Several hectares of farmlands with grown crops have been completely mowed in Central Nigeria’s Wereng village of Riyom Local Government Area, in Plateau State.
The farms belonging to three widows including one aged, and over fifteen others were mowed and grazed upon on Friday night, it was learnt.
Villagers were asleep when people believed to be herders, moved their cattle across farms consisting maize, millet, groundnut, hungry rice, wheat, guinea corn and soybeans, slashing the maturing crops as their herds fed on them.
Cattle droppings and hoof prints litter the affected farms, but surrounding herders reportedly claim no knowledge of the destructions.
According to Mr. Dalyop Maikarfi, whose 2hctr maize, groundnut, hungry rice and millet farm was nearly shredded, the cattle foot marks lead from an area occupied by the leader of the Fulani herders in the community, identified as Alhaji Ya’u.
Ya’u, Dalyop said is the only herder with active cattle herds in the area, and had accepted to take responsibility for any herder-related offence therein.
He and his herds were however not at home on Saturday morning when the affected villagers went to report the destruction of their farms, it was gathered.
Dalyop has 18 children, and more than half of them are in school. His hopes of funding their education and providing for their welfare have been dashed, he said.
“I invested over N1.5m in these farms but all is gone. I have two wives and fifteen children and now we have been thrown into hunger. My children and wives have been crying since. One was even hospitalized due to shock. I can’t even go home now. I can’t stand the sorrow in my family right now,” said the 55year-old.
Another farmer, Gyang Musa, 48, lost fruiting maize and soybeans across 1.8hctrs of farmland. He had hoped to register three of his children for final year secondary school examinations after harvest. The destructions now threaten that dream, as well as the education of others behind them.
“All their fees and welfare come from these farms. I get over 55 100kg bags of threshed maize and over 10 100kg bags of soybeans every year but with these, I don’t stand a chance for even one bag,” he cried.
Mrs. Lyop Gyang, 45 and Mrs. Titi Manchol, 72, both widows equally lost large expanses of farmland with blooming crops.
“I have eight children and all my farms have been destroyed. I spent over N500,000 on these farms and was hoping to use this to meet my children’s needs but all have been taken away from me,” cried Lyop.
Titi on the other hand has 15 dependent grand children having lost her husband and five children. Her pain is that the survival of the kids is being threatened by the destruction of her crops.
“I am losing strength and losing my sole source of livelihood again. Left for me I have but few years to live. It is these children that are my worry now,” she said.
All the affected farmers have at least five children each, all depending on farming and tin mining for food and other needs. The perpetrators of the overnight destructions may have failed in their plot to attack the community using lethal weapons.
Sources say herdsmen who had ambushed two locals of neighboring Kuru village in Jos South LGA two days earlier, had planned to invade Wereng village on Friday night.
It is not clear what must have happened to divert the attack on farm crops, but this was not the first of such crimes in recent weeks.
In July 2020, joint community crop farms spread across 60hectares of land were mowed down in once attacked and displaced Ncha village in Bassa LGA, neighboring Riyom LGA to the north.
Weeks later, similar destructions took place in Sopp and Tyana villages in same Riyom and last two weeks, several crop farms were destroyed in same manner as the Wereng case in Kassa village of Barkin Ladi LGA, and Maikatako village of Bokkos LGA, all neighbors of Riyom LGA.
This might be a new form of ‘warfare’ against the natives of the affected localities, who have in recent years suffered violent attacks and displacements from herdsmen, feared a Nigerian Activist, Barr. Solomon Dalyop.
“Covid-19 has hit the farmers from one side and the herders are hitting them with yet another form of warfare,” said Dalyop, the Chief Executive Officer of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria.
Government according to him must get proactive and reactive to such crimes, to prevent chaos causing self-help by citizens.