The awaited rainy season when farmers in this part of the world will resume their farming activities to ensure the availability of food in the country for Nigerians is almost here.
Generally, the first rainfall in Nigeria is usually expected in the month of March which is a few days from now.
Unlike other years when farmers in the country expressed joy in anticipation for the farming season, 2021 seems different as farming activities in the year may be marred by increasing insecurity due to the incessant herdsmen crisis and the increasing rate of kidnapping by bandits and other suspected criminals across the country.
Many states in Nigeria have recently witnessed unusual security challenges beginning from late 2020 till date.
It could be recalled that on September 27, 2020, suspected bandits killed five farmers at Yanteba village in Malumfashi Local Government Area of Katsina State.
The bandits were reported to have stormed the village on a reprisal attack after three of their colleagues were allegedly killed by community members.
In another development, suspected bandits on November 30, 2020, killed seven farmers, including a nursing mother, in three communities of Tashar Bama, Dogun Muazu, and Unguwar Maigayya villages, all in Sabuwa Local Government Area of Katsina State.
A member of the Katsina State House of Assembly representing the area, Ibrahim Danjuma Machika, confirmed the killings on the floor of the House while sponsoring a motion for the reinforcement of security in some villages in his constituency, said the security agencies appeared helpless over the situation.
He said: “Apart from the number killed, the bandits abducted a total of 30 other villagers from the affected communities.
“The hoodlums may have changed from their previous method of launching their offensives on villages at night as they currently attack the people in broad daylight.
“Our people now live in fear as the bandits now carry out attacks in our villages in broad daylight. They kill the people, cart away their property and kidnap as many people as they can.
“There is no day, bandits don’t attack one community or another and the people no longer sleep in their houses.”
Aside from being the largest producer of cotton in the country, Katsina State is also known for the production of millet, guinea corn, groundnut, maize, beans, rice, and wheat.
DAILY POST recalls that a resident of Dankurmi village in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State reportedly cried out on November 12, 2020, that his community pays tax and “harvest fees” to bandits to enable them to access their farmland.
“Our people have stopped going to their farmlands for fear of being kidnapped or killed. Kidnapping has become a common phenomenon in this area.
“Bandits are now the ones who decide whether we go to farms or not, in some areas even if farmers plant crops they cannot cultivate due to insecurity.
“In my village, we pay N800,000 as tax and N900,000 as harvest fees. Even if you pay, they will come to your farm and abduct you. These Fulani herdsmen are our problem here in Zamfara, only God can help us”, he said.
Meanwhile, Just a few days ago, about three farmers were slaughtered in the Ijugbere axis of Owo Local Government Area (LGA) of Ondo State following an attack on a community.
Akin Olotu, Senior Special Assistant on Agriculture to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu who confirmed the incident, said those criticizing the Governor for issuing a seven-day ultimatum to herders should be charged as accomplices in the attack.
We reported that the Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, on January 18 this year, gave seven days ultimatum to herdsmen to immediately vacate forest reserves within the state.
Akeredolu who fumed over the nefarious activities of herdsmen across the state stated that his administration would not fold its arms and allow a few individuals to turn the State into a haven of dare-devil criminals.
Akeredolu’s order generated several controversies as even the president argued that ”insecurity is not alien to any group, the language they speak, their geographical location or their faith.”
Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, in a statement, encouraged the state government to tackle all forms of criminality but not to breach the rights of herders in the state.
Meanwhile, we correspondent engaged some farmers in a telephone chat to ascertain their level of preparedness towards the resumption of farming activities as the rainy season returns.
A rice farmer in Benue State, Mr. Terlumun Peter told us that the farming season may be tough as everyone is scared of going to bushes for the fear of being kidnapped by bandits.
“In Katsina-Ala here, we don’t move on the streets anyhow as we used to do, not to talk of going to the farm alone.
“It is better we die of hunger than to die in the hands of these notorious bandits that have no human conscience,” he said.
Also, a Cocoa farmer in Ondo State, Mr. Augustine Abakpa told us that the level of insecurity in the place has reduced production as many have ventured into other businesses in town for the fear of attacks, abduction, or rape in the rural community.
“Cocoa plantation is usually in secluded areas, almost synonymous with forest, and many forests have been hijacked by these bandits and herders, so it’s so difficult to go to farm here.
“We only put our trust in God that he is able to protect us,” he said.
An agricultural consultant, Mr. Bernard Ugah spoke to us from Makurdi that except the government can put up necessary security measures to restore normalcy before the season comes, there would be famine in the country.
“Farmers are no longer ready to go to their farmland. Of course, no one wants to be killed, abducted, or raped by any bandit.
“There should be an urgent intervention from the government at all levels to forestall this ugly trend of kidnapping, killing, and other criminal activities in the country.
“You can recall that there were serious security issues during the harvest season last year, so some farmers were not able to harvest their farm produces especially in Katsina where many farmers were abducted ending of 2020.
“What happens is that when farmers are not able to harvest, there will be ‘seed’ problem in the following year,” he stated.
However, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Monday, said the Federal Government was working hard to ensure that normalcy returns to rural areas where there have been crises among farmers and the herdsmen before the rainy season begins.
Lawan said this while addressing State House Correspondents shortly after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock.
According to him, “I have come to meet with Mr. President, to discuss the issue of security of our nation. And in fact, there is nothing more important today or more topical than the security of Nigeria.
“We have discussed, we had a very extensive discussion on the security of all parts of Nigeria, and how we should go about improving the situation, we all have roles to play.
“Nobody would like to see the kind of thing that we experience in various parts of the country in the form of insecurity. As political leaders, we cannot shy away from that, we have to get our people secured; we have to secure the environment for them to earn the means of livelihood.
“We would like to see our farmers go back to farms before the rainy season starts. And this means we have to secure the rural parts of Nigeria as well as the urban centers because we need businesses to flourish.
“So, I believe that between now and probably the next two months, there will be a lot of activities to ensure that we secure our environments for people to lead a very normal life, where we also believe that the government is headed in the right direction.”
When contacted for comment on preparation for the safety of farmers, the Police Public Relations Officer, FHQ, CP Frank Mba was unable to take calls and could not respond to the text message forwarded to him by us.
Similarly, a call put across to the number provided on the website of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture could not be reached as at press time.