The high rate of banditry and kidnappings in the Northwest of Nigeria may affect food production in the area by over 50 per cent, according to two apex farmers associations.
Officials of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), expressed the view in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), added that the criminal activities are wiping out family incomes.
They noted that already, bandits had displaced more than 10,000 households, mostly peasant farmers, in Zamfara, while in Kebbi, the hub of rice farming in Nigeria, no fewer than 350 farmers had been forced to abandon their farms by the criminals.
The Secretary of AFAN in Kebbi, Muhammad Idris, said in Birnin Kebbi that banditry had affected farmers and cattle breeders.
“Over 350 farmers have been affected as a result of the banditry in Danko/Wasagu, Argungu, Yauri, Ngaski, Zuru and Birnin Kebbi local government areas.
”Our members, especially rice farmers, have stopped going to their farmlands in those areas for fear of being kidnapped or killed.
“Rice farming is not like any other farming as it requires constant and close monitoring; you have to be closer and observant of how it grows and the level of water and all that, hence you have to be going to the farm everyday if not, it will not yield positive result,” he said.
Idris urged the security agencies to be on the watch and take action against any suspicious character in the state and also solicited the involvement of National Union of Road Transport Workers to tackle the menace.
“If the drivers are involved, they can alert the security agencies of any suspicious person they transport and the security agencies will in turn follow the suspect based on the drivers’ tip-off and make necessary investigation,” he advised.
The secretary added that traditional rulers should be involved to ensure a holistic approach in dealing with the criminals.
The Commissioner of Police in Kebbi, Garba Danjuma, said the command had been working hard to stamp out all forms of crime in the state.
“We have made some frantic efforts in reducing crime and criminalities, especially in the cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and other heinous crimes,” he said.
According to him, the command recently arrested over 21 suspected kidnappers and investigating them.
“I enjoin members of the public to always avail the police with timely and accurate information about any suspicious persons with assurance that all information given will be treated with utmost confidentiality,” the police commissioner said.
Also, the state Chairman of Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Lawal Augie, called for the involvement of the neighborhood security watch group to strengthen attacks on bandits, kidnappers and other criminals.
According to him, the group has 40 members in each of the 225 wards in the state.
“Imagine if we can get appropriate care and support from the state government and individuals in the state, we will overcome the menace and deal a heavy blow on the bandits wherever they are in the state.”
A farmer, Garba Isah, in Gwadangwaji area of Birinin Kebbi, said due to rampant kidnapping he was unable to go to the farm for sometime out of fear and warned that the situation could trigger food insecurity.
Isah called on the federal and state governments to evolve means of ending the menace.
Also, AFAN in Kaduna State said if government failed to take decisive measures to check kidnapping and banditry, food production in Nigeria would drop by over 70 per cent.
Alhaji Nuhu Aminu, the state AFAN Chairman, called for a holistic approach involving all stakeholders, including governments at all levels and members of the society to effectively tackle the menace.
The chairman said many farmers had lost hope in their farming businesses due to security concerns in the Northwest.
“As I am talking to you now, those that are willing to go and cultivate their farmlands are not up to 30 per cent because of fear of kidnapping.
“There is every need for government to declare a state of emergency on security because without adequate security, many will not have courage to cultivate their farms.
“However, the issue of security is a responsibility of all, hence the need for all of us to support the security agencies with vital information toward addressing the problems,” he said.
Aminu recalled that in the last farming season, some farmers were unable to harvest their crops due to security problems.
The chairman advocated the revival of the ancient traditional values where the arrival and departure of every stranger was monitored by the community.
“In the past, when a stranger arrives in a town or a village, the ward head and the village head must be aware.
“In those days, traditional leaders used to ask the stranger certain questions like where he is from, reason for leaving his hometown, what is his business, for how long will he stay in the town among others.
“The ward head will transmit the information gathered to the village head while the village head will do same to the district head and so on. Again, these leaders were also working hand-in-hand with the security agencies, especially the Divisional Police Officer,” he said.
He stressed the need for government to ensure synergy among traditional institutions, security agencies and local governments on security matters.
Similarly, some villagers in Giwa Local Government Area which witnessed incessant banditry and kidnappings, said because of insecurity, farmers were no longer safe and free to cultivate their farms.
They said the situation had affected the economy of their households and the society.
Malam Ibrahim Musa of Karau-Karau village, Giwa Local Government Area, said that the everyone in the community was scared because of regular attacks by bandits.
“Many of us cannot go to our farms for fear of bandits and this is our main business as villagers; kidnapping has become a common phenomenon in this area.
“We are appealing to government to come to our aid to enable us to continue with our normal business to produce more for the country, as the saying goes; ‘no farmer no nation’.”
Another villager, Malam Mati Barbushe, said the people were sleeping with one eye open due to the activities of bandits.
He said without government assistance the lives of the people would remain endangered, adding that they had been prompted to organise themselves to form vigilance groups.
Some villages affected by the activities of bandits in Giwa Local Government Area are Fatika, Sabon Sara, Kidandan, Galimawa, Gangara and Iyatawa.
In Zamfara, the hotbed of banditry, the state chapter of RIFAN envisages 50 per cent reduction in rice and other farm produce in the forthcoming farming season because of the activities of criminals.
Sanusi Muhammad, the Secretary RIFAN in the state, told NAN in Gusau that there had been continued decline in agricultural production in the state over the years, which had worsened the poverty level of the people.
Muhammad said many farmers had been forced to leave their villages to seek other means of fending for themselves and their families.
“You know, Zamfara is one of the leading states in food production in Nigeria, especially grains; we have good fertile land and large number of farmers.
“But unfortunately since insecurity started, agricultural output has been reducing annually in this state.
“Most of our farmers cannot go to farms due to fear of bandits’ attacks and kidnapping.
“Bandits send messages of attack to communities or tax farmers large amounts of money before they allow them to go to farms.
“Bandits are now the ones who decide whether we go to farms or not, in some areas even if farmers plant crops they cannot cultivate due to insecurity.
“The situation is unfortunate, most of our members are victims of this ugly situation.
“Most of the areas affected by the insecurity are areas where we have large numbers of farmers.
“Some of our farmers producing thousands of bags of grains, not only rice, almost all the crops grow in this state, now cannot produce even a quarter of the quantity of food they used to produce.
“The situation is contributing to economic backwardness in the state, especially in the areas of employment and attendance of traders to markets.
“Though, both the federal and state governments have been making efforts to address the challenges, we are appealing to government at all levels to do more,” he said.
He thanked the Federal Government for deploying troops to the state and the state government for recruiting 18,500 Civilian Joint Task Force members.
“We are hoping with the current measures taken by the security agencies the situation would change for the better,” he added.
A large scale farmer, Abdullahi Dalla-Dalla said: “Farmers are always facing threats from the bandits. Llast year, I lost over 150 bags of grains to bandits.
“The unfortunate thing is that, with recent security challenges facing the state, I am not sure whether farming would take place in Zamfara this year.”
The state has been experiencing insecurity problems for over 10 years, during which over 10,000 houses, silos and shops have been destroyed and over 9,000 people injured.
There are over 10,000 widows and 20,000 orphans in the state, while thousands of others live in Internally Displaced Persons camps.
In Kano State, two local government areas, Doguwa and Tudun Wada, are also experiencing attacks from bandits and kidnappers.
The two areas, which are adjacent to Falgore Forest, hitherto accommodated farmers and Fulani herdsmen engaged in farming and animal husbandry.
The AFAN Chairman in the state, Alhaji Faruk Rabi’u, told NAN that the two local government areas were no longer safe and called for urgent government intervention to tackle security challenges in the areas.
“Even though Kano is not among the worst affected states by the activities of bandits but there are two local government areas that are facing the challenge.
“The local government areas are Doguwa and Tudun Wada local government areas which share border with the popular Falgore Forest.
“Most of the large scale farmers who owned farms in the areas are from Kano and other urban areas.
“Majority of such farmers have either stopped cultivating the farms or sold them due to the locations of the farms,” Rabiú said.
According to him, the security situation in the areas has negatively affected rice and other cash crops production and other socio-economic activities.
He said following the prevailing security in the area, many farmers, especially those living in remote areas, had also abandoned the farms to avoid attack from bandits and other hoodlums.
“Bandits and other hoodlums use the notorious Falgore Forest as their hideout. More so the two local government areas also share boundaries with Plateau which has a thick forest,” Rabi’u said.
He stressed the need for a joint security patrol among security agencies along major roads in addition to introducing aerial patrols to check the activities of the bandits.
In Katsina State, the RIFAN Chairman, Shuaibu Wakili, said over 60 per cent of rice produced in the state came from Funtua, Sabuwa, Dandume, Faskari, Bakori, Malumfashi, Danja, Kafur and Kankara local government areas, most of which were currently battling with banditry and kidnapping.
‘’Now that the bandits are killing people, including farmers, that will also affect agricultural productivity.
‘’In Sabuwa Local Government Area alone, we lost about 28 farmers who were killed by the bandits,’’ he said.
Wakili urged the people to assist security agents with information on the activities of the criminals for prompt action.
He also urged the people to intensify prayers to Almighty Allah to protect the country from security challenges.
‘’I consider banditry as a sabotage by some people who want to scuttle the efforts of the present administration in boosting food production that will guarantee food security in the country,’’ he said.
The Chairman, Dandume Local Government Area, Alhaji Haruna-Ja Abdullahi, expressed fears that banditry in the southern part of the state could affect agricultural production for the year.
Abdullahi urged the Federal Government to intensify efforts toward curtailing the menace, adding: ‘’The only solution is for the security agents to enter the forests and fight the bandits.
‘’Because the bandits are now threatening that they will not allow farmers to go to farms, they are saying that there is no more farming activities, hence the need for the government to take measures that will address the menace.
‘’We consider that as a serious threat to the government efforts of making Nigeria self sufficient in food production,’’ he said.