MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's military has closed one of Africa's biggest cattle markets, charging sales of stolen animals is helping finance Boko Haram's Islamic insurgency, according to angry residents who say thousands of people have lost jobs, beef is no longer available and animals are dying in a sealed abattoir.
The three-week-old closure of the market in Maiduguri, the main city in northeast Nigeria, is piling on tensions and economic strain in a city overrun by war refugees, and is increasing animosity toward the military, according to people interviewed by the AP.
Some 20,000 cattle and goats locked into the main abattoir are dying from lack of water and food, according to Abubakar Abba of the Livestock Traders' Union.
The closure is affecting markets as far away as Lagos, the commercial capital more than 1,500 kilometers (940 miles) southwest of Maiduguri, where cattle prices are rising daily, said Umar Adamu, chairman of the United Butchers' Association.
Maiduguri's was the last major cattle market operating in the region, where the insurgency has closed at least eight others, said Musa Abdullah of the Cattle Traders' Union. Traders came from southern Nigeria as well as West and Central African nations.
"This clampdown has affected thousands of truck drivers, loaders, butchers, even water sellers ... the consequences will be devastating," Abdullah warned, saying his organization has 12,000 members and the butchers' more than 200,000.
A senior military officer said butchers and traders were involved in "shady deals" with Boko Haram. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.
Resident Abubakar Maina, who has not eaten meat for days, said the military should target suspects, not punish everybody.
Beef is a major source of protein in Nigeria. In Maiduguri, those who can afford it are buying fresh and frozen fish at inflated prices.
Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria.