The continued attacks by herdsmen in Nasarawa state is threatening food shortage as more and more farming communities are displaced, writes the Northern Bureau chief, NATHANIEL GBAORON, in Lafia.
For five farming seasons running now, farmers in Nasarawa state especially are finding it difficult to go to their farms following attacks and reprisals in the southern part of the state. Many have blamed government’s inaction as the reason for the prolonged attacks.
The locals who spoke with our correspondent said the failure of the president to visit the crisis areas since it started has contributed greatly to the escalation of the crisis.
Though the state government has initiated a series of peace meetings, there appears to be a missing link since the fruits of the deliberations are yet to reflect in the current trend of events as the attacks continue to spread.
The lingering crisis which has destroyed the economic viability of the areas under attack is also threatening food security of the entire state as the epicenter of agricultural production is now a no go area.
The implications of the over five years attacks on farmers remain grievous. Today, there is widespread hunger and starvation in Nasarawa with a tendency of escalation to other parts of the country.
For five consecutive years today, most farmers cannot access their farms due to fear of attack. Those who attempt to go to farm risk death and many people have been killed in such attempts.
The most recent one is the separate attacks on 13 communities of Dooshima, Antsa, Dooka, Angwan Yara, Ikyayior, Targema, Tse Tor, Chia, Umurayi, Dooga, Gindan Rail, Ajikamaka and Ankoma communities in the state.
Our Correspondent gathered that farmers from 13 villages in the LGAs are currently taking refuge in Agyaragu, kadarko, and Doma town, all in Nasarawa state.
Residents count losses
One of the victims of the recent attack who specializes in dry season farming in Doka community of Doma LGA, Chief Augustine Kuza, told our Correspondent that his rice farm of over 20 hectares have been taken over by suspected herdsmen.
“My rice farm of over 20 hectares has been taken over by herdsmen. They came fully armed and chased my workers in the farm away. I am calling on the government to help us by deploying security operatives to the community so that the herdsmen can be repelled.
“I spent over N1 million to cultivate the farm which is now a grazing ground for the herdsmen. I am appealing to the Federal and State governments to come to my aid”, he said.
When contacted, the Aldo General of Fulani herdsmen in the state, Alhaji Lawal Dono declined comment on the matter.
President of Tiv Youth Organization in Nasarawa state, Barr. Barnabas Zayol has appealed for the deployment of security operatives in some parts of Keana and Doma Local Government Areas of the state where 50,000 farmers have been displaced by suspected herdsmen recently.
Barr. Zayol explained that since last Saturday when some of his tribesmen were attacked by suspected herdsmen, killing eleven people in Ajimaka community and other surrounding villages, security operatives were yet to be deployed to the affected areas to restore calmness.
“We are appealing to the Federal and State Governments to deploy security operatives to the affected places of Doma and Keana Local Government Areas because our people, amounting to over 50,000 have been displaced by suspected herdsmen.
“Each time the suspected herdsmen have issues relating to implementation of the anti-open grazing law by the Benue state government, they turn back to attack our Tiv people in Nasarawa state. Tiv people in Nasarawa state are peace-loving and friendly to other tribes in the state. They must stop attacking our people for things we know nothing about,” he said.
On his part while speaking to Journalists on the incident, President, Tiv Development Association (TIDA) in Nasarawa state, Peter Ahemba who confirmed the incidents in Lafia condemned the killings and described the dastardly act as unprovoked and unfortunate.
The TIDA president regretted the attacks on Tiv people of the state, particularly those living at the border areas between Benue and Nasarawa states whom he said have become a recurrent decimal despite efforts by the Nasarawa state governor, Abdullahi Sule and his Benue counterpart, Samuel Ortom to ensure lasting peace.
According to him, “Each time the Fulani herdsmen have issues relating to implementation of the anti-open grazing law by the Benue state government, they turn back to attack our (Tiv) people in Nasarawa state.
We are Tivs in Nasarawa state. We are peace-loving people. The Fulani herdsmen must stop attacking our people for things we do not know about.”
While lamenting the ugly development that has led to the displacement of thousands of Tiv farmers in the area, the TIDA President said the incident was coming at the time farmers were set to commence the current farming season.
Ahemba who acknowledged the efforts by the Nasarawa state government as ensuring that peace and security is strengthened and maintained at the border areas of the state, appealed to the state government to direct the deployment of security operatives to the area to forestall reappraisal and the breakdown of law and order.
He called on the Tiv people to remain calm and avoid taking laws into their hands despite the unprovoked attack as the state government was taking measures to restore normalcy.
Meanwhile, the Nasarawa State Governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule has described the brutal killing and displacement of farmers in the state as uncalled for.
Governor Sule in a Press Statement signed and made available to our correspondent by his Chief Press Secretary, Ibrahim Addra, said, “an attack that does not spare women and children bears the trademark of devilish elements who are bent on truncating the relative peace in the state.
The Governor assured residents of the state of his administration’s commitment to curb insecurity, saying, “security operatives have since commenced investigations that will expose the criminals with a view to punishing them according to the laws of the land”.