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Farmer/Herder clashes: Victims, stakeholders seek timely payment of compensation

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Eight weeks after the National Economic Council (NEC) recommended payment of compensation for property and farms destroyed during targeted attacks on communities, victims and other stakeholders in the agric sector have called for speedy implementation of the plan.
 
The recommendation was the outcome of the first physical meeting of NEC on February 18, 2021, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, after a critical review of the security situation of the country.
   
One of the victims, Mrs Jumoke Awosika, whose farm is located in Ibaayin village, off Elekuru/Olorisaoko in Akinyele Local Council axis of Ibadan, Oyo State, appealed to the Federal Government to speedily commence the process as many have lost their means of livelihood.

“We have never had any herdsmen problem in that axis and things have relatively been calm and peaceful, but we noticed a gradual influx of herdsmen when the problem in Ibarapa started. The day they came in was the day they destroyed hectares of cassava and plantain in the farms around us.

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“They did not only destroy the farms around us, their cows also destroyed the river the villages drink and made it undrinkable. I had to open up my borehole for the villagers. The villagers from three surrounding villages around Ibaayin, Ejitolu and Aba pan came together, traced the herders and chased them out of the area.

“But they came back weeks after in the dead of the night and unleashed an unprecedented terror that left us reeling in horror when they entered a village adjacent to us and killed eight people sleeping in their own house, beheaded two of them-a male and female and took away their heads. The tactics is to terrorise and destabilise us to such an extent that we will not even think of farming.”

She said farmers are coming together to demand that if the Federal Government is compensating the Miyeti Allah members who are perpetrating the evil, “they have to compensate the farmers, especially the ones whose farms were destroyed, those that lost their lives and those that were terrorised. So, we are demanding that the Federal Government should compensate us as well.”

Another victim, Pastor Salami Oluwafemi Abayomi, Managing Director, Oamsal Nigeria Limited, an agro-processing factory based in Ayede-Ekiti, Ekiti State, whose 50 hectares cassava plantation, worth N23m was destroyed, together with farms in his neighbourhood, is yet to come to term with losses he incurred.

His ordeal, he said, started in 2014, when he cultivated cassava farm around Iyemero-Ekiti, in Ikole local council and Igede farm settlement, which fall under Oye local council. However, in early December 2015, when the cassava was due for harvest, he received telephone call from his staff that herdsmen have invaded the farm.

“Based on my experience, the first thing I did was to ensure my staff reported the issue to the police, which they did at Ikole-Ekiti and Oye Police Stations, after which they followed up to the farm and took pictures.

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“At first, the herders just plucked the cassava leaves; I felt if it is the leaves alone, once there is rainfall it would sprout out again. I called the attention of the then Permanent Secretary and Commissioner of Agriculture, who told me to document my claims. The shocker to us was that they revisited the farm and camped there. They came in larger numbers and started uprooting the cassavas and cut them into pieces to feed their cattle,” he said.

He noted that at the time, a committee was set up by the Ministry of Agriculture, thinking that through pictures they would be able to identify the cattle that wreaked the havoc, but unfortunately, this did not materialise into desired aim. “Around that time, the Police also advised that some of the herdsmen reside in Oke-Ako Ekiti, with a promise to go into action, but refused to make any arrest.”
 
Salami is appealing to the Federal and Ekiti State Governments to speed the implementation of the recommendation by ensuring that victims are compensated, noting that due to the attack, his factory is no longer functioning maximally as staffs, women, youths and entire value- chain around the business are out of job. 
   
The CEO of Fourteen Farms, Ifeware/Ife, Osun State, Julian Akinremi, said: “paying compensation and fixing damages should not be hard since it’s easy to see the affected villages and farms and the level of damage caused by the clashes. Also getting feedback on what exactly was destroyed from villagers and other local sources should be easy when the issues are still fresh. The longer the process of reaching out takes the less accurate the information gathered will be. 
 
“The local councils under question should be the first port of call. The chairmen of the councils should be able to give first hand information on what went wrong, how many people were affected and how much property needs to be fixed or replaced.
 
“So I’ll advice that the state government work with the LGAs and an independent/private organisation be employed to oversee the assessment and evaluation of the extent of the damage.

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The private organization should also be employed to manage the distribution of compensation package,” he said. He said the only escalated recently so there should be no discrimination if there is sufficient evidence that a farmer has been attacked in the recent past then he should be compensated. “Although those who had lost properties before now can have a lower compensation and the recent cases can be given much more than the old cases.

“Farming is a business that has lots of unforeseen losses, especially in a developing country where forecasts on outbreak of pest and disease, drought, is not as efficient as it ought to be and the use of technology to carry out farming operations so as to improve crop yield is also not as popular as should be.”

The head of farmers (Baale Agbe) in Imeko area, Ogun State, Chief Abdulazeez Ismail Abolore, who also appealed for the immediate implementation of the plan, said it will take the victims long time to get back to their feet.

“Many of them take loans and others run various modern farming business that requires they pay back off takers, aggregators and investors with crops. Hence, it’s fair to compensate those have been attacked in the recent past so as to enable them get back on their feet.”

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