By Abdullahi Sadiq Mohammed
Northern Nigeria comprises of 19 states that is geopolitically subdivided into Northwest, Northeast and Northcentral Nigeria. Politically, the region produced the one and the only Prime Minister in the country in the person of Sir Abubakar Tabawa Balewa, three democratically elected presidents and four military heads of state. Agriculture and commerce are the major economic activities in the region. Before the discovery of oil, infrastructural development in the region was financed through revenue that had accrued from agriculture. It was so peaceful a region that became a melting pot of different cultures.
The hitherto peaceful region is currently embroiled in a wave of insurgency and banditry which are seriously taking toll on the economic, political and educational development of the area. The security challenge in Northern Nigeria didn’t start overnight. Boko Haram that started in 2002 as ragtag organization has morphed into an international terror group capable of attacking military barrack and formations. Similarly, the banditry started as cattle rustling with the criminals attacking villages and stealing cows of their fellow fulanis in some part of Sokoto and Zamfara State. Today, they have acquired enough experience in their heinous act and transformed into recalcitrant kidnapping syndicate that operate across all the states in the Northwest. Failure of government and community leaders to nip the problem in the bud resulted in the current monster threatening to consume us all.
The activities of kidnappers and insurgents have negatively affected the economy of the region. Farmers have been coerced to abandon their farmlands in various parts of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Borno state due to fear of being kidnapped or killed. In some places, the farmers have to pay as high as 800,000 to 900,000 naira as tax to bandits in order to access their farms. The payment of the tax was never a guarantee for freedom as the bandits can renege on their promise and whisk away their victim.
Additionally, insurgency in Northeast has brought agricultural activities to its knees in Borno state and it environs. Recently, 101 farmers working in rice field were murdered by Boko haram fighters. Farming is not only a source of food to the people of the rural areas affected by insecurity but also a means of livelihood. Therefore, the decline in agricultural produce translates into less revenue accruing to the affected households which ultimately push more people to live below poverty line.
Rice, maize, millet and sorghum grains that constitute the bulk of food Nigerians eat come from the north. The region also supplies tomatoes, onion, as well as cows to other parts of the country. Agricultural output has direct effect on poultry farming which depends to a large extend on the local farmers for supply of raw materials needed to make chicken feeds. With insecurity tightening its grip on the jugular veins of Northern Nigeria, we need no rocket science to know that the country is heading toward food crisis unless the tide has been changed.
People are abducted on the road, at home and in schools. University professor was abducted in his home at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The worst of all activities of the bandits is the abduction of 333 students who were herded away unchallenged like goats. This is the boldest activity of the group on steroid. This happened in the President’s home state at the time he is on personal vacation in the state.
The governor in a reactive response ordered closure of other secondary schools across the state. The reality is that whether schools are closed or not only a few parents in the state will allow their children to go back to boarding school again. States in Northern Nigeria already have one of the worst statistical indices in health, education and economy when compared with their counterparts in southern Nigeria. The insecurity in the region certainly will compound the problems thereby widening the educational chasm between the southern and northern Nigeria.
There are other unnoticed impacts of this insecurity in the north. For instance, in 2017, while attending conference in Helsinki Finland, I had an opportunity of having discussion with a British Professor of Ophthalmology who was interested in pro bono services in Nigeria.
I suggested Kano or Kaduna as potential state that she might consider. She instantly rejected my proposal on the ground of insecurity. At the end of the same year, Commonwealth scholars from Kaduna state were exempted from post-fellowship mentorship program by the Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium. Our colleagues in Enugu and Ebonyi state benefitted from the same program.
The security situation in northern Nigeria is getting out of control at the time when the occupants of the highest echelons in the country’ security organizations are northerners. The president is also a northerner. The big question now is who will save the north?