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Farmers in Niger pay bandits, yet get attacked

Farming communities suffering from bandits’ and terrorist attacks in Shiroro, Munya and Rafi LGAs of Niger State are paying millions of naira “dialogue fee” to…

Farming communities suffering from bandits’ and terrorist attacks in Shiroro, Munya and Rafi LGAs of Niger State are paying millions of naira “dialogue fee” to their killers with a promise to allow them access to their farms for cultivation.

Speaking with our correspondent, the farmers said despite the millions of naira they had been paying since the beginning of this farming season, attacks had continued.

A farmer in Shiroro, Salisu Baba, said, “Farming is the only occupation and means of livelihood that we have. And we are now hungry. All these humanitarian support people talk about cannot take us anywhere. We want to go back to our communities to engage in farming. We are hungry and impoverished in IDP camps; even our children are not well-fed. That is why when bandits ask for dialogue we do agree because we are eager to go back home. It is almost 10 years; we cannot go to our farms.”

It was gathered that before the attacks the communities produced maize, millet, sorghum, soybean, yam and cocoyam in commercial quantities, attracting buyers from as far as Lagos, the Eastern part of the country and the Republic of Niger.

A farmer who preferred anonymity said, “Majority of us are in IDP camps in Erena, Gwada, Sarkin-Pawa and Kuta. Many of our relations are in captivity. We have completely lost access to farming.”

Meanwhile, recently the Niger State Commissioner for Homeland Security, Brigadier General Bello Abdullahi Mohammed (Rtd), disclosed that the government was planning to construct temporary resettlement centres for the IDPs pending when the situation improved.

He warned the victims against returning home without the government’s directive.

The President of Lakpma Youth Forum, Babangida Zaharadeen Kudodo, told our correspondent the victims paid “dialogue fee” amounting to millions to be allowed to cultivate lands.

He said, “They (bandits and terrorists) do come and ask for dialogue fees so that there would be a consensus between them and the villagers. They tax them certain amounts of money which they would pay to them so that they would be allowed to farm.

“The Lakpma axis is suffering from insecurity in Shiroro LGA. So, anybody seen farming now is definitely paying tax to the bandits or terrorists.”

He added that, “Farmers pay tax because they are out of options, because we all know how things have been very difficult for our people. Even when they run to IDP camps, how would they cope? People used to fetch free firewood but they have now come to the town to buy firewood, and there is no money to buy it with the current cost of living in the country.

“So, they feel that if terrorists can tax them as much as N10m, N15m and even N20m, communities prefer to just go and gather the money and give them so that they would allow them access to their ancestral lands to continue with their farming activities.

“But despite that they pay taxes, that doesn’t stop the bandits and terrorists from attacking them, killing them and kidnapping others. So, maybe if one group had taxed them and they paid, another group would not know. So, other groups will still come and kidnap people and even kill them.”

However, in Munya, a local government official confirmed to our correspondent on condition of anonymity that bandits called for a dialogue to allow the affected communities to go to farm, but said they did not collect any levy from the farmers.

He said, “One of the conditions the bandits gave was that they would allow residents access to their farms but that if the farmers see them passing to other places, they should give them cover. But our people have rejected the move.”


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