By Wole Mosadomi
MONTHS of incessant attacks and killings by terrorists, bandits, and armed robbers have taken a serious toll on farming in Niger State.
This is because farmers have since rejected entreaties by the state government to return to their communities and farmlands and continue with food production in order to prevent food shortages and famine.
The farmers are afraid that they could be killed in large numbers by rampaging bandits and cattle rustlers given the way they have boldly been going about stealing, destroying and killing without any series response from the security agencies.
Findings by Arewa Voice indicate that many of the farmers, who relocated to Minna, the state capital, prefer to start small scale subsistence farming to make a living rather than return to their communities which have been taken over by bandits.
In an interview, some of the farmers told our correspondent that they were pained to have been relocated from their ancestral homes leaving their farmlands fallow for many months.
One of them, Abdullahi Garba Kuta said he had to relocate to Minna, the state capital for safety reasons after series of unwarranted attacks by bandits. “I am from Erena but my wife and two children have been killed by bandits who invaded our village last year.
It is also unfortunate that my barn with foodstuffs and seedlings have been ransacked and set ablaze after the brutal killing of my wife and children and many others in the community.
“Even if I want to go back to my village, there is no place to go and nothing to fall back on to start a new life. That is why I am forced to stay back around Minna to farm on the little land space allocated to me by friends,” Kuta said with sobs.
Another displaced farmer from Allawa in Shiroro Local Government Area, Baba Audu, said even if he is assured of safety by the government, he would not be convinced to return home until the security situation improves further.
“I have large farms with different crops like yam, Maize, millet and others. I had a bumper harvest last year but the invasion of the community by bandits caused us to lose everything including foodstuffs, domestic animals, houses, barns and valuables.
These enemies of progress set our homes and barns on fire after carting every valuable away,” Audu lamented. “Life is more precious to me than farming and it is only the living who can produce food and embark on other activities,” he said.
A youth leader, who is also Shiroro Youth Convener, Comrade Jibrin Allawa, told our correspondent that there was no security in the area to warrant anyone returning to farm there. According to him, only three out of the eight wards in the area have any form of security presence, adding that they were all living in fear given the incessant attacks by bandits.
The Vice Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Niger State Chapter, Engineer Abdulraham Yusuf, said it was apparent that the state would witness poor food production this year and the next due to the negative effect of banditry on farming and food production. Yusuf said that the problem of banditry coupled with climate change would pose serious challenges to food availability in the state and Nigeria.
“Certainly, production is going to be poor, harvest is going to be poor and it is going to be poorer with the effect of these bandits because they have displaced the real farmers and presently, the prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed and it is going to be higher next year,” he remarked.
Yusuf pointed out that with the refusal of most of the large scale farmers from the 18 LGAs which have been infested with bandits; it would be very difficult for the few areas to produce enough food for the state and its people.
He said, “What most of them have done is to relocate to more peaceful areas where they are sure they can cultivate and harvest no matter how small it is.
“Last year, they cultivated but most of them could not harvest. Those who harvested had their barns either looted and the remnants burnt down with nothing to fall back on. They won’t go back and besides, if you relocate to another place, you will certainly be new there because people there will just lend you part of their land which cannot be up to what you had before.
“What do you expect of a man who had about four hectares of land before and now being given only one or two hectares and these are real farmers,” he queried.
He said the assurances of protection being given the farmers by government to go back to their farms is not enough to convince them because attacks and kidnapping are still unabated across the state.