Farmers in North-West geopolitical zone have recounted their ordeals following the increasing rate of banditry and kidnapping, saying bandits have resorted to taxing them before they can have access to their farms.
They said apart from this, most of them have been forced to abandon their farms, adding that except something urgent was done to end banditry; food insecurity would be triggered in the country.
For instance, in Zamfara State, farmers’ associations said bandits had resorted to taxing their members before allowing them to go to their farms.
The groups stated that in Kebbi State, the hub of rice farming, that 350 farmers, mostly rice cultivators, had abandoned their farms.
They, therefore, warned that the increasing rate of banditry and kidnappings in North-West geopolitical zone could affect food production in the area by over 50 per cent.
Officials of All Farmers Association of Nigeria and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria explained problems its members were facing.
10,000 households, mostly peasant farmers, have been displaced in Zamfara State.
350 farmers abandon farms in six LGAs in Kebbi
Also, Secretary of AFAN in Kebbi State, Muhammad Idris, said, “Over 350 farmers have been affected as a result of 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.
A farmer, Garba Isah, in Gwadangwaji area of Birinin Kebbi, said due to rampant kidnappings he was unable to go to the farm for sometime out of fear, warning that the situation could trigger food insecurity.
Many people in N’West have lost interest in farming – Kaduna AFAN chair
Also, AFAN chairman in Kaduna State, Mr Nuhu Aminu, said many farmers had lost hope in their farming business due to security concerns in North-West.
“As I am talking to you now, those willing to go and cultivate their farmlands are not up to 30 per cent because of fear of kidnapping,” he said.
Aminu added that in the last farming season, some farmers were unable to harvest their crops due to security problems.
Some villagers in Giwa Local Government Area of the state said because of insecurity, farmers were no longer safe and free to cultivate their farms.
A resident of Karau-Karau village in the local government, Mr Ibrahim Musa, said, “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.”
Villages affected by activities of bandits in Giwa Local Government Area are Fatika, Sabon Sara, Kidandan, Galimawa, Gangara and Iyatawa.
Bandits tax Zamfara farmers before allowing them to farm —RIFAN secretary
It was a different case in Zamfara State. Farmers in the state chapter of RIFAN said they envisaged 50 per cent reduction in rice and other farm produce in the forthcoming farming season because of the activities of criminals.
RIFAN Secretary in the state, Mr Sanusi Muhammad, said there had been continued decline in agricultural production in the state over the years, which had worsened the poverty level of the people.
He stated, “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 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.”
A large scale farmer, Abdullahi Dalla-Dalla, said, “Farmers are always facing threats from the bandits. Last 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.”
Also, AFAN chairman in Kano State, Mr Faruk Rabi’u, said two local government areas – Doguwa and Tudun Wada – were also experiencing attacks from bandits and kidnappers.
He said, “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.
“Bandits and other hoodlums use the notorious Falgore Forest as their hideout. More so the two local government areas also share boundaries with Plateau State which has a thick forest.”
We lost 28 farmers in Sabuwa LG– Katsina RIFAN chair
In Katsina State, RIFAN chairman, Mr 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 killed by the bandits,” he said.
You must do much more to end banditry, Buhari tells service chiefs
As the North-West farmers were lamenting their ordeals, President Muhammadu Buhari told the service chiefs on Thursday that they must put in more efforts to halt the rising kidnappings, banditry and other violent crimes in the country.
He also directed them to find urgent solutions to the influx of small arms and light weapons into Nigeria.
The President had repeated similar directives in the past before Thursday’s, but attacks by criminal elements was rising.
Thursday’s renewed order came during a meeting the President held with the service chiefs at Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Bandits and kidnappers have lately enjoyed a free reign across some states, particularly along the Abuja-Kaduna highway, Zamfara, Taraba, Kaduna, Benue, Sokoto, Kogi and the President’s Katsina home state.
The launch of Operation Puff Adder, a joint military operation to confront the criminals, has recorded minimal success in warding off the dare-devil bandits and kidnappers.
On Thursday, Buhari asked the security chiefs to do better than they were doing at the moment during the five-hour meeting.
Chief of Naval Staff, Mr Ibok Ibas, later spoke with State House correspondents on what transpired at the closed-door meeting.
He said, “It (meeting) was just basically to apprise Mr President of the security situation generally after his short vacation abroad. Security agencies briefed him on what has been happening with particular emphasis on the proliferation of small arms and what the various agencies are doing to curtail the consequences of this proliferation.
“He has also given directives that the agencies should do much more to ensure that Nigerians go to bed and wake up feeling healthy and confident that their security is guaranteed.”
Service chiefs apparently informed Buhari that Operation Puff Adder was yielding the expected results as Ibas defended it, saying that it had helped to reduce kidnapping.
He added, “You will recall during the last meeting, acting Inspector-General of Police (Mohammed Adamu), was directed to ensure insecurity was addressed.
“Consequently, various operations were set up; Puff Adder was one of the strategies. With the set up of that operation, there has been a remarkable drop in the number of kidnappings.
“What normally would attract attention is when a key person in government perhaps, is kidnapped. On the whole, the number of kidnappings has dropped and generally I think the security situation is improving.”
However, when reminded that in Buhari’s home state, the District Head of Daura, Mr Musa Umar, was also kidnapped, an indication that more people were being taken for ransom, the naval boss responded that up to two suspects had been arrested to answer for the crime.
Ibas added, “Serious efforts are being made; key suspects have been arrested and it is hoped that in a short while, those behind the heinous crime will be brought to book.”
IG blames infiltration of Police strategy for rise in kidnapping
However, acting IG has attributed rising cases of kidnapping along the Abuja-Kaduna highway to the infiltration of police strategy by criminals.
He, however, assured Nigerians that the force had come up with new strategies to tackle the criminal elements, noting that Closed Circuit Television cameras would soon be deployed in some of the major cities.
Disclosing this on Thursday during an interactive session with officers in charge of special anti-robbery squads, anti-kidnapping squad and other special units, Adamu revealed that additional personnel had been deployed to man Abuja-Kaduna rail line.
He said, “Before we launched Operation Puff Adder Abuja-Kaduna highway was difficult to pass but when we launched it, everything went down until three weeks after. They must have studied our strategy and then infiltrated us and struck and when they struck, we had to re-strategise again.
“We reviewed our strategy and went after them again. Those that attacked us, through intelligence and the support of locals, we know them. They are still in the bush and we are still after them.
“We have made a lot of arrest and some of the criminals, in the course of our engagement lost their lives and some of our officers were injured by the bandits but we have recorded a lot of successes.”
He explained that the suspects were no longer paraded due to issues of human rights.
Adamu also said the Force would expand its safer highway patrol scheme in order to make the police more visible.
Police to conduct arms inventory, review personnel deployment
Meanwhile, police leadership has agreed to make an inventory of police arms and ammunition as well as review the deployment of policemen to unauthorised persons.
These were the highlights of the meeting between Chairman, Police Service Commission, Mr Musiliu Smith and Adamu, in Abuja on Wednesday.
A statement by PSC spokesman, Mr Ikechukwu Ani, on Thursday, said Smith while receiving the IG and his team, acknowledged the insecurity in the country.
The statement said, “The meeting agreed on a reorganised and viable federal high way patrol teams throughout the country; a review and withdrawal of excess and unauthorised policemen seconded to some politicians and businessmen; inventory of arms and ammunition in police custody nationwide; introduction of voluntary community support officers in Nigerian communities and building of more barracks to instil discipline and make personnel available promptly for emergencies.”
PSC chairman also hinted that the commission would soon set up an independent investigative unit to handle complaints against the police by members of the public, a development the IG reportedly said was a step in the right direction “so that the police do not constitute themselves into judges in their own cases.”
He also called for detective training for serving police officers, regretting that many officers in the investigative units had never attended any detective courses.
How bandits attacked our substation in Borno– TCN
Meanwhile, Transmission Company of Nigeria on Thursday said its 330/132kV transmission substation at Molai in Maiduguri, Borno State was attacked by insurgents on Tuesday.
TCN’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Ndidi Mbah, stated that during the attack, two post isolators’ porcelain units were affected; two Hilux vans and one vehicle belonging to a member of staff of the company were destroyed, while the insurgents made away with one Hilux van.
“Other items destroyed include hiace truck, computer, monitor and printer in the control room. The windows of the control room and staff quarters were also shattered with gun shots,” she said.
Mbah stated that the operator on duty did exceptionally well by opening the transmission lines from the substation and shutting down the station.
According to her, the operator then quickly left the substation just before the insurgents quarters the facility.
She said after the incident, TCN engineers did a thorough check of the substation equipment before restoration of power on Wednesday.