Residents of Northwest geopolitical zone have called for strict monitoring of the implementation of economic empowerment programmes and palliative measures introduced to reduce poverty.
In their responses to a survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the adverse effect of the current security challenges on the economic status of the people, respondents noted that a lot of Nigerian were finding it difficult to keep afloat.
While commending all arms of government for their relentless efforts at addressing the situation, they observed that such efforts, especially ones geared towards economic empowerment, needed close supervision to check unwholesome practices.
The respondents from Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Zamfara states, suggested the complete overhaul of the security apparatus to make it vibrant and proactive, with a view to checking the menace of criminal elements.
Others stressed the need to leverage on facilities introduced by new technology to enable the tracking of bandits, just as they suggested the installation of CCTV camera in key areas to ensure adequate surveillance.
According to them, the key solution to addressing the insecurity-propelled poverty bedeviling the people, is to ‘uproot’ the cause by checking the threat of bandits and restore peace for economic activities to flourish.
They also recommended that the criminal justice system be reviewed to enable the fast-tracking of trial of criminals, observing that delay in trial, and sometimes lenient sanctions, were not deterrent enough.
Malam Yusuf Bida, Acting Administrative Secretary, Jama’atu Nasril Islam(JNI) National Headquarters, Kaduna, noted that there is strong link between insecurity and poverty.
Bida said farmers were denied access to their farmlands by bandits and terrorists, and even where they were allowed to cultivate land, they had to pay special levy before they could harvest their crops.
According to him, insecurity is currently contributing to the hike in cost of food items, and by extension, resulting in poverty because the purchasing power of people has fallen sharply.
He said the justice system needed to be reviewed to fast-track trial of criminals in an effort to check their menace for socio- economic activities to normalise.
He also said palliatives be provided to communities affected by attacks.
On his part, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN),Kaduna state , Rev John Hayab, observed that the security challenges had forced some private school proprietors to reduce personnel, thereby creating unemployment, with its attendant consequences.
He said that because enrollment of pupils and students in schools within ‘unsafe’ environments had dropped, teachers had to be laid off for lack of adequate resources needed for settlement of salary.
In Birmin Kebbi, some farmers identified agriculture as the worst hit sector of the economy, advising that urgent measures be taken to address the problem.
One of the farmers, Malam Muhammad Yusha’u, who is from Danko/Wasagu Local Government Area of the state, said he and his family had to flee to Birnin Kebbi to seek refuge as a result of the menace of bandits operating ‘freely, in their area.
While lamenting that most farmers could not access their farmlands for fear of being killed or kidnapped, Yusha’u said the situation had affected production of food and cash crops, forcing prices to skyrocket.
“If you want to confirm whether the security situation has driven many people into poverty or not, I am one perfect example.
“I am from Danko/Wasagu LGA, but my wife and three children have been here seeking refuge in Birnin Kebbi after we escaped bandits’ attack in our village in Bena.
“My barns containing foodstuffs and seedlings have been set ablaze after the brutal attack that resulted in the killing of some people and security agents in the area and many other communities.
“Even if I want to go back to my village, there is no place to go, and nothing to fall back on to start a new life; I have been driven into poverty by insecurity”, he lamented.
Another farmer from Makuku in Sakaba Local Government, Malam Nuhu Makuku, said he was forced to relocate his family to Dirin daji, the headquarters of the local government area, after his wife and two children were abducted by bandits while he was away.
“I had to sell my farm produce, plot of land and vehicle to pay ransom for my family to regain their freedom.
“After ransom was paid, and my children gained their freedom, I was left with nothing, and now I have become extremely poor.
“Lots of farmers have abandoned their farmlands for fear of being kidnapped in our village,” he narrated.
A livestock farmer, Ardo Dahiru, from Shanga Local Government Area, who was forced to relocate to Birnin Kebbi for security reasons, said many pastoralists had been discouraged from breeding cattle or sheep as a result of the security challenges.
According to him, this development has deprived them the opportunity to engage in income-generating activities, thereby further driving them into poverty.
A farmer from Allawa in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State, Baba Audu, who was forced to relocate to Birnin Kebbi, narrated his ordeal.
“I have large farms with different crops like yam, maize, millet and others; I had bumper harvest last year, but the invasion of the community by bandits forced us to lose everything, including domestic animals and houses.
“These enemies of progress set our homes and barns on fire after carting away everything”, he said.
Mr Adebayo Ismail, a public affairs commentator in Birnin Kebbi, described the situation as ‘precarious’.
“In the last six to seven months of this year, bandits operating from Zamfara and Niger axis had invaded many Kebbi communities, killing hundreds of farmers and their family members, while carting away their cattle and farm produce.
“Given the development, production of farm produce, cattle and livestock, had fallen over the years, and agricultural activities had been made difficult in many parts of the state.
“Rice production, which is the major crop produced by Kebbi farmers, had dropped drastically in the last one year; the situation is thesame in many areas of the country where banditry and terrorism now flourish”, he analysed.
On solution to the lingering problem, the political analyst urged government and security agencies to redouble effort and take advantage of modern technology, to address the situation.
In Zamfara, some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) say the security situation in the state had resulted in most of them living from hand-to-mouth.
They told NAN in Gusau that they had been forced to relocate from their respective villages, and are now living with their equally impoverished relatives.
Maryam Isah from Kwashabawa village in Zurmi Local Government Area, said she and other members of her family were displaced from their community four years ago by bandits, who killed many people in the village, including her husband.
“I was left with four children and since then, I had been living in Gusau with my relatives.
“We left all our valuables, including our animals and farm land; we are finding it difficult to feed and secure other necessities of life.
“Our children are no longer going to either Quranic or Western Schools; we have been forced to engage in menial jobs to feed our selves”, she said.
Another displaced person, Amiru Sani, who left Dansadau area in Maru Local Government Area of the state two years, described the security challenges in the state as worrisome.
“Before I left my village, I was producing over 500 bags of grains annually, but security challenges forced me to relocate to Gusau with my two wives and seven children; I now solicit for alms to feed as I have no trade to engage in.
“I am not used to begging; I prefer to work and feed my family, but I have no option now; sometimes, even the menial job is difficult to secure.
“This situation made me to become poor and my wife and children are facing serious hardship”, Sani explained.
NAN reports that large number of IDPs, mainly women and children displaced from their communities across the 14 Local Government Areas of the state, have resorted to begging in Gusau, the state capital.
Efforts by NAN to secure comment of officials of Zamfara Government on measures being taken to cushion the hardship, proved abortive as the officials were unwilling to talk.
Meanwhile, respondents in Kano have stressed the need to take full advantage of modern technology in addressing the current security challenges in the Northwest geopolitical zone.
They noted that apart from the massive loss of lives and property, the situation was dragging the geopolitical zone and the country in general, to the path of a socio-economic crises.
Mrs Temitope Ade, a housewife, called on the government to install Close-Circuit Television (CCTV) in strategic places for monitoring people’s activities in both urban and rural areas.
Ade further called on government at all levels to also intensify efforts in equipping people with skills, as well as supporting them with capital to enable them establish businesses and become employers of labour.
Mrs Uwani Abubakar, a woman forced by bandits to relocate from Katsina state to Kano, said a lot of them were struggling with abject poverty as a result of the displacement.
“Our village is very close to Sabuwa in Katsina state; the area was raided by bandits shortly after harvest, carting away our food items, burning houses and killing people”, she said.
In his contribution, a retired police officer, Sani Nurain, who agreed that the high rate of poverty in the Northwest had direct link with the existing security challenges, noted that most of those affected were farmers and small scale business operators.
Nurain therefore stressed the need for the government and other stakeholders to intensify efforts at creating job opportunities for the teeming youth, and also engage in radical reform of the security apparatus.
He said such measure might assist in addressing the situation for normal socio-economic activities to return, adding that no development could be achieved without peace and stability.
Also, a farmer in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State, Malam Abubakar Abdullahi, said security challenges in their area had forced many farmers to abandon their farms, resulting in their living in abject poverty.
“The situation has pushed many of us into poverty because we had to wait until the government provides us with what to eat at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp.
“Before this unfortunate development, some of us were cultivating over 100 bags of maize and other farm products, but today, none of us can produce even one bag”, he lamented.
According to him, business activities in seven communities in Jibia LGA have collapsed, and people that normally assist others in the area, are also having a bitter taste of the insecurity-propelled poverty.
Malam Salisu Sa’adu, Chairman of IDPs in Jibia Camp, said victims of bandits were battling with hunger, starvation and possible deaths in the camp.
He said the IDPs were mainly from Kwari, Zango, Shimfida,Tsauni, farfaru , Tsanbe, and Gurbin magarya villages of Jibia Local Government Area of the state.
Salisu appealed to the state government to take steps towards relocating them to their villages, to enable them engage in farming and feed their families before the end of the rainy season.
“We are now almost three months here, we cannot continue like this; we really want to go back to our villages and look for what to eat with our families”, he said.
But Chairman of Jibia Local Government, Alhaji Bashir Mai-tan, said government was doing its best in feeding the refugees in the camp.
Maitan said he had been having sleepless nights to ensure peace and security in the area, as well as paying of ransom to secure release of people from bandits.
In Sokoto state, Alhaji Aminu Almustapha, member representing Sabon Birnin North Constituency in the State Assembly told NAN that his constituents were grappling with economic hardship due to security challenges.
He said farming communities in different areas had abandoned most fertile lands for fear of losing their lives to bandits, with most people relocating to other places to depend on relatives for survival.
He added that banditry activities had fast-tracked the rate of poverty as most productive families and groups had been rendered redundant.
Another Lawmaker in Sokoto, Alhaji Saidu Ibrahim, representing Sabon Birni South State Constituency, said bandits had dislodged communities and dispossessed them of valuables.
He said many family members had been forced to pay huge amount of money as ransom to rescue their relatives, resulting in complete collapse of their economic fortunes.