There are ominous signs that food insecurity will likely deteriorate in Benue State and other parts of the country this year if the lingering crisis between farmers and armed herders continues unabated.
Prior to the mayhem being unleashed on unsuspecting citizens, Benue State, since its creation on February 3, 1976, has been named the Food Basket of the Nation due to its bountiful harvests of cassava, groundnuts, rice, and melons, among other food items.
However, the farming potential among residents of the state has continued to diminish following unprovoked attacks by the bloodthirsty suspected herdsmen.
The Daily Post reports that over two million of the state’s entire population, who are predominantly farmers, have been displaced from their ancestral homes and farm lands in the aftermath of the security crisis.
According to the state governor, Samuel Ortom, who raised the alarm of the looming food crisis in 2022, “more than 95% of the displaced people are farmers who contribute more than 70% of the total food production in the state.”
The Daily Post reports that since the commencement of the 2023 farming season, several deadly attacks have been recorded across the state and other parts of the nation, forcing farmers to abandon their farmland for safety.
Mr. John Edache, one of the farmers who were attacked on April 6 when over 52 people were killed by the assailants in Agatu Local Government Area of the state, told our correspondent that prior to the attack, the herdsmen had been leading their cattle to graze on their yam and other seedlings.
Edache narrated that the attack was unprovoked, stressing that the herdsmen had been in the business of raping their wives and daughters on the farm.
He said, “Before they invaded our community on that fateful day, they had killed several members of our community who were working on their farmland."
“We did nothing to warrant that attack." Despite raping our wives and daughters on the farm, we have never retaliated for fear of a more deadly attack.
“Sometimes when we go to the farm, we will discover that our yam seedlings and cassava sticks have all been eaten by their cattle."
“We first reported the issue to the police, but nothing was done about it until the day they came to kill the whole village.
“We are currently at the Adoka IDP camp; our farms have been destroyed and abandoned." "Only God knows the level of hunger waiting for us.”
The Daily Post reports that similar incidents have continued in many other parts of the state, including Gume, Apa, Buruku, Makurdi, Gwer West, and other local government areas of the state.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Katherine Sewuese Anene, however, told the Daily Post on Friday that the command had put up some measures to end the growing menace.
She listed “sensitization of herders and farmers, arrest of offenders, and deployment of police officers to vulnerable points”, as measures taken by the command to halt the lingering crisis.
On sensitization, the PPRO said she had been making use of some media platforms, particularly radio and television stations, to reach both the herders and the farmers.
“I have been on radio and other platforms talking to the farmers and herders in the state”, she said.
The police spokesperson also revealed that some suspected cattle rustlers who have been stimulating the crisis were recently arrested and prosecuted.
She said, “We have arrested several cattle rustlers who are causing the crisis." Our officers have also arrested several herders who allowed their cattle to graze on people’s farms.
“This arrest has been going on for a long time." People always come to report that cattle usually graze on their farms, and we do follow up on such complaints by arresting the offenders. "We have arrested and prosecuted many of them."
On the deployment of officers, Anene told the Daily Post that the command had deployed its operatives to most of the areas where the crisis was recorded.
She, however, lamented that some of the attacks occurred in very remote areas where there were no motorable roads.
“We have deployed officers to most of the areas where there is a crisis." If not for the officers of the command, nobody would have remained in those villages. Everywhere these things are happening, there are police officers.
“But the challenge is that sometimes these attacks happen in very remote areas that are not even motorable for our operatives. These are some of the limitations we sometimes have.
“This is what makes it easy for the herders to attack communities on several occasions." Most of the attacks happened at the boundary, where we cannot easily access them,”, she added.
The Daily Post reports that crises have been recurring in other states, including Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, and even some states in the Southwest.
The latest onslaught on Kaduna State by bandits is also hastening famine in that part of the country.
Currently, according to reports, the majority of farmers in some parts of the state have abandoned their farms as they could no longer access them, while others have escaped to other states.
Investigations also showed that the terrorists have invaded key agrarian communities in the state, attacking farmers from all corners, thereby forcing them to run for their lives while their farms remain abandoned.
It was gathered that farmers in Birnin-Gwari Local Council have completely dumped their farmlands due to the resurgence of attackers and other criminal acts in the rural communities.
When contacted, the Kaduna State PPRO, ASP Mohammed Jalige, told our correspondent that the “command is doing everything within its power to ensure that there is peace in every community for a smooth farming season.