Steve Agbota [email protected] 08033302331
The conflicts between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria have grown, spread and intensified over the past decade and today pose a threat to national survival.
So many people have been killed, communities have been destroyed and so thousands of farmers and pastoralists have lost their lives and property in an extended act of killings and destruction. The ungodly act is not only continuously destroying livelihoods but is also affecting national unity.
The deadly attacks have scared farmers away from their farms. So many farms have been abandoned as a result of fear of being killed and raped because most of these farmers are women. It was reported that most women were being raped, molested and killed by herdsmen during attacks.
Therefore, stakeholders in the agricultural space have expressed worries over the incessant killing of farmers by herdsmen in the agrarian states, which they say, may lead to food scarcity very soon if no drastic action is taken to resolve the crisis.
Already, some states in the northern part of the country are facing hunger as a result of activities of herdsmen/Boko Haram who dislodged farmers from their farmlands. Experts opined that the conflicts will not only lead to hunger but will have economic implications on the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In 2017, some graduate commercial farmers at Oke Ako-Ipao axis of Ekiti State protested the alleged destruction of crops worth N35 million by suspected herdsmen grazing their cattle in their farm. They lamented that herdsmen operating in the Oke Ako-Ipao axis, had destroyed their maize plantation covering over 30 hectares of land and cassava planted on an expansive land of over 20 hectares.
The rate at which the herdsmen committing these crimes have increased exponentially and the crimes are thwarting the country’s economic development to an enormous extent. Farms are destroyed, crops lost and the incentive to plant anew dwindles with each attack. Yet, the Federal Government is not really addressing the economic implications of the widespread conflicts.
Daily Sun learnt that the ongoing conflict between farmers and herdsmen across the North-Central is costing Nigeria at least $14 billion in potential revenues annually.
Daily Sun investigation revealed that the average household affected by conflict today could see income increase by at least 67 per cent and potentially 220 per cent or higher, if conflicts were resolved.
Already, states like Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Taraba, Bauchi and Kaduna experience 40 per cent decrease in grains production. Over 35 per cent of grains’ local farmers abandoned their farms for herdsmen in the region, death rate increased in Benue, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa and Kaduna with 27 per cent.
Benue State seems to be the hardest hit in recent times. In January, 73 people were killed during the violent attacks on Logo and Guma in Benue State on January 1, 2018, which the Federal Government proposed cattle colony as a way to end incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen. But stakeholders have kicked against the proposal, saying only ranches can resolve the issues.
The 73 victims of the attacks were interred in a mass burial in a village near Makurdi, the state capital. In April, within a space of three days, no fewer than 24 persons were allegedly killed by suspected herdsmen in different communities in Benue State.
Apparently, it is high time the Federal Government reviewed all the recommendations, suggestions and solutions being proffered by stakeholders and international communities to resolve the conflicts.
Speaking with Daily Sun, President, Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association Nigeria (FACAN), Dr. Victor Iyama, said for Nigeria to experience food shortage soon is a statement of fact if the activities herdsmen are not curtailed.
Iyama said there was no way Nigeria won’t experience food scarcity because people who ought to farm and produce food are running away from the farms, adding, “why should you be in your farm and you will be looking left, right and centre. That is the case but I strongly believe things have to be done better. With the way they are going, I am one of those who don’t believe these people are herdsmen and that is the way I see it. Some of our farms have been attacked but in my opinion, I will not call them herdsmen. They are just a group of bandits with some ulterior motives using cow as false cover and that is the way I see it.
“In order to avert food scarcity, there is need to mount security everywhere so that farmers can farm without fear of molestation, fear of being raped, fear of being killed. By the time our women get scared to go to farm, there is a problem because majority of those in the farms are women even if men own the farms. So when it gets to a stage where women cannot go to farm, I expect that extra security should be provided. But I hope it doesn’t get to that stage.”
The Deputy Managing Director of Peniel Gerar International Limited, Ojiefoh Enahoro Martins, said that factors projected to increase high cost of food by 2019 include Fulani herdsmen activities, increase in farmers’ death, outbreak of pests and diseases, shortage and uneven distribution of rain fall, artificial migration, low turnout of investors in the sector due to activities of Fulani herdsmen and epileptic and unfruitful government policies.
He hinted that some major crops that will be source of food scarcity in the country include cassava, sesame seeds, soybeans, yam, maize, tomatoes, pepper and onions.
According to him, the price of imported rice would go up while the price of local rice would crash. He added that price of tomato and onions would increase with 40 per cent while price of local maize is expected to go up by 38 per cent.
Speaking on the way forward, he urged the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, to abolish open grazing by herdsmen while putting in place an alternative mode of grazing to stop the crisis.
He said the Minister should introduce communal farming system alongside farm settlements to encourage local farmers and reduce tension.
The Peniel Gerar International Limited boss said as matter of urgency, the Federal Government, through the Agric Minister, should revisit and revamp some silos and encourage storage while stakeholders must mobilise local farmers and encourage cooperative structure. He added that with farm settlement and communal farming system, security is sure.