Farming communities in Benue and Nasarawa states have come under persistent attacks in recent times, sparking concerns of possible food crisis if nothing is done urgently to address the situation, Daily Trust reports.
Farmers in the crisis-ridden areas of Benue and Nasarawa states are in a dilemma at the moment as constant attacks by gunmen have forced many of them out of their farms.
These farmers have continued to lament their inability to go to their farms, especially at the onset of the rainy season.
In Benue, most of the affected farmers in different local government areas of the state are worried about the situation, which they said might have repercussions on food production in the coming months.
While those in places like Guma, Makurdi, Gwer West, Logo, amongst other areas are languishing at different displaced persons camps, others from the Sankera axis are facing difficult movement following certain measures put in place by the Governor Samuel Ortom-led government to curtail insecurity bedeviling the area.
Suspected armed herders chased some of these farmers away from home since 2018, while those at Sankera are mainly bedeviled by the activities of local bandits, as well as armed herders’ invasion.
Sankera consists of three local government areas – Kastina-Ala, Ukum and Logo.
Farmers and other business owners are finding it extremely difficult to move their products from one point to another or go about their farming activities in Sankera.
For Sankera farmers, the state government’s ban on the use of old model Toyota Corolla, said to be popularly used in the area for criminality, in addition to an earlier ban on the use of motorcycles of all kinds in the area pending further review of the security situation, have affected them on one side while the invasion of armed herders in the Logo area dealt them another blow.
Memga Grace, a farmer in Ukum Local Government Area, expressed concern over the ban, saying it had inflicted hardship on the people, largely perceived to be the highest producers of yam in the state.
“The people in my area are really suffering. Insecurity is taking a hard toll on us. From the beginning, the government banned the use of bikes, and recently, the use of Duck Nyash (old model Toyota Corolla).
“In Benue, we have a vast land for farming. Most of the farmlands are far from home and you can’t go there on foot, so farmers make use of their bikes.
“We can’t go to the farm any longer. It is affecting me personally because we have a bike my mother is using and a Toyota Corolla my father also uses. Right now, my father has to park his car in the village and my mum can’t use her bike. We are finding it difficult to go to those farms that are not close to the house.
“This is planting season and we need to take yam seedlings to the farm, which is far, and the seedlings are many. It is not something you can carry on the head and trek. With the current security situation, we are in a fix. We are really suffering,’’ she said.
Also, a farmer in Tor Donga community of Kastina-Ala, Iorliam Jastrow Aondonwo, said the challenges were enormous, such that many farmers in the area, including him, have resorted to fasting and praying for God to touch the government to reverse some of its tough measures.
Aondonwo said peasant farmers were mostly affected, adding that the ban on motorcycles, their major source of movement, forced them to stop going to farm.
He said, “People in the area have now resorted to trekking. The situation is a serious one, and if government’s decision is not reviewed, there will be shortage of food and we will have to rely on food supply outside the state.
“In the meantime, we (farmers) have resorted to praying in churches for the government to reverse the decision. I believe there are other ways the government can check the activities of the ‘bad boys’ instead of the ban on vehicles, which is causing us so much pain.’’
Similarly, David Avase, a farmer who has lived in displaced persons camps with his family since 2018 as a result of attack on their Abagena home, said food crisis was imminent unless something is done on time to avert the current situation.
Also, the state chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Aondongu Saaku, said insecurity had affected farming, adding that the worsening situation would further aggravate food crisis in the country as farmers can no longer go to their farms for fear of being killed.
He described the situation as terrible and said famine would hit the country except the present situation is contained, noting that the outrageous hike in food prices in various markets point to looming food crisis.
Also, farmers in Nasarawa State, whose communities came under attack recently, have equally been forced to abandon their farms.
A number of such farmers said they would not go back unless the state government deployed more security personnel to the affected areas.
One of such communities is Ajimaka, a Tiv settlement in Doma Local Government Area. The community came under attack on April 24, 2021.
During the attack by suspected herdsmen, no fewer than 18 villagers, mostly farmers, were killed while properties were destroyed.
Some of the farmers who spoke to our correspondent in Lafia described the attacks as unprovoked.
Other villages that were attacked by the gunmen are Dooshima, Antsa, Dooka, Angwan Yara, Ikyayior, Targema, Tse Tor and Chia, Umurayi, Dooga, Gindan Rail, Ajikamaka and Ankoma, all in Ekye Development Area, Doma South in Doma Local Government Area.
Narrating his ordeal, one of the victims, who specialises in dry season farming in Dooka community, Chief Augustine Kuza, informed our correspondent that his rice farm had been taken over by suspected herders.
Kuza said he spent over N1million to cultivate the farm, which, according to him, has become a “grazing ground for the herdsmen.”
“I am appealing to the federal and state governments to come to my aid,’’ he said.
Also speaking to our correspondent, a farmer with two wives and seven children, Mr Timothy Atta said, “I was in my house when I started hearing gunshots. As I was wondering where the gunshots were coming from, those Fulani herders that we have been staying with in the Ajimaka area of Doma Local Government Area came and told us that the attacks that had been going on in Benue State would not escalate to Nasarawa.’’
He expressed surprise that the place came under attack despite the assurances from herders in their community.
Reacting to the development, the state chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Samuel Michi, condemned the rising attacks and killing of farmers in the state.
Michi, who is also the chairman of Akwanga Local Government Area of the state, however, stressed the need for dialogue between the warring Tiv farmers and Fulani herders for the betterment of the agricultural sector in the state.
“We are calling on the state government and other stakeholders to try to bring the two sides on the table so that dialogue can be reached and everybody’s interest protected for the overall interest of the state and the country in general,” he said.