As part of measures to tame banditry and kidnapping, the governments of Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, and Niger states last week suspended weekly markets, movement of cattle, sale of petrol in jerry-cans as well as motorcycle transport in some areas.
But the measures have put the economies of rural communities in the affected areas in jeopardy and residents in hardship, Daily Trust reports.
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Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Bello Mohammed Matawalle (Zamfara), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), and Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger) had in separate directives called for restrictions of movement and some economic activities in frontline areas in their states.
In all the affected areas, life has not been the same for the people of the communities since the order came into force. While some pundits opined that it is too early to gauge the success or otherwise of the restrictions put in place, locals in the affected communities have described the decision as tough.
They said the development has a multiplier effect on livelihood in the affected localities and residents of neighbouring states.
Checks by Daily Trust indicated that while prices of foodstuff, meat, and other commodities have skyrocketed due to the closure of markets, many people are losing their means of livelihood as they can no longer operate their small-scale businesses. Also, farmers are finding it difficult to push their products to the market due to absence of vehicles for transportation.
They are also lamenting that the directive took them unawares because the government failed to carry stakeholders along and also failed to come up with alternative relief measures to cushion the effects of the order.
When contacted, some of the people that supposed to speak on the matter in the affected states said it was “premature.”
They said every measure meant to correct some anomalies would have consequences and urged people to persevere.
One of them said, “You should not expect me to say anything now because the decision was carried out across the states in the interest of the people. The measures would be reviewed after the governors and security agencies scrutinized them.”
In Katsina State, residents lamented that the negative effects of suspending many economic activities were visible despite that the decision was in their best interest.
A resident of Pawwa village in Kankara Local Government Area, who pleaded anonymity, said the measures had left the residents stranded.
“Many people in the rural communities rely on motorcycles as their means of transportation, so with these stringent measures, people are already suffering.
“We have no doubt that the measures are in our interest, but the government has failed to take other measures to cushion the effects on the areas most affected,” he said.
Malam Ibrahim Faskari, a resident of Faskari Local Government Area, who is taking refuge in Mabai village of Kankara Local Government, said, “One of the measures that have serious negative effects on our people is the closure of cattle markets because in most cases, cattle rustlers are not the ones that bring cattle to the markets as they have associates that are recognised.
“What the government should do, in my opinion, is to work with the vigilante people in the affected areas because they know those who associate with cattle rustlers so that they can identify and fish them out.
“This outright ban will endanger those who were selling their cattle due to fear of rustlers because bandits can attack them and take their animals away as the owners cannot take them anywhere again.
“Also, on the issue of banning our means of transportation, particularly motorcycles, the government should remember that there are emergency health needs that can come up at any time. What would people do in such circumstances? So you can see that the measures, no matter how good, have a lot of negative effects the government needs to look into.”
A resident of Shimfida also said, “As we speak with you, we are with some displaced persons from Gurbi in Zamfara State. Two days ago, bandits sacked their village and carted away foodstuff and petrol.
“We believe these new measures will yield results but the problem is that government should have deployed enough security personnel to patrol the affected areas in anticipation of these consequences, but that was not done.
“If that is done, the people of the rural areas would have assisted them with some intelligence report to help them do their work. As we speak, Gurbi in Zamfara is completely deserted, and from what they are saying, the bandits’ leaders have met and decided that they will not give the rural communities in Zamfara and Katsina states a breathing space because the measures were taken in their favour.
“As we speak, a 4-litre gallon of petrol is sold at N8, 000 in that area and you cannot even get it at that price. So, the measures are good, but if security personnel are not deployed, it is only the rural communities that will continue to suffer.”
People in Zamfara are groaning after the ban was announced by the state government.
They said the decision was painful, especially now that the harvest period is around the corner and farmers would find it difficult to sell their farm produce.
“Rural economy is affected because dwellers depend on their markets for trading. You will see a trader attending three to four markets in a week.
“I deal in second-hand clothes and attend three different markets every week. But suddenly, there was a government directive that markets should be shut. We have to fold up or find an alternative to sell our goods,” Aliyu Shinkafi said.
Usman Lawal, a farmer in Anka Local Government Area, said farmers would suffer more because the major commodities being traded in those markets were farm produce.
A resident of the community, Sani Hamisu, said, “Farmers will soon start harvesting rice and soybeans, and this means keeping the commodities at home even though most of them do not have proper storage facilities.
“The ban on the sale of fuel in jerry-cans is also affecting the movement of people from one community to another. The majority of the people that are affected by the ban are those riding motorbikes in the rural communities, who also patronise black marketers.
“In Dansadau, a litre of fuel sells at N1, 000 while a gallon goes for N5, 000. We have parked our motorbikes and the commercial riders have tripled their fares.
“Most of the engines that rely on petrol to operate like grinding machines have stopped working. Also, there is an acute shortage of fuel in the community and many other villages.
“Those in cities and towns use vehicles and fuel is commonly found in those places. We depend on black marketers to fuel our motorbikes. I have parked my motorbike for about two days now,” another resident, Dan Liman, said.
Our correspondent gathered that the order had taken effect in markets in the affected local government areas, which include Birnin Gwari, Kajuru, Chikun, Giwa and Igabi.
Residents of Kajuru said traders were dispersed from the weekly Kujama market last Wednesday by security agents to enforce the directive.
Ibrahim Hassan of Kujama said few traders had come to the market from surrounding villages but a commotion ensued when security agents dispersed them. Many of them lost grains and other wares in the process.
Isa Lawal, who sells grains at the Kasuwan Magani in Kajuru Local Government Area said he had no choice but to sell his grains within Kajuru town since the market was locked down on Thursday.
“We thought the security agents would not be very serious about enforcing the order and therefore, some of us left our villages for the market only to discover that it had been locked. We had no choice but to return with our goods.
“Life has been difficult and it will get worse if we are not allowed to sell in the markets. We have to struggle with bandits in the farms and our homes and now we have to struggle with security agents in the markets. How are we expected to survive if we are not allowed to sell our grains?” he asked.
Our correspondent, however, gathered from traders in the Fatika district of Giwa Local Government Area that though painful, the government’s directive was imperative.
Idris Iliya said, “We are suffering but there is nothing we can do about it. We will sell what we can within our communities but we can no longer take them to the market where other people from neighbouring villages can come and buy.”
He added that some traders had started supplying grains to other retailers in nearby villages.
“Instead of going to the market where everyone can come and buy and sell, some of the traders now hawk their goods in neighbouring villages,” he added.
Shehu Hassan from Birnin Gwari lamented that the suspension of the weekly market had crippled economic activities in the town. “The Birnin Gwari market is an international outlet. We have people coming from the Niger Republic and Cameroon to buy goods here but now, it has been suspended. How are our people expected to survive?”
Residents of Minna and other parts of Niger State have described the measures as stringent and capable of subjecting citizens to hardship.
Those directly affected by the measures include cattle dealers and butchers, private motorcycle owners, timber and firewood dealers and traders.
The grand patron of the Cattle Dealers Multi-Purpose Association, Minna branch, Dan-Asabe Ibrahim, said, “We buy cattle here in Niger State and take them to Lagos. So we don’t have another means of livelihood apart from selling cattle to butchers.
“The government supposed to have engaged stakeholders before coming up with the measures. We didn’t see any circular, we just heard from the media. You can see that today, for instance, people didn’t slaughter as many cattle as before because they hadn’t bought the animals since this order was released,” he said.
The public relations officer of the National Butchers Association, Minna, said their members were facing serious hardship.
“On the issue of cattle theft, the government should sit with Fulani leaders. They know themselves and strangers. They can assist the government a lot in getting those stealing cows,” he said.
One of the butchers, Alhaji Sabo Musa Badi said before the order, he had always slaughtered three cattle a day, but since the government made the pronouncement, cattle dealers didn’t bring out their cattle again.
“I used to slaughter three cattle a day, but now, you can see that our tables are empty. Four of us are sharing one. Our business has been affected seriously,” he said.
He appealed to the state government to review the measures, especially the ban on cattle markets to enable them to continue their business.
A customer, Mrs Rabi Umar, said beef had become scarce due to high prices.
“A piece of meat worth N500 before is now N1, 000 because the demand is higher than the supply,” she said.
A private motorcycle owner and POS agent, Suleiman Mohammed, said, “I used to stay in my shop up till 11 pm, but with this directive, before 6 pm I am at home. However, if these measures will solve the problem, we are okay with it.”
Checks by Daily Trust indicate that cattle markets in places like Beji, Wuya, Kuta, Shiroro, Sarkin Pawa Tunga-Mallam, Zumba still sell despite the ban as marketers have denied knowledge of it.
A government official who spoke on anonymity told our correspondent that the state government didn’t engage stakeholders before the measures were rolled out which have taken many marketers unawares. He assured that government would meet with them next week.
“The state also needs resources to mobilise security agencies who will carry out the enforcement. But I believe they will soon meet with stakeholders and the police would also have to release a statement regarding the enforcement. The issue was too urgent.”
Speaking during a live programme on Prestige FM, Minna, Nigeria Today, on Thursday, the Secretary to the State Government Ahmed Ibrahim Matane said an urban security system would be put in place to check violations of the order.
“Niger State has been profiled as one of the high-risk states. We want that profiling to change. Security personnel will be put in strategic places to check the breach of these orders,” he said.
FG, states should give relief materials to locals
Hamisu Ado Salihu, a retired police officer in Katsina State said while the governors should not be blamed for taking “radical measures,” they should collaborate with the federal government to support the people in the affected communities.
“It is a trying moment for everyone,” he said. “All the governors took the measure of restricting movements and some economic activities as last resort.
“As you can see, different measures have defied all conventional measures and therefore they resorted to this crude method not minding the consequences.
“The fillers from many villages are that the people are suffering. Therefore, the federal government should release relief materials and also step up offensive in all the forests where the bandits are hibernating,” he said.
Clement Adeyi, Abuja; Lami Sadiq, Kaduna; Tijjani Ibrahim, Katsina; Shehu Umar, Gusau & Abubakar Akote, Minna