Less than two weeks after a bird belonging to the ostrich family was arrested and detained in the US for the murder of its owner, Nigerians woke up on Monday, May 20, 2019 to the news that the Adamawa State Police Command had arrested and detained a vulture suspected to be spying for Boko Haram insurgents in Maiha local government area of Adamawa State.
Added to strangeness of the story is the report that the bird is being fed with N5,000 a day, which translates to N150,000 a month, a figure that is way beyond what most families survive on in a day in Nigeria.
The tale of the mysterious vulture was accompanied with different theories, just as its appearance had caused panic among residents of the area, who promptly lodged a complaint at the police headquarters in Yola.
Residents of Maiha alleged that the last time someone brought three vultures into Maiha in 2014, the area was invaded by insurgents few days later, and since then they have suffered many attacks.
It was reported that the bird might have belonged to the owner of the house where it was arrested, who was said to have died a couple of weeks back. But the locals fear that the dead man might have left behind a supernatural control over the vulture.
This current incident recalls the story of a goat once detained by the Police in Kwara State few years back after a mob chased down the animal, accusing it of being a car thief. The vigilante group in this case claimed that the goat was in fact a person who had used witchcraft to transform into the animal in order to escape justice.
There have been many tales of animals being arrested by the police for alleged crimes, with some of them prosecuted and even sentenced to death!
For instance, in 2015 a parrot was arrested in India after allegedly shouting insults at an elderly woman, and in Germany a squirrel was once taken into custody for aggressively stalking a woman. There was also the case of a monkey that was captured and hanged in England for being a French spy during the Napoleonic war.
The case of a cat that was arrested and detained for breaking into a Brazilian prison is no different. The cat was captured and detained by police in Brazil after it was caught breaking into a prison. The animal was carrying a number of prohibited items that officers believed were being smuggled into the facility, including a mobile phone and drill bits that were strapped to its body.
In Yola, Adamawa State, the police have detained a vulture on suspicion of espionage for nearly one week now, and are feeding it like a king.
Although the police Adamawa police had disclosed that a team from Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF) would arrive in Yola to monitor the vulture, the report by police that the bird is fed with N5,000 meat has continued to stir up criticisms among Nigerians.
The police had disclosed on Thursday that , so far, that the bird had gulped no less than N30, 000 worth of fresh meat in the six days it had spent in their custody.
“So, we want to ascertain what the vulture is meant for. We are feeding it with meat worth N5000 daily,” a source at the police command’s CID unit had said.
That is not all, officials of NCF comprising veterinary doctors are expected in the state to ensure the safety and proper upkeep of the endangered bird as investigation continues.
‘‘That is someone’s father’s minimum wage (one month salary yet to be implemented) that a common vulture ate in less than a week. I am not against them feeding the bird to unravel the mystery behind the bird, but sometimes the money they call busts someone’s head’’, said Emeka Solomon, a cyber café operator at Karu, Abuja.
A social media commentator added humour to the issue: “If you know anything about our country Nigeria, you will know that we have animals that love to eat. There was the snake in the JAMB office that ate packets of money. The rats with their long snouts chased the president out of office. And maybe our memory fails us, but wasn’t there something about a monkey, too?
‘‘Anyway, this time, it’s a vulture. A vulture?. Well, why in the world is the Nigeria Police detaining an animal?”
Solomon Umoru, on his part, saw nothing wrong with the arrest, detention and feeding of the bird. He wondered why Nigerians are more concerned with the money spent on the bird rather than the security concern raised by the villagers.
‘‘Allow the police to do their job. If the allegation that vulture is truly a Boko Haram spy, is it not better that it was arrested and destroyed than allow it to go only for the village to be later attacked by militants?”
He said although the police have caused people to lose confidence in them, he is optimistic that there is more to the bird than meets the eyes.
‘‘Vulture is always synonymous with evil, so I will not be surprised if the villagers said it is something more than an ordinary bird. Just kill it!” he said.
‘‘No one knows the truth about the money spent. That is not my business. The police should just do what is right to ensure the safety of residents in that area. As for the woman arrested, let them make her talk,” said Nasre Ado.
“‘She too might be a spy for Boko Haram. If they lived in the same house, that means something must connect them,“ he told LEADERSHIP Sunday.
Idrisu Akangbe, a military veteran, warned that Nigerians are often too hasty to criticise the government at the slightest opportunity.
‘‘What is N30, 000 compared to money budgeted for security annually with little fruit to show for it? Investigation is a very expensive adventure and this what Nigerian should know.
‘‘We are familiar with the story of a Beluga whale, a Russian spy spotted recently in a sea by Norwegian officials. Animals have been spying for thousands of years for the military in different countries. So what is new about this vulture story that we have not heard before’’, he asked, adding that it would be a big victory in the fight against insurgency in the north if the allegation turns out to have any substance.
Meanwhile, according to reports, the police in Yola, Adamawa State, have absolved a woman, Rukkayatu Salihu, 40, and her vulture of having links to the Boko Haram sect.
The officer in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department of the command, CSP Ahmed Gombi, said on Thursday that preliminary investigation had yet to establish any connection between the “suspects” and the insurgents.
“There’s no relationship between the woman, who brought three vultures to Maiha in 2014 and the woman who brought this one in 2019.
“A completely different set of persons owned that vulture that was brought to Maiha and after two days Boko Haram struck, and because of that, the people now consider the presence of this vulture in their community as a sign of ill-luck, “ he had said.
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