Government must do more to secure the countryside
There is a worrying resurgence of criminality in largely ungoverned territories in the Northwest. Today, residents of about 23 local governments across three neigbouring states of Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi reportedly are either fleeing their communities, or are increasingly finding it difficult to live normal lives as kidnapping, cattle rustling, and banditry are on the rise. In many rural communities like Isa, Sabon Birni, Gwadabawa, Illela, Tangaza, and Goronyo in Sokoto State for instance, residents have been forced to abandon their villages and farms. Those who choose to stay are forced by bandits to pay levies to continue farming on their lands.
In Zamfara, communities in 14 local councils have been displaced as a result of criminal activities. But these are mild when compared to Kebbi where more than 2500 lives have been lost between 2019 and 2023 due to security challenges. In a scenario reminiscent of the pre-Buhari administration in the northeast as a result of Boko Haram insurgency, Secretary of Zuru Development Foundation, Bamaiyi An’iko stated that many innocent people have been killed under the Zuru Emirate, stressing that some communities are under total control of the bandits. “There are a lot of internally displaced persons requiring urgent provision of relief materials, including food and toiletries, clothes and mats,” he noted.
The increasing spate of violence is not only stoking unease in many rural communities, but it is also denying people access to schools, farms, and other sources of legitimate livelihood. What is worse is that criminality is again spreading. In Kaduna, Plateau, Bauchi, Benue, and Niger States, bandits and terrorists are on the loose. In Niger, a state with extensive ungoverned spaces, residents have been incessantly terrorised with many council areas held to ransom by ruthless criminals. A fortnight ago some two dozen military personnel were ambushed and wantonly murdered. During their interment last week in Abuja, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa pledged to bring the full security forces on the terrorists.
While we wait the security agencies to fulfil that pledge, the cost of the general insecurity, particularly in the north is adversely affecting agricultural production and cost of living. Staples such as beans and tomatoes have seen astronomical surge in prices, just like onions, and cassava flour. Some states where food prices are going out of reach are ironically major food-producing belt in peace times. Sokoto, for instance, is a major producer of beans, cowpea, groundnut, garlic, wheat, sugarcane, pepper, onions, and tomatoes, while groundnut, sorghum, sesame seed, maize, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and pepper are produced extensively in Plateau State.
The United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) has warned repeatedly that millions of Nigerians are at the risk of hunger as prices of foodstuff skyrocket. Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed the annual food inflation in Nigeria surged to 20.6% in June 2022 from 19.5% in May, due to cost of such essential commodities as bread and cereals, potatoes, yam, meat, and fish. Nigeria’s food inflation increased to 24 per cent last July, a situation that perhaps necessitated President Bola Tinubu to declare a state of emergency on food security. Recent data compiled by an international e-commerce organisation, Picodi, showed that the average Nigerian household spends about 60 per cent of its income on food, the highest in the world. In contrast, residents in the US, UK, Ireland, Singapore spend less than 10 per cent.
The challenge is obvious. Insecurity in many of the rural communities has made it practically difficult for farmers to engage in agricultural production optimally, thus affecting productivity and largely causing market disruptions with attendant food price shocks. The Tinubu administration has its job clearly cut out.
SOURCE: This Day