The upsurge in kidnapping, especially in the north-west, is threatening agricultural activities with both big and small farmers forced to abandon their farms, Daily Trust investigations have shown.
Other local businesses are also threatened as traders feel unsafe to travel for fear of being kidnapped.
Even the organisers of the 40th Kaduna International Trade Fair attributed the low turnout of participants at the fair to the information regarding the security situation in the state.
Our correspondents learnt that most of the exhibitors at the fair had to travel by road through Abuja with their wares but were wary of the security risks.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of Northern Nigeria, and many Nigerians rely on grains, vegetables and other produce from the region.
A large scale farmer and owner of Al-gulam Integrated Farm near Keffi, Nasarawa State, Alhaji Isa Musa yaro, told Daily Trust on phone that he had shut down the entire farm because of fear of kidnapping.
He said farming has become risky as 'young guys' now move around with Ak-47 rifles looking for who to kidnap.
Yaro said he had over 80 hectares of irrigated farms, more than 300 cows, sheep and fisheries but all now is history.
"People, especially my workers, are begging me to return to the farm but I won't because I can't guarantee their security. God forbid, if any of them gets kidnapped, how will I get the money those people usually asked for?"
He said during Ramadan fasting, he usually produce around one million watermelons from the farm but it will not happen this year as the farm has been closed down.
The Chief Executive of Deenat Integrated Farm along Jere-Kagarko road, Alhaji Mannir Umar, said he also almost closed down the farm because of the worsening security situation in the area.
He told Daily Trust that the farming belt in Northern Nigeria is in trouble, adding that most of the farming states in the north are facing one form of security or the other.
Mannir said his farm was still operational because of the military presence around the area but regretted that the military men are now being withdrawn to worst hit areas like Zamfara and some parts Kaduna and Katsina states.
'Crops on 5000 Zamfara hectres un-harvested in 2018'
Crops on about 5000 hectres of farmlands in Zamfara State could not be harvested last year because of banditry, the Secretary, All Farmers Association of Nigeria in the state Alhaji Sa'idu Garkuwa told Daily Trust.
He said fear of being killed or kidnapped forced the farmers to abandon the crops, adding that more than 5000 hectres of lands may also go uncultivated in the state following the incessant assaults on farmers.
He said a farmer who went for land clearance shortly before the start of the rainy season last year, was forced by bandits to put out the flames of burning corn stalk using his feat.
"If something urgent is not done there is bound to be a serious food shortage in the years ahead. Farmers are being forced to abandon lands in the state," Garkuwa said.
Last week, 10 onion farmers were killed while working on their farms in Kursasa village in Kware district of Shinkafi local government area of the state, while in Kawaye district in Anka local government area about 12 villages have been deserted owing to series of abductions by the armed bandits in the last four years.
A farmer, Aliyu Muhammad Kawaye, told Daily Trust that some of the residents that fled their homes were taking shelter in his village before they were displaced again by the attack on his community last month.
"I can tell you that in Kawaye district only Dawan Jiya community is not deserted. In August last year, villages like Tamuzge, Sabuwar Tunga, Tungar Daji, Tashar Birai, Tintija, were deserted," he said.
'Our towns are dying'
In Katsina, most farmers have already given up farming this year for fear of abduction for ransom.
A community leader in Jibia, who does not want his name mentioned, said last year I was able to bring in more than 60 big farmers during the dry season farming to the Jibia irrigation sites but this year no one agreed to come for fear of kidnappers.
"The water is just wasting, they told me that our town is not safe anymore, they will prefer to remain in the cities this time around," he said
"I tried to reach out to some seeing the raining season is coming but they also resisted. Our town is fast dying," he added.
He said our international weekly markets of Jibia, Gurbi and Shinkafi are being deserted, adding that "the turnout keeps reducing by the day because there is hardly a market day that bandits won't block major roads kidnapping locals."
Another farmer in Jibia, who simply identified himself as Abdullahi, said "only a miracle can make farming possible this year. Presently, 15 villages namely, Tsambe I, II, and III, Maiwuya, Fafara I, II, and III and Shinfida have been battered as bandits prey on people like eagles prey on chicks."
"Some days back, the Shinfidda road was blocked on a market day, more than 12 vehicles with people had to return back," he added
For Mohammed Aminu in Batsari, this year's farming will only be possible for people having farmlands close to the main town of Batsari.
On his part, the state chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Umar Yau said members have always complained of inability to access their farms due to fear of being kidnap.
Nevertheless, he said, we kept allaying their fears that government is working to address the situation.
'The consequences are dire'
In Niger State, the Acting Chairman of Rice Farmers Association, Malam Idris Abini warned of the consequences of displacement of farmers to the Federal Government's Food Security drive, lamenting that his members have been at the receiving end of the crisis.
According to him, farmers have become endangered species on their farms and even their homes. "Those members who are successful in the enterprise are not safe even in their houses as they become targets of kidnappers along with their families ", he lamented.
He said some of the members are quitting farming altogether, adding that the distance they have to cover from their homes to the farms also put them at disadvantage and at risk of kidnapping as most farms are in isolated locations.
He called on the federal and state government to evolve means of ending the menace.
'We no longer feel same on our farms'
In Kogi, Mohammed Iraki, a farmer in KotonKarfe area of the state said the activities of kidnappers in the area have been impacting negatively on agricultural production and food security.
He said many farmers were apprehensive of entering their farms to go about their activities during the dry season farming.
According to him, with the rain-fed farming season about to begin, there was need for the government to address the issue of kidnapping.
Also speaking, pioneer chairman of All Farmers Association (AFAN) in Kogi State and Executive Secretary of Farmers Cooperative Federation in the state, Halidu Ademu described the issue of general insecurity and kidnapping bedevilling local farmers in Kogi as worrisome.
Chairperson, Small-scale Women Farmers of Nigeria (SWOFON) in the state, Hajiya Safiya Yahaya, said there was need for government to address the challenge of insecurity and guarantee safety to enable women go about their farming activities without fear.
'Why the government must act now'
In Gombe, a lecturer with the Department of Economic at the Federal University of Kashere, Malam Anas Kubalu said the widespread kidnapping in the north is worrisome and calls for change in the security architecture.
"The lingering farmers/herders clashes and the incessant kidnapping have greatly affected the economic activities of the northern Nigeria. This ugly development has started to discourage many people into farming, thereby pose a danger to the economy of the region and the food security.
"Also, the ugly scenario has prevented both national and international investors to invest in the region which incurred unbearable economic recession, risen extreme poverty, high unemployment rate and economic downturn as well as poor market performance in the north," he said.
Malam Kubalu called on the federal government to tackle youth unemployment, effective community policing and equipped the police and military, "to prevent the kidnapping menace and other insecurity problems from further deteriorating and save the region from collapsing."
Alhaji Mannir also urged the government to rise up to the challenge as the much talk-about agricultural revolution may not succeed with the present security challenge, especially in the north.
'FG working to address challenges'
The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had admitted the security challenges facing the farmers but assured that everything was being done to address the challenge.
He said Agro Rangers were set up after inter-ministerial meetings on the issue within the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The agro rangers are meant to be sent to about 3000 registered commercial farms to guard them against any form of security threats.
But farmers spoken to said the arrangement has not been working as they don't have access to them.
Assistant Commandant-General (ACG) Adamu Soja, who is in charge of the Agro ranger unit of NSCDC, declined comments on the activities of the rangers when one our reporters called him on phone yesterday.
He referred the reporter to the Commandant-General of the Corps for details.