Tuesday , April 16 2024
Farmers

Reign of terror: 165 farmers killed March, farms deserted as bandits demand N3bn

130 farmers killed in four Benue LGs, 28 in Sokoto, sorghum production falls by 90% in Borno

Benue farmers lose N1.1bn to attacks, Sokoto growers pay N3bn ransoms, N5m paid in Delta

No fewer than 165 farmers have lost their lives to attacks by bandits, who have hindered access to farms across the country, findings by The PUNCH have shown.

Farmers in Benue, Sokoto, Niger, Plateau, and other states, in separate interviews with our correspondents on Tuesday, lamented that they did not only lose crops to the rampaging bandits but many of their colleagues were also killed by the hoodlums. They added that they had abandoned their farms following the rising attacks by the bandits.

Out of the 165 farmers killed this year, the highest number was recorded in Benue State, where 130 of them were killed by the bandits.

The Association of Nigerian Farmers in the state told GISTFOX NEWS on Tuesday that 130 farmers were killed by bandits in four local government areas of the state this month (March). Also, in Sokoto State, 28 farmers have been killed since the beginning of the year, while six farmers lost their lives in Niger State during bandit’s attacks. One farmer was murdered by bandits in Plateau State.

In Sokoto State, the association lamented that not less than N3bn had been paid by its members as ransoms to bandits, who kidnapped them from their farms.

There has been an upsurge in banditry recently with over 295 victims being held hostage by kidnappers in Sokoto, Kaduna, and Borno states.

Lamenting the implications on farming The Benue State Chairman of the AFAN, Aondongu Saaku, told GISTFOX NEWS that six farmers were kidnapped in the state in the last two weeks.

According to him, farmers lost over N1.1bn to bandits’ attacks in the last few months in Benue State.

Saaku said, “The figure I will give you is for March alone so you can know the gravity of what farmers in the state are passing through.

“Six farmers were kidnapped in their farms. No fewer than 130 farmers were also killed in Kwande, Ukum, Agatu, and Apa LGAs.”

Asked to quantify what his members might have lost, the Benue State AFAN chairman replied, “It’s difficult to quantify because how do we quantify those farm crops that were harvested and burnt by the bandits?

“It’s huge. We will be talking about something around N1.1bn, because many farmers lost the whole farm, some over 100 bags of rice, several thousands of tuber of yams and the seeds, cassava chips, corn and a host of others.”

Saaku stated that going to the farm now was between life and death, “because in as much as one doesn’t have another source of income, you have to risk it and go to the farm. If you are caught and killed, that is your fate; and if you go and come back alive, it’s your luck.”

He, however, called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on security, warning that Nigerians were at risk of heavy famine shortly if nothing is done to arrest the insecurity plaguing the country.

Farmers in Borno State noted that the production of sorghum and other crops had fallen by 90 per cent in the state.

Eight Delta farmers

On their part, farmers in Delta State stated on Tuesday that about eight of them were kidnapped last week and paid between N1m and N5m each as ransoms.

Farmers in Ika North-East and Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State said they could not access their farms following the incessant kidnapping in the state.

A farmer, Mr Okwudili Uti, in the Ute-Okpu community, said, “My brother we passing through hell now, as I speak we cannot go to farm again. The kidnappers have been kidnapping our people.

“In Ute-Okpu, Ute-Erumu, Abavo and communities around the Ika North-East, recently when the kidnapping started, we usually go to farms in groups. But last week, about eight farmers were kidnapped, and some paid ransoms of between N1m and N5m.

“Our farm produce have all gone bad in the farms because we cannot go to the farm even in groups, due to the fear of being kidnapped.”

The Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Delta State, Mr Rechard Asemina, said virtually all the farmers in the state could not access their farms.

“Currently, not only farmers in Ika North-East and Aniocha South but also those in Ugheli, Abraja, and other places cannot access their farms. We don’t know what to do now. We are appealing to the government to come to our aid because we are in trouble in Delta State.

“Even those who summon courage and manage to get to their farms, find out that your farm produce has been damaged by cows.’’

Sokoto loses over N3bn

Also, the Chairman of AFAN in Sokoto State, Jamilu Sanusi, said members lost over N3bn to ransom payments to bandits in the state.

He also explained that over 80 per cent of people in the internally displaced persons camps in Sokoto were farmers.

Sanusi stated, “We are the major people who suffer most when we talk of these bandits’ activities in the state. Over 80 per cent of those people you see at the various IDP camps are farmers who are all displaced by the activities of the so-called bandits.

“If I have to give you a rough estimate of how much money we have paid to these people in the past two years, it should be more than N3bn.

“This is apart from what we are losing on each farming season as a result of our people who have to abandon their farms and relocate to IDP camps for fear of being attacked.

“Not less than 10,000 hectares of land could not be cultivated for over three years now, in which in each farming season, a farmer can make up to N1m or more. About 28 farmers have been killed this year. “

Sanusi called on the state government to sustain the tempo of the state security outfit, Sokoto Community Guard Corps, stressing that with their presence in the remote areas, security might improve when compared to what obtained in the past.

In Plateau State, farmers stated that they were constantly under threat of being kidnapped by bandits.

The state Chairman, AFAN, Sako Danboyi, said he was in a meeting when contacted over the issue, but a farmer in Bokkos LGA, Stephen Garuba, confirmed the development.

Garuba said, “I cannot tell you how many of our members have been kidnapped, but honestly, farmers in Bokkos are having a lot of challenges, especially in the area of security.

“We are finding it difficult to go to our farms. In some communities like Yelwa Nunu, the residents who are mainly farmers are yet to return to the community after they were initially chased away by bandits. Even we that are in Bokkos town are not safe either. Some weeks ago, a man was shot dead and his wife was kicked by some hoodlums who attacked his house.

“So, you can understand what we are facing. We are aware of the efforts of the state government to protect farmers and ensure that they go to the farm, but more should be done to achieve the objective.”

The Chairman of AFAN in Jos North LGA, Umar Fodio, expressed hope that with the renewed support to farmers in the state by the state government, farmers would heave a sigh of relief in the coming rainy season.

Farmers in Niger State now avoid their farms in some local governments notorious for bandits attacks.

The farmers adopted this practice as the last option after the bandits operating in those troubled areas persistently attacked and abducted farmers who dared to defy them.

The bandits had also reportedly set farm produce worth millions of naira ablaze and demanded that the farmers must pay levies before they would be allowed to harvest their crops.

Some of these Local Governments include Munya, Shiroro, Meriga, Paikoro, Rafi Mashegu, Wushishi and Borgu. There are 25 local government areas in the state.

In one of the incidents which occurred in 2023, the bandits reportedly killed 55 farmers and abducted a good number of them including women and children.

In February, this year the bandits reportedly killed six farmers and abducted over 20 women.

In another incident in February, security operatives were said to have rescued 16 farmers kidnapped at Dan-Gunu Community of Munya Local Government Area of Niger State.

The bandits reportedly stormed the community and kidnapped the victims, including pregnant women and children.

Munya LGA Chairman, Abdulhamid Najume, confirmed the attack and explained how the victims were rescued when he said, “We had an emergency security meeting after which we mobilised security operatives and dispersed them to go after the bandits.

“Luckily, they were able to rescue all the kidnapped victims. Currently, they are receiving medical care at a hospital after which they will be reunited with their families.”

A leader of the Rice Farmers Association in Minna, the state capital, Abdullah Imam, said farmers avoid anything to do with those Local Governments known for attacks by bandits.

“No farmer wants to lose his life or even his farm produce. Everyone is avoiding those places. Even farmers whose ancestral homes and farmlands used to be those places have given them up. It is better to lose farmlands than lose one’s life.

“The government and the military must do something to address the problem. These bandits are still there and imagine the vast land in those places. Now farmers don’t want to go near those places because of bandits. This will surely have an impact on the harvest of the coming year because if farmers do not farm on those lands the harvest will not be much,” Imam said.

This came as farmers in Ondo State, under the auspices of the Cocoa and Plantain Farmers Association of Nigeria, appealed to President Bola Tinubu to find urgent solutions to the incessant bandit attacks on farmers and their produce.

The group lamented the countless number of farmers who lost their lives, while many had been kidnapped on the farms.

Speaking in Akure, Ondo State capital, the National President of the Cocoa and Plantain Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Ayodele Ojo, decried the incessant killing of farmers and destruction of their farmlands.

He said, ”We don’t know what is happening. The insecurity in the land is getting out of hand. We want Mr. President to look into it as a matter of urgency. Farmers cannot access their farms to harvest their farm produce even though the produce is due for harvest.

“Bandits have harvested some of the farm products, they kidnap our members (farmers) while we also pay ransom for their freedom.

“Some of the hoodlums are now in control of the farms of some of our members, and we are in a very difficult situation now because we are not allowed to visit our farms again. Many of us have not been to the farms for weeks now because of the fear of being kidnapped.”

Farming declines in Nasarawa

Farmers in Nasarawa State also lamented that the issue of banditry and kidnapping in the state had stopped many of them from going to their farms.

Farmers who were victims of recent attacks in Keana and Nasarawa Eggon local government areas of the state expressed deep concern over the persistent attacks on their communities by yet-to-be-identified gunmen.

They, therefore, called on the security agencies to as a matter of urgency, provide adequate security to communities prone to attacks across the state.

One of the farmers in the Keana LGA, Musa Yamusa, stated that quite several farmers in the area had deserted their homes and completely stopped going to farms as a result of the insecurity in the area.

“What we are passing through in our farms is not easy to describe. The situation is quite pathetic. Before now, we did go to our farms daily but since the insecurity increased in the state, we have not been frequent at our farmlands because we are scared of being attacked by gunmen.

“We need assistance from both the federal and state governments to address the security challenges. They should assist us in this predicament because most of us rely solely on farming. If we do not go to our farms, we will not be able to eat or take care of our families,” he stated.

Another farmer in the Lizzin-Keffi area of Nasarawa Eggon LGA, Alaku Ibrahim, said the activities of bandits in the area had made many farmers lose their valuables, adding that they were most times attacked by the bandits while going to their farms.

Speaking on the security situation in the state, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Abdullahi Sule on Public Affairs, Peter Ahemba, said the state government was already collaborating with security agencies to provide adequate security for all residents of the state.

He said, “Insecurity is a thing of concern in almost every state of the federation at the moment. But as a responsible government, we will continue to do everything within our power to collaborate with the security agencies to ensure that all residents of Nasarawa State do not go through any kind of challenge in accessing their farmlands or going about their daily activities.

“Governor Abdullahi Sule is fully ready to serve the people of the state, and I can assure you that the security of everyone in Nasarawa State is a top priority to him.”

In Borno State, though no one could put a figure on the number of farmers killed in the state, it should be noted that in the 2023 farming season, no fewer than 100 farmers were reportedly butchered.

At least 30 of them were slaughtered by the terrorists as they were clearing the fields for the cultivation of crops, as this happened across the local government areas of Jere, Mafa, and Konduga, which surround the Maiduguri metropolis.

The state Chairman of the Sorghum Farmers and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Goni Alhaji Adam, said production of Sorghum in the state had fallen by 90 per cent

“While I can only say hundreds, reported and unreported, have been killed by Boko Haram across the state over the last few years, terror activities have drastically reduced sorghum and related crops production to between 80 percent and 90 percent,” he stated.

The Secretary, AFAN, Ogun State, Mr Abiodun Ogunjinmi, said farmers in the state were currently contending with the problem of indiscriminate grazing by some ruthless herders, stressing that this posed a threat to food security.

Although he noted that the state had not recorded abductions or killing of farmers lately, some herders had through their indiscriminate grazing continued to destroy farmers’ investment in the state.

Kaduna rice farmer

In Kaduna, farmers under the aegis of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, have also lamented over the security challenges in the state.

They said they could no longer access their farms due to insecurity in the state.

Speaking to GISTFOX NEWS, Chairman of the Kaduna Chapter of the Association, Alhaji Mohammed Umar Numbu, the security situation had forced their members to stay home for fear of being attacked by bandits.

He stated, “It has instilled fears in farmers such that they can no longer venture into their farms. Most of our members who are about 72,000 cannot go to farms now.’’

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