Bandits in northern Nigeria now demand statutory “harvest fees” from farmers to access their farms at the beginning of the season and at the end of the growing season.
The few farmers who manage to cultivate are denied harvesting until they pay between N300,000 (about $800) and N900,000 (about 2,400) per village, the BBC Hausa reports.
It is believed that local farmers in Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina states sometimes pay up to one million naira to harvest their crops. In some cases the gangs come back, kidnap some of the farmers and demand for more ransom.
Many believe this practice occurs in several parts of Katsina, the home state of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari.
In fact, after bandits are paid, they also stipulate time period within which the farmers can carry out their harvest.
“In my village, we pay N800,000 as tax and N900,000 as harvest fees. Even if you pay, they will come to your farm and abduct you,” a resident of Dankurmi Village in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State was quoted as saying.
A farmer in Sabuwa Local Government Area of Katsina said they now negotiate with bandits before they are allowed to harvest their crops as several farmers have been killed by bandits in the local government area this year.
“They send messages of attack to communities or tax us large amounts of money before they allow us to go to farm,” he said.
Several Nigerians have been reacting to the development and have taken to Twitter to express their concerns.
“Bandits are collecting tax from farmer’s that don’t have any sources of income besides their farms. This is the most terrible condition Zamfara ever faces. After killing, raping and kidnapping their relatives, they’re now paying to eat,” a Twitter user, Landlord, said.
Muhammadu Lawal, an indigene of Katsina state said, “My village, Yankara in Faskari LGA, along with several communities around, were also asked to pay to allow them a grace period of four weeks to harvest.”
Several attempts by the government at tackling banditry in the northern part of the country have proved abortive. Some state governors have also been accused of giving tax payers money as ransoms to bandits.
Recently residents of Dan Aji community in Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State debunked the claim by the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, that he secured the release of their 26 kidnapped girls, insisting that they paid N6.6 million (about $!7,000) before the girls were released by their abductors, contrary to the governor’s claim.
By Abel Ejikeme