THE Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has been in the news for the widely rejected proposal to create cattle colonies in all the states of Nigeria. Soon, he and the President Muhammadu Buhari administration might be back on the front pages for another crisis which is rapidly building up unnoticed.
The threat of massive famine in 2018 and 2019 is becoming a reality to those close to Nigeria’s farmlands. In the past, food shortages had occurred on account of unfavourable weather or pest infestation. Low rainfall or excessive flooding as well as locust attacks had in the past also resulted in low food productivity.
This year, the country is likely to experience the first full blow of the crisis occasioned by armed herdsmen’s attacks on farmers nationwide which had resulted in losses of lives and property and the displacement of thousands of farmers from the rural areas to safe havens far away from their farms.
In most cases, these attacks were accompanied with the burning of homes of the farmers, destruction or looting of their food storage facilities or the occupation and grazing on their farmlands by cows and herdsmen. Even if the ongoing military operations are successful, most displaced farmers will find it difficult to resume their farming.
Government’s tardiness to put a stop to the armed Fulani herdsmen atrocities has created a situation in which farmers are unable to harvest what is left of their ravaged farms because they are either in refugee camps or are on the run for their lives. Most of them are also not planning to return home soon to start planning for the planting season which starts anytime from now. With millions of farmers not harvesting now and not planting for the next season, it requires no prophet to predict a looming famine.
The blame should lie squarely at the doorsteps of the Federal Government which failed to mobilise the security forces to effectively provide security when the attacks intensified over the past couple of years. Media reports of these attacks were totally ignored, until the Benue State Government decided to conduct a state funeral for the victims of the New Year Day massacres on live television.
We are raising this alarm to enable the Federal and state governments to brace up for the food shortages ahead and plan to mitigate them. All efforts must be made to eliminate the herdsmen threat. The nomadic livestock operators should be persuaded and assisted to accept the ranching option. There is no other way forward than this.
The armed foreigners and their local accomplices must be apprehended and dealt with. Special plans must be made to resettle, rehabilitate and provide special funding to enable our farmers go back to work in safety and security.