From Olarenwaju Lawal
In the face of the security challenge posed by the infiltration of bandits and kidnappers from Zamfara State into Kebbi State communities, the harvest from the dry season farming in the state has been described as bumper and unprecedented in the history of the state.
Last year, Kebbi state recorded about 2.5 million metric tonnes of rice and bumper harvest of other grains. However, due to the ongoing onslaught by Nigeria’s security agencies against bandits and kidnappers in Zamfara state, some of the suspected criminals shifted their camps to villages in Kebbi State, which share boundaries with Sokoto and Zamfara states, thereby creating fear that food insecurity might resurface.
Dispelling the fear of poor harvest and food insecurity, Kebbi Commissioner for Agriculture, Barrister Attairu Maccido told Sunday Sun that the infiltration of bandits into the state has had no any negative effects yet on the farming activities in the state.
In a telephone chat, Maccido said: “We thank God we that have very minimal cases of kidnapping in Kebbi. So, I can tell you that it has no any negative effects on farming activities in Kebbi. In fact, we have never ever had bumper harvests like this year. The present administration is doing everything within its power to ensure that our farmers do not run away from farms.”
Similarly, the Chairman of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Kebbi State, Alhaji Mohammed Sahabi Augie, while speaking with Sunday Sun noted that the activities of bandits and kidnappers had not hindered rice farming activities this year. Augie who noted that the activities of bandits were restricted to remote villages, disclosed that the price of paddy rice has drastically fallen from N9,000 or N10,000 to N7,000 in the open market, stressed that the establishment of more rice milling companies in Kebbi State has shown that they are getting enough paddy rice, which is the raw material for parboiled rice processing. He noted that in a couple of months, prices of bag of parboiled rice might reduce significantly.
“Actually the activities of bandits and kidnappers have not really affected our rice farmers because the major rice farms are concentrated within Argungu, Bagudo, Birnin-Kebbi, Jega areas. And only villages sharing boundaries with Zamfara State are having little problems with bandits. Last year, we recorded about 2.5 million metric tonnes of rice harvest, but this year dry season that is coming to an end, we are getting up to 3.0 million metric tonnes or more. This will tell you that for now the activities of these bandits did not have any significant negative effects on farming activities in the state especially rice farming which I am the chairman and also a rice farmer too,” he said.
Recall that apart from Labana Rice Mills and WACOT Rice Mill operating in Kebbi State, not less than five indigenous rice mills have been established across the local government areas of the state while Dangote Group has also proposed to construct a mega rice mill in the state.
A farmer, Mallam Yaqubu Saidu, while speaking with Sunday Sun commended the efforts of security agencies for safeguarding farming activities without apprehension in the state.
“We thank the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force, Civil Defence and other security agencies for safeguarding the farming activities and preventing apprehension in the state. Kebbi State is the most peaceful state in the history of Nigeria. This made us free to cultivate rice and other crops without fear of banditry,’’ he said.
He said the rising banditry had not disrupted agricultural and other economic activities in the state. “We are not afraid to go to the farm because of kidnappers because bandits are not rampant in our state. Allah will protect us from them,” he said.
Another farmer, Mallam Garba Isah, who has a farm around Gwadankwaji area of Birnin-Kebbi said that the activities of kidnappers might trigger disruption in agricultural production and possibly threaten Nigeria’s unity if the federal and state governments do not evolve means of curbing the menace of kidnapping in the country. He added that many farmers in the state are still going to their farms but always conscious of criminals that might harm them on their farms.
In his reaction, the Secretary of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kebbi State, Alhaji Muhammad Idris, told newsmen that 350 farmers have been affected by the activities of bandits in Kebbi. He explained that banditry had affected not only farmers, but cattle rearers in the state.
His words: “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 very observant of how it grows and the level of water and all that, hence you have to be going to farm everyday, if not, it will not yield positive result.”
Idris who urged the security agencies to be on the watch and take action against any suspicious characters in the state suggested that members of the NURTW should be involved as part of the efforts in ensuring that the menace was dealt with.
“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, to carry out necessary investigation,” he advised.
The secretary added that traditional rulers should also be involved in order to ensure holistic approach in dealing with the scenario and activities of the criminals.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Alhaji Garba Danjuma, while assuring all citizens of their safety, said the command had been working assiduously to stamp out crime and criminality in the state. He said: “We have made some frantic efforts in reducing crime, especially the cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and other heinous crimes.
According to him, the command had so far arrested over 21 suspected kidnappers. Investigations into other cases are ongoing. Danjuma revealed that the command succeeded in arresting the hoodlums that invaded a residence of Alhaji Buhari Bawanka in Jega Local Government Area.
“Police team pursued the hoodlums to their hideout and arrested one Umaru Mohammad and three others. We recovered 37 rounds of live ammunition of 7.62x39mm, five mobile phones, two rechargeable torchlights, a pair of Mopol trousers, a bag containing clothes and PVCs among others from them,” he said.
The commissioner said the command would redouble its efforts in making sure that the state was unbearable for criminals and their accomplices.
“I enjoin members of the general public to always avail the police with timely and accurate information about any suspicious persons with the assurances that all information being given would be treated with utmost confidentiality,” he enjoined.
Also, the state Chairman of Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN),Alhaji Lawal Augie,said the only way to curb the menace of the bandits was to strengthen and support the vigilante members in the state.
According to him, the group has 40 of its members in every ward of the 225 wards in the state. He said : “ 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 blow to bandits wherever they are in the state.
“Bandits have AK-47 guns while we have only knifes but still they are afraid of us, what if we have weapons like them?,” he queried.
Augie called on farmers to collaborate with VGN in order to tackle the banditry in the state.