Northern farmers turn beggars as bandits sustain occupation of farms

Maiharaji Altine

Rising banditry attacks in the northwestern part of Nigeria have led to the death of many Nigerians, while sustained occupation of many farmlands by the bandits has left many farmers in pain, Maiharaji Altine reports

Despite several measures taken by both the Zamfara State and the Federal Government to end banditry activities in the state, the menace has worsened with bandits raging free and wild, kidnapping, and killing innocent people.

Bandits are becoming stronger with the passage of time and have made about 14 local government areas of the state their home.

Recently bandits abducted at least 80 children in the Tsafe Local Government area of the state. This happened as 31 villagers were recently killed by bandits in Janbako and Sakida villages in the Maradun Local Government Area of the state. Zamafara is a hotbed for banditry activities, and about 498 people in the state lost their lives to the activities of the terrorists in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to a report from SBM Intelligence.

The bandits, who now move freely in large numbers on motorcycles, recently issued a strong warning to farmers particularly those in the rural areas that there would be no farming activities this year unless the state government negotiated with them.

At of the time of filing this report, more than 70 per cent of farmlands in the state are currently abandoned due to fear of bandit attacks.

Many farmers, who spoke to The PUNCH, have expressed worries that they will not be able to farm this year, considering the security challenges affecting the state.

One of the farmers, Musa Garba, who is a resident of Dansadau town in the Maru Local Government area, said he used to get over 100 bags of rice, and 50 bags of millet every year.

He lamented he did not plant any crop this farming season due to fear of the bandits who are always going around the farmlands to kidnap or kill farmers.

He said, “I used to get enough food to feed my family and even sell some bags to buy other commodities. But in the last two years, I stopped going to the farm.”

Another farmer, Abubakar Dauda, also from Dansadau town in the Maru Local Government Area, narrated how the lingering banditry in the area had become worrisome and dangerous, with farmers  losing hope in this year’s farming season.

He said, “Last year, we only cultivated our nearby small farms as we could not go far due to fear of the miscreants. There were instances when the bandits told us that farming could only be done with their approval.”

He explained that even though the rainy season has already started, farmers are afraid to visit their farms.

Another farmer, Sani Musa, said he went ahead to plant some crops this year thinking that the present administration under the leadership of Governor Dauda Lawal would do something urgent on security. He, however, lamented that bandits have destroyed the crops.

Musa said, “The armed bandits usually drive their cattle into our farms and eat everything on the farm. This situation has really put us in serious trouble and we now resort to begging for food on the streets.”

He called on both the state and the Federal Government to deploy adequate troops in some areas to enable farmers to return to their farms.

Another farmer, Garba Ibrahim, from the Shinkafi Local Government Area, said he was no longer thinking of resuming farming in this farming season.

He said this was due to consistent attacks by bandits. This, he said, had led to the deaths of many villagers and the burning of major parts of the village.

He told The PUNCH, “I am not even talking about how to go back to the farm but rather I am thinking of where to get something to eat. Nobody is talking about farming here again because despite the government’s efforts we still can’t access our farms.

“We are going to see a new chapter in poverty if all stakeholders do not come to our rescue and put things in order to make us go back to our villages.”

A resident of Yanwaren daji in the Tsafe Local Government area, Sirajo Umar, said, “Tension is high among most farming communities. Many of us will not go to farm this year except something serious is being done to protect our lives.”

Umar stressed bandits are more angry at farmers, thinking they were leaking information about their whereabouts to security agents.

He noted that he was supposed to have planted rice, millets, soya beans, and sorghum this farming season, but could not because he was unsure of his safety.

Another farmer, Malam Umar, stated that his farmlands have been seized by bandits two years ago and no effort has been made by security agents to retrieve them.

He, however, expressed optimism that with the recent deployment of soldiers of Operation Hadarin Daji to Mada and Wonaka areas, the bandits would soon be forced to move into the forest areas.

This, he said, could provide opportunities for some farmers who own lands not far from the town to access them.

He said, “Those who have farms near the forest have given up. They no longer go to their farms because of abductions and killings by bandits. Some farmers who did not heed the warnings of the bandits and returned to their farms were chased away by bandits and warned not to return to their farms.”

A retired civil servant who gave his name as Salihu Shehu said he ventured into farming after he retired two years ago.

He said he recently gave up of bandits.

Shehu said, “We cannot farm because bandits have continued to attack us due to lack of security personnel in the farms. We want the security personnel to be stationed in our community so that we can return home and prepare for the farming season.”

According to an indigene of Faru town in the Maradun local government area of the state, Mohammed Abubakar, bandits have recently killed five farmers on their farmlands, kidnapped 21 others, and threatened to destroy the crops already planted in the area.

Abubakar said the bandits had sent a warning letter to the farmers in the area that if they kidnapped anybody on the farm, they would not negotiate for ransom but would kill him instantly.

He said, “We have received a warning letter from the bandits that, henceforth, they will kill any farmer who dares to go to his farmland as they are not interested in collecting ransom.

“We reported the issue to both the state government and the security agents, but nothing has been done.”

Ostensibly because bandits will not allow farming this year, Abubakar said farmers had fled to neighbouring states and Niger Republic as bandits.

Another farmer from Kizira village in the Tsafe Local Government, Salihu Garba, noted that farmers were fleeing to other states because bandits were harassing them, threatening to kill anybody who went to the farm.

He said, “You know that our people here depend largely on farming activities for survival, and if the bandits said we should not go to the farm, I think we will have no option but to leave the state.”

In 2022, farmers under the umbrella of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Zamfara State chapter, told Saturday PUNCH that they would be meeting with bandits to discuss their farming activities with a view to getting permission to cultivate their farmlands.

The AFAN Public Relations Officer, Abdulhafiz Alkali, said, “What I know about protection with the farmers is just the negotiation between the bandits and the farmers. I am living in Zamfara State now. I know that there will be a meeting by this coming Saturday between the farmers and the bandits.

“We lost a lot of things in Zamfara State. We sent letters to the Federal Government to secure us five years ago after complaining that the bandits were disturbing us.

“We needed the intervention of the Federal Government, but it never came. What we lost in the past seven to six years is between N30bn to N50bn on commodities only.”

The Secretary to Zamfara State Government, Abubakar Nakwada, recently said the governor, Dauda Lawal, was making efforts to get farmers back to their farms this season.

He said, “The administration of Governor Dauda Lawal has no plan to reconcile with the bandits. The state government will squarely face them and deal with them so that the security would be restored by the grace of God.”

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