September 10, 2022

Harvest tax by farmers to terrorists unsettles Nigerians

fleeing Zamfara terrorists


•CSOs, activists, lawyers say govt failed the people

•Hunger, poverty, misery will worsen

•FG must speak language terrorists understand – Hayab

•Legal, security reforms panacea to current challenges   —— Baba-Panya

By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

For many Nigerians, daily existence has become perilous because they are traumatised, fearful and demoralised.

Currently, attention is riveted on the bloody violence raging in Kaduna where residents of various indigenous communities, who have become helpless, are resorting to negotiations with terrorists, which include payment of huge levies, free labour and other offers to be allowed access to their farmlands, especially during harvest time.

To many citizens, the country is facing a severe food crisis fueled mainly by the raging security threats in all parts of the country.

Even key government officials including the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Abubakar, have also admitted this reality with a warn that if proper measures are not taken, many Nigerians may plunge deeper into poverty, considering the current prices of food items.

In the many agrarian communities in the country, the cultivation and transportation of farm produce and food markets are under frequent attacks by terrorists under different guises, which cut short food supply and income.

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But, many civil society groups as well as rights activists and lawyers insist that on the shoulders of President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governors lie the responsibility to urgently take measures to stave off the looming famine in the country.

Some international bodies, NGOs and experts have raised several alerts about the imminent danger of this calamity, but the federal and state governments are perceived to have failed to act with dispatch or mount effective counter-measures.

According to the Executive Director, Adopt-a-Goal Initiative, Ariyo Dare-Atoye, the twin problems of insecurity and hunger are compounding the misery of the people, and the country cannot afford to be careless about these issues as it prepares for general elections in 2023.

“The incursion of bandits into some indigenous communities and their ability to control territories and people resulted from a self-conflicted government torn between addressing insecurity and ethnic preservation.

“Because these bandits who illegally control farmlands and have now formed a parallel government in a state like Kaduna are Fulanis, they are seen as enjoying indirect sympathy from the President because of ethnic affinity which made the situation to deteriorate.

“Nigeria does not lack the capacity to defeat these bandits and secure our territory and the farmers; what we have is a self-conflicted political leadership that has failed to effectively coordinate human and military resources to defeat this evil.

“As we move into 2023, never again should we elect a leader who will always believe that blood is thicker than justice and national security,” he said in an interview with Saturday Vanguard.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), over 70 per cent of Nigerians work in the agriculture sector, mainly at a subsistence level.

So, despite Nigeria’s position as Africa’s largest crude oil producer, the country remains heavily dependent on agriculture, which contributed almost 30 per cent to national GDP in the third quarter of 2021.

Based on these realities, the Global Peace Foundation (Nigeria) advocates the need for the authorities to pay attention and end the security threats in farming communities so that farmers can return to their farms to produce.

The Country Director of GPF Nigeria, Rev. John Hayab, while speaking with Saturday Vanguard, explained: “Payment of huge levies, free labour and other offers by various indigenous communities to bandits and terrorist so that they can get access to their farmland is unfortunate.

“The government has been empowered by law to protect citizens and to deal with wrongdoers, but the country is not seeing her government playing that noble role.”

Across the North, terrorists are reported to control pockets of territory as reported in parts of Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, and Niger states.

In the recent past, the Ansaru terrorists were said to be collecting taxes from residents of a local government in Kaduna State. In Niger State, officials admitted that bandits control two local government areas.

Supporting these facts, Governor Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna state has dispatched a memo to the Federal Government claiming that bandits have established a parallel government in the state.  

For the civil society, such a situation is a source of worry that like in Iraq and Afghanistan, the terrorists would use their initial control of small territories to rally fighters to their side, create revenue streams, develop unique logistics routes, then launch out nationwide.

Determined, heavily financed, armed to the teeth and aided by the perceived weakness of the government, the terrorists appear to many observers to be marching relentlessly towards achieving their avowed aim of overthrowing the Nigerian state.

For Hayab, therefore, the failure of the government to play her constitutional role is to blame for the existence of ‘parallel governments’ in some poorly governed spaces in the country.

“Global Peace Foundation Nigeria, therefore, wishes to appeal to government to wake up and do the needful,” he added.

Hayab, nonetheless, charged all peace loving Nigerians to embrace love for one another as a family under God in the search for permanent solution to the challenges.

“Nobody should allow the pains and anger that is caused by the evil activities of bandits and terrorist to make us harm our neighbors who are also victims of the crimes committed by the bandits and terrorists.

“We cannot overcome insecurity with divided communities. The activities of the enemies of the State will easily be exposed when we fight them as one united, strong and peaceful family. 

“Civil societies like ours can only appeal to the people to work for peace and respect others, but this appeal is mostly to the law abiding citizens, who sometimes, due to the pains of what they are experiencing, are tempted or provoked to take daggers against their innocent neighbors.

“On the other hand, bandits and terrorists never come to community peace meetings or come to the dialogue table. So, the language the bandits and terrorists understand which can stop them is the force and power of government through the security agencies.”

Meanwhile, terrorists and industrial-scale kidnappers are still running amok in the North-West states of Kaduna, Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto and Katsina, which were once havens of peace, but some self-centred political leaders are engrossed with the politics of 2023, over and above the threat that insecurity poses to the country’s corporate existence.

Miffed by the ugly trend, Comrade Deji Adeyanju, the convener of another civil society group, Concerned Nigeria, has urged Nigerians, who bear the brunt of their misrule and avarice to mount pressure to force them to fix the tottering edifice first before another round of leadership change where each incumbent is feared could be worse than its predecessor.

According to him, the mere fact that the terrorists could muster the courage to threaten to capture President Buhari and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State is disturbing.

Many of them are motivated by the inflexible Salafist ideology, which is fanatical and cruel in the extreme.

So, Nigerians fear that the terrorists are not bluffing. Consequently, they regard the fatwa declared on President Buhari and Governor El-rufai as sure sign that the government has lost control

For Concerned Nigerians, to save the country, more citizens should speak up because peaceful protest is a legitimate tool in a democracy.

Adeyanju stated that the country seems to run on autopilot because the national security architecture has failed.

“It is indeed very sad to hear of all the happenings in the country. It shows that there has been a complete collapse of government that bandits and terrorists have taken over almost all parts of the country.

“Under the Jonathan regime and the corrupt PDP, it was just Borno and parts of Yobe and Adamawa, but today almost geopolitical zone has been taken over by criminal gangs.

“The memo written to President Buhari has justified all what many of us have said that terrorists have taken over the country, operating freely and unchallenged in a brazen manner. That is why they could issue a fatwa on President Buhari and Governor El-rufai; threatening to abduct both of them very soon. It is because nobody is being punished.

“The country is on an autopilot. It is rather unfortunate, and it is the responsibility of all Nigerians to call for the sack of all the service chiefs,” Adeyanju told Saturday Vanguard.

Reacting to the mounting concerns that the failure of the Buhari-led administration to stem the tide of insecurity would plunge the country into excruciating hunger and poverty, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is promising to deploy innovative technology to outsmart the terrorists.

The Director-General, APC Youth and Students Council, Mazi Ezenwa Onyirimba, told Saturday Vanguard that the party has presented to Nigerians a 2023 presidential candidate that would not only nip insecurity in the bud but also promote mechanised farming to reduce hunger and poverty as over 90 per cent of Nigerian farmers still use cumbersome manual farming methods.

He said, “Every government faces a peculiar security challenge. Obasanjo battles Niger-Delta militancy; under Jonathan, it was Boko Haram; and today it is banditry.

“The challenge with each government is typically new, but efforts are being made to find permanent solutions to them.

“When you look back in, the problem of militancy was resolved by the government that succeeded Obasanjo. In the same manner, Boko Haram that plagued Jonathan’s government was decimated by the Buhari administration that came after it.

“So, we believe that the next APC government will end terrorism in the country, considering Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s antecedents on security during his administration as Lagos governor.”

Meanwhile, a rights lawyer in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, Mr Musa Baba-Panya, stressed the imperative to enact stiffer penalties for terrorists and overturn the single police system.

According to him, doing so could be the starting point for addressing the current security challenges and the consequent threat to food security.

In an interview with Saturday Vanguard, he also said that individually and collectively, ordinary Nigerians should persistently make their voices heard.

Baba-Panya said, “Terrorists invading communities to collect forceful taxes is one thing, but imposing a sort of ‘harvest tax’ on farm produce is outrageous. This is sheer criminality. It simply indicates a worsening in security.

“The consequence is that farmers will either  keep away from their farmlands and allow the terrorists have a field day stealing their agro-produce or they cooperate by paying the levies.

“Before now, the situation was pervasive in the core Northern states, but since the enactment of laws stipulating capital punishment for bandits/terrorists and their informants in states like Zamfara, it is not unexpected that the criminals will shift base to safer states with molded laws like Kaduna and many North-Central and Southern states.

“So, as a solution, what the country requires are deep cutting reforms in the security and legal systems to catch-up with the new form of insecurity and criminality in the society.”

Before the 2023 polls, Nigerians should resolutely demand a national consensus to address insecurity.

Vanguard News Nigeria