‘Extortion kills our business’
No fewer than 1,800 truckloads of livestock leave the northern part of Nigeria to the southern part every month, says the Chairman of the Association of Sheep and Goat Sellers of Nigeria, Alhaji Mustafa Ali.
Ali, who doubles as the National Auditor of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN), said extortion in Benue and Taraba states remained their major headache.
He said, “Based on our estimation, every month at least 1,800 trucks ferry livestock from different parts of the North to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Uyo, Delta, Calabar, among others. They include cows, goats, sheep and camels. A trailer carries at least 4,000 goats or sheep, but for cows, it carries 35 or more.”
He explained that Lagos topped the list of the livestock destinations in the South, followed by Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Abia and Bayelsa states.
He, however, expressed dismay over the current economic crunch, saying, “Unlike what we experience in recent years, from November or two weeks to Christmas, you would see the business booming till January. But now the animals are costly from our end, same thing at the point of sales. Although we thank God as it keeps moving, though not as sharp as it was.’’
On the potentials associated with the livestock value chain, he said the business was blessed with huge prospects which began from the point of buying the livestock to the final merchant.
He said, “The chances are abundant, most especially during festive periods, as the value chain creates many job opportunities for youths and opthers.”
The National Organising Secretary of AUFCDN, Alhaji Ayuba Umar Rano, recently explained to our reporter how multiple extortion under the pretext of taxes by non-state actors in some states are affecting their profits.
He explained that the extortion varied from state to state, lamenting that Benue was the most awful as illegal tax collectors mounted over 40 toll gates.
Rano said, “Take Taraba and Benue states for example, most especially Benue; there is no state in Nigeria where we are overtaxed illegally by non-state revenue collectors like Benue. There are more than 30 toll gates mounted by rascals to extort our members. At each toll gate a truckload of cattle pays N50,000 as tax. We had a meeting with their revenue service which mandated us to pay N50,000 for a trailer if the cattle were not taken on board within the state and N25,000 for the ones bought in the state.
“Both state governments are not unaware of this issue. The worst part is that the tax accrued from us is not remitted to either federal or state governments—it ends up in the pockets of these rascals. I can tell you that the number of these toll gates is uncountable.’’
He, however, said the situation was not the same on some routes, especially for cattle dealers from Mubi in Adamawa State, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna and Niger states to Lagos as “they don’t spend a penny along that route.”
He noted that, “We only encounter minor extortions from the security agents on these routes. They are very lenient towards our members. They may demand a token from only N200 to N1,000. But on the Benue route, in some instances at one toll gate they demand from N2,000. They would even split themselves into three groups – whereby all of them can tax you. That is how they subject us to unwarranted suffering.’’
Speaking on other challenges associated with the business, Rano said they were enormous in view of how valuable cows and cost of transportation were.
He said, “Recently, we loaded cattle from Maigatari to Owerri; after they passed Benin some miscreants popped up from the bush, beat the people in the truck and took away eight cows. Each of the cows costs no less than N800,000.
“If you want to ferry cows from Mubi to Port Harcourt, you will spend not less than N500,000 on the road. As I am speaking to you, there is a truck that left Gombe to Port Harcourt; they called to notify me that they spent more than N580,000 even before they reached Port Harcourt. The challenges are immeasurable.
“Due to the high cost of gasoline, we hire a trailer for N1.5m to 1.6m; this is apart from other expenses on the road. Before a cow reaches its destination in the South, its expenses could be around N75,000 to N80,000, unlike what we spent those days in which a cow cost us just N30,000 – this is from its transport fare to food and taxes on the road. Now, besides the cost which you bought it at the market, you must add up at least N80,000 on top.
“Again, if you are selling it to a ready-buyer, they would not buy the cow at the rate you can realise a reasonable profit; only if you sell it on balance, where you will collect your money in piecemeal. Only then can you realise some equitable profit. Issues like these are causes of major concern to us. Only a few of us make money out of the business, especially these days.
“Our main concern is these rascals who extort us just like that. A man would just come and squeeze you to pay him a sum of N40,000 without a commensurate service rendered to you.”