Emir of Katsina: “Tell the president that we have to take care of our people, security first”

President Muhammadu Buhari’s agriculture sector initiatives may yield no success if the insecurity devastating Nigeria’s northwest persists, the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumini Usman, suggested on Monday.

According to Daily Trust, the Emir told the Minister for Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, that farmers and herdsmen who are the target beneficiaries of government initiatives have abandoned their farms and herds as killings and kidnappings spiral in the region, which includes Katsina, Mr Buhari’s home state.

Mr Ogbe was in the Katsina palace, alongside the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, ahead of the national launch of the distribution of cotton seeds/inputs to farmers for the 2019 planting season, the newspaper reported.

But the Emir seized the moment to lament the level of insecurity in the region, which appears to be deteriorated as the so-called bandits continue to kidnap and kill from Abuja-Kaduna highway to rural communities across the northwest.

There are no reliable statistics on the incidents but Punch newspaper reported that 41 persons were killed last week in Zamfara State alone and reports of kidnappings and killings in other states, including Kaduna, feature in the dailies almost every day.

“Every day I receive reports of kidnapping and killings from the district and village heads,” the Emir said, as reported by Daily Trust.

Speaking to the visiting minister, he said: “Tell the president that we have to take care of our people, security first. All these programmes, as good as they are, cannot be (successful) without security. Security is first and fundamental.

He continued: “What are you to gain by killing, kidnapping people? It’s very unfortunate. I have not seen this kind of country; how do we live like animals? Three days ago, Magaji Gari (of Daura emirate council) was abducted. Nobody is safe now, whether in your house or road, wherever you are.

“What we want you to do for us is to stop the fight. Many people have deserted, abandoned their farms in fear of kidnapping and killings and other atrocities. It’s very unfortunate.”

Although there is an ongoing military operation to restore calm in the northwest, the region has remained troubled. Daily Trust had previously reported that Nigerians in Katsina were fleeing to the neighbouring Niger Republic to escape the persistent attacks.

The northwest is the latest addition to Nigeria’s regions where conflicts have risen beyond the police constabulary role and required military deployment.

Others are the oil-rich Niger Delta, the Middle Belt or north-central which is affected by the herdsmen-farmers’ conflicts and the northeast that is ravaged by the Boko Haram terrorism.

In the past week, federal lawmakers in both the Senate and House of Representatives lamented the worsening insecurity in the region. Between April 11 and last Thursday, the Reps twice summoned Mr Buhari over the crisis.

The motion leading to the latest summon last Thursday was sponsored by a lawmaker from Mr Buhari’s Katsina home state, Ahmed Safana.

“For the last one year, Wallahi, I can’t go to my village and sleep,” one lawmaker Adamu Chika said during Thursday’s proceedings. Overwhelmed by emotion, the lawmaker wept as he asked: “Mr Speaker, where are we going?”

At the time, the president was in the United Kingdom on a “private visit”. On his arrival on Sunday, after 10 days, he appeared to be trivialising the insecurity when asked if the public should expect a new strategy.

“No. I have just seen the IG, I think he is losing weight. I think he is working very hard,” he replied, referring to the police insepctor general.

His lighthearted response to a deadly crisis many Nigerians believe should be considered a national emergency, sparked outrage.

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