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Taraba’s lingering communal crises threaten food security

By Charles Akpeji, Jalingo
22 September 2019   |   2:19 am
Protracted communal crises, with the associated killings and wanton destruction of properties in Taraba State and other North central states have added to fears of poor harvest this season.

A rice farm destroyed by herders in Taraba State PHOTO: Daily Trust

• 70 Villages Taken Over By Herders – Kona Monarch
• Inability To Return IDPs Also Responsible – Farmers

Protracted communal crises, with the associated killings and wanton destruction of properties in Taraba State and other North central states have added to fears of poor harvest this season.Taraba prides itself as the ‘nature’s gift to the nation’ and is under serious siege and might experience worst scenario, in terms of food crisis if the situation is not promptly put under control.

The Guardian observed that the crisis has prevented farmers from their daily farming engagements, signaling food scarcity, not only in the state but the entire country.The State’s Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Isaiah Jirapye, worried by the development, raised an alarm that food crisis was imminent if the Tiv/Jukun communal violence was not checked.

He attributed this to the fact that the tribes locked in the conflict were predominantly farmers, regretting that the violence had made it difficult for them to visit the fields. Reports have it that currently; many farmers have either been killed in their farms or abducted by kidnappers. The Guardian learnt that the development has forced many to abandoned their farms and flee for dear life.

In Dubale village, Lau Local Government alone, over 750 hectares of rice farm was recently taken over by herders and their cattle. The farm, cultivated by Walwanne Nigeria Limited has completely been taken away from them.The coordinator of the farm, Mohammed Musa, as well as the farm supervisor, Mustapha Mohammed, who claimed that the company’s efforts have been frustrated by the headers, are begging for compensation from government, as well as the need to bring the herders to book.

The situation, according to some farmers who spoke to The Guardian is a serious setback to majority of their colleagues who have passion for farming.Citing the Tiv and Jukun unrest in the southern part of the state and the activities of herders in Taraba north, the farmers said the only option left for them is to abandon farming for now.

One of the distraught farmers, Mallam Idris, who is devastated by stories of herdsmen invasion on farms across the state, has concluded never to engage in farming, to avoid being killed or kidnapped. Some of the farmers blamed the state government’s inability to find permanent solution to herders’ activities, as well as tackling the Tiv/Jukun upheavals for rising number of causalities. .

Though several moves have been made by the state and Federal Governments to restore peace, the efforts seem not to yield expected results, as criminality still continues almost on daily basis.Another threat to food availability in the state, according to findings is government’s failure to facilitate the return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their homes, to continue with their farming business. This has been viewed as a major constraint to food production.

Victims, whose farms are now havens for grazers, want governments at all levels to as a matter of urgency fashion out ways to checkmate herders’ activities, which they claimed have chased them away from farming.The monarch of Kona community, in Jalingo, Chief Augustine Njanmeng, who recently raised an alarm over the way and manner herders have continued to graze their farms, said no fewer than 70 villages, under Kona have been taken over by the herders and their cows.

The monarch, during an interactive session with journalists in his palace, expressed sadness that the herders are “comfortably grazing on farms of the IDPs, with sophisticated weapons to kill anyone on sight.”Narrating how the “heavily armed herders” sacked the communities, he said the survivors of the attacks, mostly fled the communities to stay at various camps of the IDPs and relatives.He said the worrisome aspect of the development is that the sacked villages have been occupied by the armed herdsmen, while they have continued to graze on cultivated farms that are already at various stages of growth.

The traditional ruler who also claimed that more than 12 hectares of his farmland have been completely destroyed by the herders, said his “People can no longer attempt to go back home or their farms because the herders have taken over these places and are bringing in their colleagues to settle on these ancestral lands.

“This is not only barbaric and a deliberate provocation to war, but also a sign of serious food crisis ahead of us. When plantations of food crops are turned to grazing grounds, it simply means we are paving way for hunger. Let me call on the Federal Government and international community to urgently call these marauding herdsmen to order, to forestall a situation that no one would be able to control.”

The leaders of the two warring ethnic groups (Jukun and Tiv) have also agreed that the situation spells doom for the state, as farming activities have been brought to a standstill.Some top government officials who spoke on the issue said government’s inaction was responsible for inability to nip the situation in the bud.

At the state Ministry of Agric and Natural Resources, some of the staff expressed dismay that despite efforts to encourage farmers through provision of modern farm implements, the situation doesn’t seem to be yielding positive results, as insecurity has continued to remain a major threat to farmers.Religious leaders in the state have also frowned at the development. They want the Federal Government to deploy more security operatives to trouble areas, as the step, according to them is capable of addressing the challenges.

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