Central Nigeria: In what appears to be malicious damage to property, yet to be identified criminals have dashed the hopes of Plateau farmers in Bel-Sho village of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area for any agricultural income this year.
Early as February 2020, the villagers began clearing their farms, anticipating early rainfall as predicted by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency in January. Many of them displaced by herdsmen attacks had just returned home following government’s assurance of peace and security.
Until Monday this week, the farmers faced no threat since they planted and nurtured their crops to pollination. Arriving his 1.2hctr farm at about 6am for weeding, Mr. Gwong Elisha Boi, 48, was shocked to find his previously blossomed maize, water melon and soy beans completely sheared.
“I am still to recover from the shock. It was my only hope for food and family welfare including the education of my children,” he said.
Boi’s only source of income aside from farming is artisan mining. “The little I save from tin mining is what I shove into the farm, paying for labour, fertilizer, pesticides and other farm inputs, but now all that has been taken from me,” cried the father of five.
Like Boi, Mr. Dachollom Dung, 42, a father of four, had maize and guinea corn in his farm, and had anticipated bumper harvest, having expended all his savings, mostly from local tin mining on it.
“I have nothing left. All my hopes were on the farm. It is from the farm that we eat, pay school fees and take care of other needs like healthcare. I am in total confusion right now, and don’t know how my family is going to survive the next one year,” he said.
Another farmer, Mr. Pam Dachollom, 43, whose over 1hctr maize farm was mowed, literally confused, said, “I’d borrowed grains to feed my family when we ran out of food in the house during the Coronavirus lockdown. I was hoping to repay after harvest, but see where I am.”
The villagers suspect herdsmen are behind the destructions, having experienced same before.
“Anytime the herdsmen want to start their unjustified attacks, based on reports from previously attacked villages, they usually start from farmland destructions,” said Barr. Solomon Dalyop, a human rights lawyer.
“In 2012, 2015 and even last year 2019, farmers have been killed in their farms, their homes and on the roads after what started as mere farm crop attacks,” said the Nigerian attorney.
A villager, Mr. Emmanuel Dalyop, said he was warned by herdsmen who attacked and chopped his leg with an axe, to stay away from the farming area.
“They terrorized us for years until we vacated the distant farms but they still told me that they warned us to stay off but we wouldn’t listen, for that reason they must kill me. They struck me on the leg with an axe and left me to bleed to death,” said Dalyop.
A leader of Fulani herdsmen in the village, Mr. Tambari Gizo, however said the crimes are carried out by “enemies of peace” trying to “cause disharmony”.
“We that have been here with the natives for long have never had problems with them. It is people who are not happy with our peaceful coexistence that will do this to pitch us against one another,” said Gizo at the scene of the crop destructions during a “condolence visit,” intended to “join hands” with victims and securities to hunt for the perpetrators.
No suspect has however been arrested, and no official comment has been obtained on the crimes. Similar crimes recorded in Bassa and Riyom LGAs last month have equally yet to be cracked.