PREMIUM TIMES has obtained an exclusive list of 30 people arrested by the Nigerian military for allegedly helping the Boko Haram to sell rustled cows. The arrested people include at least four serving soldiers, two police officers, and some members of the civilian-JTF. The Theatre Commander of the Operation Lafiya Dole, Lucky Irabor, had confirmed the arrest of the 30 people at a press conference in Maiduguri on Wednesday.
According to General Irabor, “those who have been aiding and abetting Boko Haram by way of encouraging cattle rustling ; so far we have arrested 30 of them, many are civilians and we have among them four soldiers and two policemen. They are being investigated and the outcome of the investigation will be brought to your notice.”
What Mr. Irabor, a major general, did not say was that the Boko Haram rustled the cows in the territory they still hold and sneaked them into Maiduguri, the Borno capital, to sell and buy other goods. The military has since suspected that the insurgents are able to do this and raise fund for their cause based on the active connivance of security operatives and relevant civilians. Subsequent investigation led to the arrest of the 30 people.
The four soldiers arrested include Captain A. A. Hussaini, the operations officer of 195 Battalion in charge of Mafa Local Government Area where Boko Haram still control some areas. The council is a major route into Maiduguri from the North and East. Another suspect is Lieutenant I. H. Irro, a liaison with 152 Task Force battalion. The other two junior officers are Staff Sergeant Alexander Chiegwe, the guard commander of the main check point from Mafa into Maiduguri, and Lance Corporal Yakpon Dona. The policemen arrested are Usman Mohammed and Stephen Odoh.
The suspects also include three members of the Civilian-JTF. They are Babakkura Ali, chairman of Kasuwan Shanu branch; Bashir Abbas, the chairman of Sector 2 and Modu 2Star, a member from Mafa town. The arrested civilians include members of the Livestock Traders Association, some herdsmen and a representative of the Shehu of Borno. All the suspects are accused of being involved in castle rustling.
Top members of the Civilian-JTF who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES confirmed the arrest of their colleagues. They, however, said they do not have the full details of their arrest. In the past year, kidnapping and cattle rustling have become another major security threat, aside Boko Haram insurgency which the Nigerian Army has been tackling.
Nearly a hundred kidnappers and cattle rustlers were either killed in shootouts or arrested by soldiers. Over a thousand cows rustled from herdsmen were also recovered. Fulani herdsmen, accused of attacking communities using assault rifles, have complained that some of them resort to using guns like AK47 to defend themselves because cattle rustlers use similar weapons to attack them and steal their livestock.
The rustling of cattle has since become a major source of revenue for the Boko Haram whose activities since 2009 have caused the death of over 20,000 people and displaced millions of others.