Farming and other economic activities are under serious threat in Faskari and other volatile areas of Katsina State, no thanks to banditry, which forced over 60 villages and hamlets to relocate to safer towns and cities.
Faskari, Kankara, Sabuwa and Dandume local government areas, which were badly hit by the banditry, constitute the agricultural hub of the state. Farmers in those communities produce mostly maize, rice, soybeans and sorghum in large quantities.
According to locals, many farms in the area produce more than 2,000 bags of maize every season.
During the launch of the 2021 maize wet season farming and first maize pyramid in Nigeria in the state, Governor Aminu Bello Masari disclosed that over 50,000 hectares of farmland were abandoned by farmers in the state in 2020 due to attacks by bandits.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari had, on several occasions tasked the security agencies to flush out terrorists and bandits so that farmers would have their confidence restored and return to their farmlands.
Sadiq Bala, a farmer in Faskari Local Government Area, said some months back, there were successes recorded by the military against the bandits, but of recent, the miscreants staged a comeback invading remote villages and hamlets.
“Some days ago, politicians and concerned elders of Faskari Local Government Area had to visit the governor and tabled their complaint of the lingering insecurity in the area, especially now that farming season has set in,’’ he said.
Bala added that last Tuesday night, the bandits invaded Garke village in the neighbouring Dandume Local Government Area, where they killed an elderly man, abducted unspecified number of people, as well as robbed the villagers of their domestic animals and other belongings.
Similarly, according to Bala, the bandits went to Sabuwar Unguwa of Sabuwa Local Government Area in the same night, shot sporadically at the residents and abducted about 20 persons, including women and children.
Malam Hussaini Ya’u Kogo, a resident of Faskari town, said with the relative peace they enjoyed some months back, some communities that earlier relocated were going back to their homes to cultivate their farms .
“At Kurmin Doka, where the residents recently went back to till their farms, bandits last Tuesday night rustled their cattle and sheep. They also abducted not less than 30 people, including married women, after killing two young men. In the morning of the same Tuesday, one Mani Mamman Dusa of Faskari town was beaten to a pulp by Fulani bandits armed with machetes and sticks. They chased his two children away and rustled his cattle at his farm, along Maigora Road,’’ he said.
Kogo further said that last Wednesday morning, bandits went back to the area to attack people working in their farms, but on sighting members of a vigilante group patrolling the area, they took to their heels.
“On that very Wednesday, the bandits robbed one person called Rishi of his new motorcycle while he was at his farm, close to Government Science Secondary School, Faskari,’’ he added.
We learnt that if the recent development is not quickly arrested, it would threaten the production of crops, especially maize in the state as farmers in the affected areas are abandoning their farms for safety.
Malam Hamish Yan’tuwaru told our correspondent that as a result of banditry, the volume of maize produced last year had significantly reduced.
“Only God knows our fate this year as many of us are not ready to mortgage our lives to cultivate remote farms. Last year, many maize and soybeans farms were left unharvested for the fear of bandits,’’ he said.
Yan’tuwaru added that local farmers were looking up to security agents to restore their confidence by dislodging the dreaded bandits in their areas.
Our correspondent learnt that this unfortunate development has escalated the rental fees of farms in Danja, Kafur, Malumfashi and Bakori local government areas as many farmers from the volatile areas were looking for alternatives for food production.
Sani Umar Tandama of Danja Local Government Area said farm owners no longer rented out their farms for a year.
“A good farm that can give 10 bags of maize now goes for not less than N30,000 for a season instead of N10,000 or N15,000 some years back. In some instances, farm owners prefer two years or more of front payment while others lease out the farm on mortgage basis and collect N100,000 and above,’’ Tandama said.
He added that as a result of this development, there is now a scarcity of land to cultivate in the peaceful areas, especially as the state does not have vast lands for farming.