Farmers and traders have attributed the hike in the prices of farm produce, goods and other essential items to extortion by security agencies at various checkpoints during the course of transportation.
This was made known by Farmers and traders travelling through Bagudo in Bagudu Local Government Area of Kebbi State on Sunday as they lament incessant extortion by security operatives at various checkpoints along the road.
The road, which runs through the local government area, links Nigeria with the Republic of Benin.
Alhaji Tukur Muhammad, Secretary of Amana Farmers and Grains Suppliers Association of Nigeria in the area, said: “From Tsamiya Market, a grain supplier loading a truck with 600 bags of maize or millet has to pay extortion of not less than N600,000 to be allowed to reach Argungu and Birnin Kebbi.
“We pay N1,000 per 100kg bag of grains loaded in trucks, and N500 for a bag on a motorcycle”
He added: “Even if you are not carrying anything on your motorcycle, but you are going to the market, you have to pay an extortion of N300.
“We are citizens of this country. As farmers and marketers, we are always taking the blame of not doing enough to reduce prices of the essential commodities. Unknown to many people, it is not our making.
“It is this extortion that has been contributing a lot to the hike in prices of commodities.”
However, Muhammad urged the state government to enforce its collection of Internally Generated Revenue and prevent all illegal revenue collections and extortions.
“This will serve as safeguard to all people against illegal collection of revenue and enable the state government to generate what ought to go to its coffers,” the association’s scribe said.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the association, Alhaji Rabi’u Mainasara, also lamented the extortion.
Mainasara said: “From Bagudu to Tsamiya, they have mounted 44 checkpoints on the road, where each trader or farmer must pay certain amounts of money at every checkpoint before he is allowed to go through.
“The security agencies comprise the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
“Security operatives posted to man Maje, Saranfo and Wara Tsamiya checkpoints on the road to the border with Benin Republic in Bagudo Local Government Area also extort residents of the area.”
Mainasara appealed to the federal and Kebbi State governments and heads of security agencies concerned to intervene to stop the practice so that people would not resort to self-help.
On his part, Alhaji Abubakar Usman-Tsamiya, a councillor in the area, lamented that residents were angered by the extortion.
Usman-Tsamiya noted that the people would have revolted but for the intervention of some stakeholders.
He said: “We are calling on the Kebbi government to pay attention to this Tsamiya Market.
“This market is an international market that serves people from Nigeria and Benin Republic.
“The market is congested and it has no space to accommodate the people trooping in for buying and selling.
“The latest Internally Generated Revenue report released by the National Bureau of Statistics rated Kebbi low in IGR collection.
“The government can expand the market to international standard, mobilise its revenue collection staff and use the market to augment its IGR base.”
When contacted, police spokesman in the state, Nafi’u Abubakar, denied knowledge of the extortion, but said it would be investigated.
Abubakar, a Superintendent of Police, said: “I don’t know of that situation but I know there was an incident on Thursday on Bagudu-Tsamiya Road where there was blockade and members of the public were complaining about extortion by security agencies.
“On hearing about the situation, Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Chris Aimionowane, instructed the commander in the area to intervene and the latter acted swiftly to calm the situation.
“We are still waiting for feedback from our commander in the area.”