Accepted paper:

Criminal arena: forest and cattle banditry in Northern Nigeria


Ifeanyichukwu Onwuzuruigbo (University of Pretoria)

Paper short abstract:

One of the prominent disruptions West African pastoralists have encountered in their bid to connect to the wider world is cattle rustling. This paper captures the ways in which ungoverned forests provide conducive atmosphere and safe havens for cattle rustling and rustler

Paper long abstract:

Pastoral societies in West Africa experience disruptions in their communities and their relationship with the society as they strive to connect with the wider world and respond to waves of social change. One of the major disruptions they have encountered is the upswing in cattle banditry in the region. This paper explores the upsurge in cattle banditry in northern Nigeria. Drawing on orthodox epistemologies of cattle rustling in Africa, extant studies have attributed cattle rustling to culture and tradition, environmental scarcity, state failure and proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Much as they help us to make sense of cattle rustling in West African, these explanations, which are often presented as 'one-size-fits-all', do not pay attention to contexts and particularities. As a result, certain factors which are unique and as such critical to explaining and understanding cattle banditry in particular societies have been ignored. In this regard, what is largely and sadly missing in the case of Nigeria are studies that frontally engage the connection between ungoverned forests and cattle rustling, despite the prodigious and undeniable evidence linking the former to the latter. Just how forests have over time transformed to ungoverned spaces of cattle rustling, until recently, remained largely subdued and unexplored in the discourse of Nigeria's security debacle and emerging conflict and criminological literature. This is the research gap the paper aspires to fill. Essentially, it captures the ways in which Nigeria's ungoverned forests provide conducive atmosphere for cattle rustling and safe havens for cattle bandits.

panel Anth22
Fulbe connections: West African pastoralists between participation and disruption with society