Tackling North’s agric challenge

Since the beginning of farmers and herders clashes, cattle rustling which also gradually turned into armed banditry, kidnapping and other criminalities in parts of Zamfara state and later other states in the Northwest and North Central, I keep why the Northwest zone is the main target. These -torn states are the backbone of Nigeria’s development as it relates to foods security and the enhancement socio-economic potential of the country. The North-west is endowed with numerous mineral resources and fertile lands that can grow variety of crops for local consumption and export.

Since the beginning of cattle rustling in 2011, which ravaged the economic potential of innocent Fulani people and some Hausa communities in the North-west zone, many people were rendered poor as the menace affected the agribusiness of both small and large scale farmers. Since then, the zone has been experiencing serious setback in its agricultural production. Majority of the large and small scale farmers rely on the use of cows as a means of cultivation as they cannot afford mechanized agricultural facilities such as tractors and other modern farming tools.

The affected state and federal governments have intensified efforts towards reviving the by injecting billions of naira in their annual budgetary allocations through the procurements of fertilizer, seedlings, pesticides and other facilities for farmers at affordable rates. Unfortunately, cattle rustlers have been relentless in sabotage the efforts of the government.

Measures were also put in place by the government against the menace particularly by the closure of all borders with neighbouring countries like Ghana, Burkina Faso, Republic, Chad, Cameroon and Benin Republic. This yielded positive results as many of cattle rustlers who are trying to cross the border of Nigeria into the aforementioned countries were apprehended.

The dreaded group of criminals called armed bandits were mainly members of the cattle rustlers in collaboration with other undesirable elements who attack on innocent communities with dangerous weapons killing people and carting away their properties. This menace has rendered hundreds of people homeless, put them into abject poverty as well as causing a lot challenges that led many people to flee their ancestral homes. This has also caused a lot of setbacks in the development of agriculture as thousands of farmlands were uncultivated in the banditry-prone states about six years ago.

Between 2015 and 2018, Zamfara state has been in the storm of the whole world with regards to banditry; hundreds of innocent people have been killed, many women turned to widows. In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari, worried over the wanton killing of people in Zamfara state, launched Operation Sharan Daji in the state with a view to eliminate bandits terrorising the state. The troops deployed to the state have contributed greatly in restoring peace. It has recorded tremendous success in neutralising some bandits and the killing of many of their kingpins such as Buharin Daji who was killed by his opponent.

However, soon after the formal inauguration of Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle, the first approach by his administration was the stick and carrot approach (peace, with bandits, outlawed vigilantes known as Yansakai) where hundreds of weapons were surrendered by the repentant bandits and Yansakai. Many have also embraced peace as a yardstick for harmonious relationship between the state government and the warring parties.

The criminals who were not ready to embrace the peace process initiated by the Zamfara state government migrated to neighbouring states of Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi, Niger, Benue and Nasarawa and continued with their nefarious activities. This group killed and kidnapped hundreds of innocent people and stole millions of naira property including animals and farm produce. Although governors of Kaduna and Niger states rejected to negotiate with the bandits, insisting on the use of force, there is need for them (governors) emulate the Zamfara the peace and reconciliation process for normalcy to return to their respective states. I’m sure this will enable our teeming farmers go back to their normal farming activities in the coming rainy season.

Whatever it is, the peace and reconciliation process initiated by the Zamfara state government under the leadership of Governor Matawalle is achieving tremendous success as the wanton killing of innocent people has been reduced to the barest minimum.

It is common knowledge that the bandits use kidnapping as their second means of survival as many people have fallen into their captivity in different parts of the Northwest and North Central. This has also affected the socio-economic development of the affected states. It has also crippled food production in the zone, considering the huge amount of money demanded by the abductors as ransom. Farmers, especially large scale ones, affected by abduction were exploited to the extent that some of them were not be able to expand their agribusiness.

Therefore, I appeal to the Buhari government to redouble its efforts by deploying more troops to the affected states to mitigate the menace of insecurity for sustainable peace in the zones. President Buhari should also key into the peace process where necessary with the bandits who are willing to surrender and repent with amnesty for them to become useful in the society. There is need to use force against those who are not willing to surrender and repent. If pragmatic measures are not taken urgently, farms will be inaccessible to northerners in the coming rainy season and Nigeria will possibly suffer from poverty and starvation.

There is also the need for traditional, religious and community as well as all good people of the zone to support the federal and state governments’ efforts at addressing insecurity in the affected zones. People should provide positive information about criminals within their respective domains to security agencies, particularly the police and army for prompt response. Nigerians should stop politicising the issue of security and concentrate towards finding out mechanisms and modalities that would end the nightmare.

Muhammad writes from Burdugau G’, Malumfashi local government area of Katsina state via [email protected]

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