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Inside the sorry state of Plateau colonial cattle market

The Bukuru cattle market in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State dates back to Nigeria’s colonial period. The market, which boasts of an…

The Bukuru cattle market in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State dates back to Nigeria’s colonial period. The market, which boasts of an average of N390,000 and N450,000 as weekly revenue to the state government, has faced decades of neglect. In this report, Daily Trust Saturday looks at the hindrances that have obstructed government’s attempt at upgrading one of northern Nigeria’s earliest cattle markets to an international standard. 

On a typical market day, the Jos cattle market could boast of three or four trailer-loads of cattle that depart the large, shanty-like space that has been carved into a market for the southern part of the country. 

Due to the burden of receiving consignments of cattle from neighbouring states, loading and offloading of the animals, the market no longer holds on a daily basis but Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, the chairman of the market, Alhaji Muhammad Bala said.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that for a cattle market said to be one of the oldest in northern Nigeria, not much is on display in terms of infrastructural development. 

While oral records estimate the market to be one century old, the executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Professor Garba Sharubutu, said the actual age of the market may have been lost in transmission due to poor record keeping. 

Sharubutu, however, said the age of the market could be traced to far back as Nigeria’s colonial period. 

Daily Trust Saturday reports that the Bukuru market shares such age-old history with other famous cattle markets in northern Nigeria like Wudil in Kano, Potiskum in Yobe, Sheme in Katsina, Maigatari and in Jigawa. Others are at Zango in Kaduna, Gassol in Jalingo, Mubi in Adamawa and Lafia.

Speaking on the significance of the cattle market, a 75-year-old herder, Zubairu Muktar from Mangu Local Government Area said establishing a market in Plateau State became necessary due to the geographical advantage of Jos, which he said was suitable for cattle breeding. 

“Jos is known for high mountains and pastoral lands favourable for breeding cattle. It is believed that those who trade in beef prefer to come to Jos because we produce the best and healthy cows,” he said. 

Mukhtar explained that because there are no incidents of flies disturbing the cows, breeders find it convenient to breed their cattle in the areas around Mangu, Barkin Ladi, Bokkos and Wase local government areas of Plateau State. 

“The weather, which brings about lush grasses in these places, are very good for cattle, and this comparative advantage attracted so many cattle breeders to relocate to Plateau State from other parts of the North,” he said. 

In addition to that, cattle breeders said Jos was easily accessible by traders from the eastern and southern parts of the country. 

The chairman of the cattle market, Alhaji Muhammed Bala, explained that cattle breeders from states such as Nasarawa, Benue, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna and Taraba states also bring their cows to the market, adding that this is in addition to the ones that come from all the 17 local government areas of the state.  

However, Daily Trust Saturday gathered that as old and significant as the market is, its infrastructural development has been largely ignored by subsequent administrations of the state. There have been several attempts to close down the market during the state’s decades of ethno-religious riots which claimed hundreds of lives. 

Government officials said the cattle market was originally sited at the Jos city centre but was later relocated to its present site for conveniences. But even at its present site, there have been attempts to relocate the market by the government of Governor Jonah Jang, who began the process of converting the market into a stadium without giving the traders an alternative site.

The site of the market in Bukuru today still bears evidence of this attempt to convert it into a stadium. Daily Trust Saturday reports that the foundation for the stadium is clearly visible in the market, which the Plateau State Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Hosea Finangwa, said was part of what the present administration inherited in 2015. 

“This government has placed more economic value on the cattle market than a stadium,” Finangwa said, emphasizing why the Governor Simon Bako Lalong administration has jettisoned the proposed conversion of the market into a stadium. 

Our correspondent who went round the market reports that it lacks any form of basic amenities as there is no source of water, electricity, toilet facilities or warehouse. 

The secretary of the market association, Abdullahi Kabiru said, “There is a security post in the market, but it is not fenced. It is just too open for criminals to invade from all directions. Our unsold cattle left in the market are not safe. When cattle are brought in from outside the state, if we are unable to sell them on a particular market day, the owners would have to leave them here and return the next market day. So, we need security to guard the cattle in the market.”

Current prices of cows in the market range from N80,000 to N700,000, depending on the size and the breed of the cow. 

On each cow brought for sale in the market, levies are paid by the owner and similarly paid on any cow purchased from the market. 

The public relations officer of the market, Alhaji Adam Bello Mohammed, told our correspondent that taxes are paid based on the numbers of cows recorded on each market day, adding that the cows range from 300 to 500.  

“Taxes are paid to the state and the local government on these cows. In all, a revenue of between N130,000.00 and N150,000.00 are collected by government revenue staff,” he said. 

He said that for a market that is open four times a week, the government does not collect revenue on Sundays. This gives an estimate of N390,000 and N450,000 weekly as revenue from the cattle market. 

“Government also generates revenue from the shops in the market on a monthly basis, from which it generates not less than N250,000 monthly,” Muhammed said. 

Apart from the cattle, there are other economic benefits of the market, such as shops for veterinary drugs, ropes, rain-boots, restaurants and animal feeds like potassium, chaffs and grains. 

Farmers equally sell chaffs of their harvested produce, such as groundnut, beans and millet, which form part of animal feed.

Even at its undeveloped state, the cattle market provides jobs for dozens of youths, especially in the offloading and loading of the animals. 

A businessman, Celestine Maduka said, “I buy cows from the market, bring them to a slaughterhouse and I transport the beef to Awka, Anambra State for sale. I have been in the business for close to 20 years.” 

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development in the state, Hosea Finangwa, however, said it was erroneous to say there is no government presence in the market, adding that government agents, such as veterinary staff, extension workers and revenue staff are stationed in the market.

 “But if you are talking of physical facilities, the government is handicapped because of litigation on the market. The land where the market is located belongs to some families and they are claiming that they have not been fully compensated. Meanwhile, we inherited documents to prove that the land owners have been compensated,” he said. 

He said that until the case is settled in court, it would be unwise for the government to invest money in building infrastructure in the market. The commissioner, however, said the state government had signed a memorandum of understanding with a consortium known as Harrati Nigeria Ltd to develop the market to an international standard. 

“As soon as the case is settled, work will commence. It will not cost the government much to develop that market. As a matter of fact, the memorandum of understanding is meant to construct a cattle market in the three senatorial zones of the state,” he added. 

Reacting to the commissioner’s claim, the public relations officer of the cattle market, Alhaji Adam Bello Mohammed, confirmed that the present administration of Simon Bako Lalong had shown commitment to upgrading the market to an international standard. 

Mohammed said the union was aware of the memorandum of understanding signed with a construction company, which he said was being delayed by litigation over land ownership.