Surrender Gun, Get Two Cows in Return! Nigerian Province Offers Innovative Scheme

To disarm dangerous young men, government of Zamfara province is trying to use the allure of cattle instead of threat of violence

The problem of gun violence is most often associated with the United States, but Nigeria has been dealing with this problem also, albeit, of a local variety. For years, Zamfara province, located in the northwestern part of the country, has been witnessing raids by armed gangs who terrorize locals and take away their cattle.

These criminals don't just carry away animals at gunpoint but often indulge in killing and kidnapping also. The government has deployed military but they too failed to end the menace. Now, the government has changed tack and is using incentives to lure people away from armed crime. The incentive is unique -- those who possess a gun can surrender it to authorities and get two cows in return.

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The Governor of the province, Bello Matawalle, announced the scheme. He declared that "for every rifle submitted by a repentant bandit, there would be compensation of two cows." He also explained that the reason for offering cows instead of cash is to avoid the danger of these bandits using money to buy more arms.

The northwestern region of Nigeria has been a disturbed one for quite a few years now. According to the official figures, since 2011, more than 8000 people have been killed and as many as 200,000 have been forced to leave their homes. The problem isn't restricted to Zamfara state. The neighboring province of Katsina too has been witnessing armed clashes and loss of lives.

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The root cause of the disturbance is different from what one sees in other parts of the world. It's not ethnic or religious or even ideological differences that have fueled the violence. Instead, it is, most probably, the growth of population and the declining fecundity of the soil due to the ever-increasing effects of climate change.

However, ethnicity does play a part in the entire issue as the armed gangs mainly consist of men from the Fulani community. The victims of their raids live in remote areas which are far from the reach of the law. Hence, they have been forced to organize themselves into armed groups for self-defense. These groups have also faced charges of illegal activity in the form of judicial killings.

The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, has declared his intent to end the circle of violence. This scheme may be the first step towards moving in that direction.

This article was first published on July 19, 2020