Bandits and criminal elements in north west Nigeria have turned themselves into tax collectors, milking defenceless farmers.
A BBC Hausa Service report said farming villagers in Zamfara, Katsina and parts of Kaduna are now at the mercy of the well armed bandits.
They ask the farmers to pay hefty taxes before harvesting their crops.
Sometimes they collect the tax and still steal the harvest.
“This security crisis has forced many farmers to lose their farms, a situation that is expected to lead to food shortages in Nigeria”, said the report.
According to the report, villagers in Zamfara said the militants are extorting millions of dollars in taxes before allowing them to harvest their crops.
A resident of Kurmi village in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State told the BBC that the gunmen in early November set N800,000 in taxes before letting them farm their crops.
“There are neighbouring villages such as Duhuwar Saulawa, Duhuwar Maikulungu, Baudi, Zagadi, Doka and Tungar Makeri.
“After they paid the money and when they went to work [on the farm] the gunmen took them,” he said.
A local resident also said the crops are being confiscated by the bandits.
“After the operation was over, the gunmen chased away the farmers and stole their produce.”
According to the farmers, the gunmen confiscated their produce worth millions of naira and failed to keep their promise not to kidnap them.
As a result, they spend the night with one eye wide open and are impoverished because their crops and little money have been confiscated.
“You see people in Duhuwa Saulawa have paid more than N300,000 but they have not been able to enter their farms. Now if you enter our farms you will see that there is a drought on the ground, rice is plentiful. We want to harvest, but there is no chance”, he said.
Villagers say the situation has further plunged them into poverty. “No farming no grazing.”
The report quoted the Nigeria Police Force as saying it is doing its best, and will continue to provide special security.
Zamfara state army spokesman SP Mohammaed Shehu called on villagers to stop paying taxes to the militants, saying doing so would encourage them to continue their attacks.
But locals said there is no way they will stop paying taxes to the bandits as the government has failed to protect their lives and property.
Previously, the Zamfara state government said it has reached an agreement with the bandits to stop the attacks, but attacks are escalating, the report said.