KADUNA – Terrorists in the Birnin Gwari area of Kaduna State have extorted from poor farmers of the area at least N400m in taxes, plus an additional 20 per cent of their farm produce.
The unacceptable extortion, plus the call to arms against the terrorists made by the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Mattawalle, has increased the resolve of the Birnin Gwari people to defend themselves by any means possible.
These disclosures were made by a community leader in Birnin Gwari, Alhaji Zubairu Idris Abdulra’uf.
Abdulra’uf, a former managing director of the Kaduna State Media Corporation (KSMC), said the people of Birnin-Gwari have already been pushed to the wall by the bandits and welcomed the self-defence option directed by Mattawalle.
He said the frequency of the attacks has completely paralyzed economic activities in Birnin Gwari due to the activities of the bandits.
The community leader was quoted by Nation Newspaper saying: “We have reached the point of no return. People are being pushed to the wall.
“Yesterday, the people of Randegi confronted these bandits who tried to overrun Randegi, a farming community, and they succeeded in dislodging these bandits. So, I think our people are now ready if the government cannot perform its constitutional function.
“Randegi is one of the areas where these bandits have their routes through Zamfara State to Niger State.
“When you talk of Birnin-Gwari Local Government as a whole, it is between N300 million to N400 million paid to these bandits.
“There are three stages of paying these types of taxes to these bandits. You have to pay pre-season and mid-season when the crops are about to start yielding. You will pay these bandits because they will not allow you to have access to your farm.
“Then, at the end of the season when you are harvesting, you will give these bandits money before you access your farm.
“And when you access your farm after paying these taxes, they will now tell you that apart from giving them money, you will give a ratio of two bags of every 10 bags of all the assorted grains you harvest.
“For the past three years, this is what Birnin-Gwari people have been enduring and we are now in a state of hopelessness and frustration. When people are frustrated, they will now look for the best option for themselves which is to arm themselves if the government cannot protect them.
“We are living in a situation where people can no longer work or even travel one kilometre from Birnin-Gwari town to other areas and it is the same thing that we have in all the districts in Birnin Gwari.
“If something is not done, we are going to have food crisis. Birnin-Gwari used to produce at least 700 metric tonnes of assorted grains but now people cannot access their farms.
“There are many cases, since the beginning of this rainy season, that people are being abducted on their way to the farm and even the cattle they use for farming are being collected from them.”