Bassa carnage: No relief yet for displaced farmers
There appears to be no succour in sight yet for farmers in Bassa Local Council Area of Plateau State as the incessant clashes between them and armed herdsmen have remained unabated.
The farmers, majority of whom have been displaced, are currently frustrated, depressed and counting their losses as their investments have gone down the drain as the assailants have forcefully taken over their land and sweats.
For the past two years, the land of Bassa, particularly Irigwe chiefdom, has been devastated by farmers-herdsmen clashes. Over 200 women have become widows due to death of their husbands; over 400 children became orphans and over 1,000 displaced since they were rendered homeless.
Despite playing host to 3-Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army, which ought to provide them maximum security needed, the social, political and economic life of the citizens of Bassa have been shattered.
It all started at Kwall in Miango district where the headquarters of School of Accountancy is situated. Up till today, peace has not been restored.
Apart from Kwall, other affected communities are Adu, Hukke, Te’egbe, Nkiedonwro, Rekwe Chongu, Rotsu, Ancha and Nbra Zongo, among other communities in the chiefdom.
Insecurity has also spilled over to Kaura, Zonkwua and Zango Kataf council areas, sharing boundaries with Bassa.
Since last January when hostility resumed, which led to the sacking of the communities, the survivors who escaped the attack have been subjected to all forms of unpleasant experiences, their plantations and houses were razed, while their food barns were looted.
While some found refuge in homes of relatives, the unlucky ones have been sleeping in halls, schools, churches and open spaces, while others have sought asylum at the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps (IDPs).
The option of returning home or visiting their farmlands have been completely ruled out as the assailants have warned them in clear language not to return to any of the two.
Besides, fear of the unknown has made the affected farmers succumb to fate, and the situation has worsened food insecurity in the area, as none of them could salvage any crop from their plantations. They also find it difficult to partake in the 2020-planting season.
Bassa is known for mass production of “Acha,” corn, maize, sweet potato and millet. These crops have their various times and seasons of farming and harvest, but due to the situation, the food items are now very scarce.
The Guardian learnt that those who managed to farm are constantly facing herdsmen invasion of their farms, leading to destruction of farmed crops by cattle.
To say food scarcity is imminent in the area is to say the least, as agricultural outputs have reduced drastically because the unarmed farmers dare not confront the trespassers, considering past occurrences, which had reportedly ended in bloodshed and deaths.
One of the victims seeking refuge at the IDPs camp, Simon Nwatok, a resident of Rotsu, revealed that he invested heavily on his farm since last year, but lamented that since he was displaced, he is yet to return to his farm.
Nwatok said unless drastic measures are taken to ameliorate the damage already done by the herdsmen, the effect of the development would not only shake the area but the entire state, as the area contributes immensely to food production in the state.
Another displaced person, Sunday Kwa, said despite the location of the army headquarters, the attackers had been operating freely, molesting and taking over houses and farmlands with impunity.
“Our request from the government is the security of life and property of Bassa citizens, we can no longer continue like this. Governments at all levels have failed us; they have done nothing to protect our lives.
“What we need is for government to mobilise human and material resources to protect us. We want to feel the impact of the army and be secured. We are pleading for the government assistance and security intervention to enable us go back to our homes, especially as the farming season is still on. In addition to this, we want the government to provide us loans, inputs with farm implements to all farmers, for us to start again since we have lost all to the assailants.”
He appealed for support from the government and well-meaning individuals to assist them to rebuild their houses destroyed by terrorists, saying the government should build confidence in the farmers to know that they are protected at all times.
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