End killing of farmers, grow agriculture

End killing of farmers, grow agriculture

Read in

NIGERIANS are living in very difficult times. Fresh reports that Nigerians are deserting their farms in several states due to banditry and other forms of insecurity are ruinous. In a damning report on March 20, this newspaper said that farmers are dying in scores from bandit attacks. Others are being kidnapped. The worst hit states are Benue, Sokoto, Niger, and Plateau. Also seriously affected are Kaduna, Zamfara, and Katsina.

It is not surprising that the cost of food is escalating around the country, as farmers abandon their life-long occupation over never-ending attacks. Food inflation hit 37.92 per cent in February, from 35.41 per cent in January. This is a wake-up call to the Bola Tinubu administration to end the killing of farmers nationwide through decisive security renewal programmes.

In all, 165 farmers have reportedly lost their lives in 2024 alone. Benue, where gunmen brazenly murdered 15 persons in Apa Local Government Area between Tuesday and Thursday, recorded the highest number of 130. Similarly, killings occurred in Sokoto, which accounted for 28, the Association of Nigerian Farmers stated. The bandits pulverised farmers also in Niger and one in Plateau.

This is an epidemic. The killing of farmers conflates with banditry, which escalated during the erstwhile administration of Muhammadu Buhari. There is no let-up under his successor, President Bola Tinubu. While 63,111 died in violence in Buhari’s eight years, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting compiled a list of 5,135 violent deaths nationwide, including the massacre of 200 locals in the Bokkos LGA of Plateau during the Christmas festivities in Tinubu’s initial seven months (June to December).

Farmers in Sokoto lamented that they had paid N3 billion in ransom to the marauders. In Nigeria, kidnapping and banditry are satanically intertwined. In a March release, SBM Intelligence said five Nigerians are kidnapped daily in 2024. Bandits are holding hundreds kidnapped in Kaduna, Sokoto and Borno states.

To harvest their crops, bandits regularly impose levies on farmers in parts of Niger and Kaduna states, which has forced farmers to stay at home hungry and helpless.

In Nasarawa, farms are deserted as criminals run the show. Musa Yamusa, a farmer in Keana LGA, told The PUNCH: “The situation is quite pathetic. Before now, we did go to our farms daily but since insecurity increased in the state, we have not been frequenting at our farmland because we are scared of being attacked by gunmen.”

Worryingly, cocoa farmers in the South-West alerted the Tinubu government on the upsurge in banditry in the region, which is forcing them to flee their farms. In Delta State, farmers in Ika North and Aniocha LGAs voiced concerns that eight of them were kidnapped by bandits recently and they were forced to cough up between N1 million and N5 million as ransom to the bandits.

All this aggravates Nigeria’s tenuous food security system. Farming is already in decline in the country because of itinerant Fulani herdsmen invasions. The Global Terrorism Index lists Nigeria as the eighth most terrorised country in the world in 2023 based on violence by Boko Haram, bandits, and Fulani herdsmen.

Therefore, Tinubu should shift his focus to securing farmers, primarily because agriculture is the largest contributor to the GDP at 23 per cent though it grew only by 1.9 per cent in the first three quarters of 2023. This confirms the challenges in agriculture, because the economy itself grew by 2.74 per cent last year.

The Tinubu administration should re-examine the security structure and strategies it inherited from the Buhari administration. This is the moment to fast-track the decentralisation of the single police system that has delivered only deaths, kidnapping and unbridled violence. Like all the other 24 federal countries of the world, Nigeria has no excuse again to retain its single federal police system.

Agribusiness Agritech