Bandits impose harvest levies on Zamfara State farmers and burn million-naira farms of farmers who refuse to pay, MAIHARAJI ALTINE reports
Despite military operations, bandits in Zamfara State have continued to devise means to survive and exert their authorities on communities. They are fast taking over control of some communities as troops are not enough to man every troubled town and village in the state.
One of the absurdities introduced by the bandits is the harvest levy. They have now resorted to imposing levies on farmers and communities before they are allowed to harvest their crops.
This is because kidnapping and cattle rustling are no more lucrative in the state, following the closure of weekly markets and the shutting down of telecom services by the state and federal governments some months ago.
Recall that the Federal Government in a renewed effort to fight banditry and other forms of insecurity shut down all telecom activities in the state in September.
Nigerian Communications Commission in a statement mandated all telecommunication operators in the country to stop extending services to Zamfara and its environs, effective Friday, September 03, 2021.
Bandits are now finding it difficult to negotiate ransom with families of their abductees due to lack of communication. On the other hand, they have no markets to sell their rustled cows, as such, they now impose levies on farmers and communities as another way of getting money.
The bandits now move from farm to farm as well as from village to village, collecting money from communities who are mainly farmers as harvesting fees and if the money is not paid, they will burn the crops.
A resident of Jangeme village in the Gusau Local Government Area, Mohammed Aminu informed The PUNCH that his community was taxed the sum of N2m as harvesting fees while other people in the same community who had bigger farms were charged additional amount.
Aminu said, he personally paid additional sum of N100,000 before he was allowed to harvest his soya beans.
“The bandits asked me to give them additional sum of N100,000 due to the size of my farm. I have no option but to pay for the money because I knew that they could burn the whole crops if I failed to do so.”
Aminu said many crops were burnt down by the bandits due to non-payment of the harvesting fees by their owners.
Another large scale farmer, who lives in Gusau town, Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu, said the bandits visited his farm where they met many labourers working while he was away.
Shehu said, “When they came and did not meet me, they told my labourers to inform me that they wanted me to pay the sum of N1m as harvest fees otherwise they would burn the crops”.
“I didn’t take the message so serious and I even refused to go to the farm but to my utmost dismay, when I came back after two days, I found out that my crops were completely burnt down.”
According to investigations, many communities have complied with the bandits’ directives and have either paid their taxes or have paid part of it as there is no alternative.
Some villages that have paid their taxes are Tofa in the Gusau Local Government Area which was taxed the sum of N2m Zonai also in the Gusau LGA, which paid N2m, Sabon gida and Dandabi in the Gusau LGA paid N1.5m and N1m respectively.
Magami and Kwarya tsugunne communities also in the Gusau Local Government Area have paid N5m each, while Mashema and Danmarken Maru communities in the Maru Local Government Area paid N1m each.
Other villages under the Maru Local Government Area which have paid their taxes, though the amount was not stated, included; Matukuda, Tsibiri, Karukka and Manya.
In the Talata-Mafara Local Government Area, Mallamawa and Yarsabiya communities have paid their levies, while in the Anka Local Government Area 12 communities have settled the bandits.
These communities are Yar-matankari, Yar-sabiya, Ruwan Zabo, Doka, Tungar duna, Tsabta, Tungar Magaji, Duza, Tungar daji, Yartsakkuwa, Tsuru and Rumu.
There are several other communities in the state who have also paid their taxes, while many villages who could not pay were deserted by their inhabitants due to fear of bandits attacks.
Presently, all the local governments in the state are facing the threat as a result of which, many people have fled to Gusau town and other places because of non- payment of the levy imposed by bandits.
In the Tsafe Local Government Area, some villages that are facing serious insecurity challenges are; Munhaye, Dutsin Kura, Kekawa,Yanwaren-Daji, Yarzaiga, Sabon Birnin Nakaka, Unguwar Gyauro, Matso-Matso, Magazawa, Kawasari, Bare-bari, Turba-Kucheri, Marne, Maidagalo, Yar-tsakuwar Garkuwa, Kofar Fada, Sansami and Dankutau.
Some of these villages like Sansami, Cediya and Kutau have been deserted, while the remaining villages are no-go areas unless it becomes absolutely compulsory because the bandits can be sighted even in the day time.
In the Maru Local Government Area, villages such as Masada, Bingi, Dandalla, Babbar Doka, Kabaro, Sangeku, Danmani, Kunjemi, Karauci, Gajeren Kauye, Saulawa, Randa, Kango, Balge, Gobirawan cali, Gidan Ardo, Bulakke and Kilin are very dangerous places and many of the inhabitants have left for other places.
In the Anka Local Government Area villages that are worth hit are Bawar Daji, Sunka, Tungar Kudaku, Matseri, Dankalgo, Matsafa, Nassarawa, Wuya, Kawaye and Sabon Birni.
In the Maradun Local Government Area, Aljimma, Gwargawo, Kuzi, Ruwan Bado, Magamin Diddi, Garka, Saurar Kade, Damaga, Asarara, Burmi Gidan Adamu, Gidan Maidawa, Gidan Baushi and Wari villages are some of the dangerous places in the state as such, it is suicidal for anyone to embark on a journey to those places without a security escort.
The Talata-mafara Local Government Area has villages that cannot be visited due to heavy presence of the bandits who terrorise the inhabitants of the area both in the day time as well as in the night.
These villages are Gwaram, Ruwan Jema, Ruwan Gora, Dankalgo and Ruwan Gizo. The village head of Gwaram was recently killed by bandits because of his refusal to follow them to their hideout and many others were kidnapped.
In the Gusau Local Government Area, some villages that are almost deserted are, Madaro, Kungurmi, Dandindin, Burwaye, Burnai, Fankarfe, Dadin Zama, Bakin Dutsi, Tungar Kudi, Ruwan Mesa, Koli, Buzaye, Tungar Rakumi and Kwarya Tsugunne.
With this negative trend, the state is currently facing food scarcity and high cost of food items considering the fact that, more than 60 per cent of the farming communities did not cultivate their farmlands this year.
Similarly a large quantity of food crops have already been destroyed by the wicked bandits who move around the farmlands with their lighters and matches burning the crops if they did not collect tax from owners of the farms.
There was no reaction from the state police command as of the time of sending this report as the spokesperson for the command Mohammed Shehu, did not pick up the phone calls.
But the state Governor, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara, on September 19 in Gusau while addressing supporters of the All Progressives Congress, who attended the swearing-in ceremony of 21 political appointees, at the Government House, said security forces had rescued no fewer than 544 abducted persons in the last two months in the state.
He said mobile communication shutdown allowed security personnel to record success in the fight against banditry.