He said, “Am not aware that farmers are meeting bandits. But all I know is that the police in collaboration with the military have taken security measures to save guard farmlands to ensure farmers go to their farmlands and farm without any attack, without any threat from bandits.”
Farmers in Zamfara State are set to meet leaders of bandits in the state to negotiate their (farmers) protection and allow them to cultivate their farmland.
Recall that farmers and residents of some communities in the northern part of the country had said they had been paying levies and taxies to suspected bandits in order to avoid being attacked by the hoodlums.
The farmers, who spoke under the auspices of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Zamfara State chapter, told Saturday PUNCH that their meeting with the bandits was expected to hold on Saturday (today).
AFAN Public Relations Officer, Abdulhafiz Alkali, on Thursday, lamented that the Federal Government seemed to have abandoned them to their fate and jettisoned any idea of providing security for farmers.
He said, “What I know about protection with the farmers is just the negotiation between the bandits and the farmers. I am living in Zamfara State now. I know that there will be a meeting by this coming Saturday between the farmers and the bandits.
“We lost a lot of things in Zamfara State. We sent letters to the Federal Government to secure us five years ago after complaining that the bandits were disturbing us.
“We needed the intervention of the Federal Government but it never came. What we lost in the past seven to six years is between N30bn to N50bn on commodities only.
“Many people from different countries and states used to come to the Dansadua axis to buy commodities to the tune of over N50b in a year, but now, in a year, we get less than N2bn to N3bn.
“In Zamfara State, the commodities business was worth over N200bn to N300bn, but these bandits interrupted the business. We wrote letters, we complained, but up till now, no response from the Federal Government.”
Speaking further on the backdrop of the recent query of the House of Representatives on the N18.9b COVID-19 agriculture project spent by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Alkali said government had not been carrying AFAN along in its recent agriculture project.
Alkali further stated that arrangements were in top gear by the association to meet with the Ministry of Agriculture to get clarity on the matter.
“We need between 3,000 and 5,000 (parcels of) arable land, most especially in the North and South-South. For now, there has been no communication between us and the ministry. No member of the All Farmers Association knows about these projects.”
Recall that there was a recent audit query and warrant summon of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Account of the ministry.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Young Farmers Network disclosed that they were not carried along on the programmes embarked upon by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture during the COVID-19 lockdown, where N18.9b was spent.
The Director General of the YFA, Promise Amamah, said none of its members had benefitted from the COVID-19 government programme.
He lamented that the Nigerian agriculture sector was not only underfunded but was also prone to favouritism.
Meanwhile the Zamfara State Police command through its spokesperson, Muhammed Shehu said he is unaware of the development.
He said, “Am not aware that farmers are meeting bandits. But all I know is that the police in collaboration with the military have taken security measures to save guard farmlands to ensure farmers go to their farmlands and farm without any attack, without any threat from bandits.
“That is why the farmers are currently able to go to their farms. So, we are working tirelessly with other security agencies and vigilantes.”