost all the local government areas that were overrun by the insurgents have been recaptured. Presently, the region is now relatively peaceful, and economic activities are gradually picking up. It is worthy of note that about 40 trucks are being loaded with livestocks to different parts of the country on weekly basis with more jobs being created and revenue generated. Nearly all the places that were no go areas are now being cleared as safe for business as well as social.
For those who lost their lives to the senseless killings, surely they have gone, but those who are alive and still in the livestock business in Yobe state will continue to mourn and remember how their day was turned to night by a gang of plunderers who claim to be fighting a just course.