Nigeria: It’s Doubtful Herders Wilfully Destroy Farms – Govt

Despite frequent invasion of farms and killings of farmers in different parts of the country, especially in South East and Benue State, by armed herdsmen, the federal government said yesterday it was unsure herders intentionally unleash their cattler on farms.

The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, who stated this while responding to questions at the presentation of his ministry’s scaorecard for 2015-2023, also blamed the rising cost of basic foodstuff in the country on inflaton and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic which forced many countries, including Nigeria to shut down key economic activities for many months.

Recall that many farmers have been killed in states of the South East, especially the recent attack which claimed the lives of 10 farmers in a community in Enugu State.

This is aside from the killings that had taken place in attacks on farmers by herders in Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states.

Abubakar said: “This is an age-long problem of farmers/herders conflicts but I do not think that at any given time herders intentionally push their cattle to go and eat farm produce or crops.

“Accidentally, the cows might stray and go. This has been the source of the conflict. So, ranching is the easiest and the best thing to do.”

The minister, who assured that the federal government had begun moves to put an end to such conflicts, said one of the measures to checkmate herders’/farmers’ conflicts was the introduction of the National Livestock Development Programme and the proposal to have ranching and grazing reserves across the country.

Speaking on other issues, the minister said the country has enough food to feed all Nigerians, adding that while the current food inflation was not peculiar to Nigeria, his ministry would continue to produce food to take care of its large population, in line with the mandate to do so and improve rural development.

He also blamed the rise in the prices of fertilizer on inflation and the inability of the producers of raw materials to do so due to the disruption caused by COVID-19.

“We have enough food to take care of Nigerians. We are producing food across the country and we will continue to do so to feed Nigerians in line with our mandate and expedite the transformation of the rural communities of Nigeria.

“The fact that some categories of food are imported by Nigeria is not an indication that we have food shortages. The high cost of food that we experience in the country is a result of rising inflation, which is not peculiar to Nigeria but due to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced many sectors of economic production to be shut down for many months,” he said.

The minister also blamed the high cost of food in the country on smuggling, adding that efforts were being made to checkmate it.

Meanwhile, kidnapping for ransom, killing and maiming and attack on communities by criminal herdsmen have continued to thrive in various parts of South East.

Enugu State is currently the epicentre of their criminal activities, as virtually all major roads in and out of Enugu is under siege by the criminal herders.

Just last week, Eha-Amufu in Isi-Uzo council experienced another fatal invasion by the rampaging terrorists herders who killed about ten people and maimed many others. The victims of the attack said nine persons were killed at Aguamede, six at Mgbuji, two at Ebor and one person at Umujiovoh villages.

From January to July 2022, the terrorists’ herdsmen have been invading Ebor, Mgbuji, Aguamede and other farm settlements in Eha-Amufu from time to time, leaving some people dead as well as trails of pains, anguish and losses.

The criminals also extended their attacks to the busy Ugwogo-Opi Nsukka road, where they embarked on regular kidnapping for ransom. Their activities drew outrage when they kidnapped students returning to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, after the eight months strike by their lecturers was called off.

While they were still holding the students, they also abducted on the same road, a former secretary to the Enugu State Government, Dr. Dan Shere, an incident which attracted the attention of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who visited the area with the army, police and DSS leadership in the state.

As the evil activities were being curtailed on the Ugwogo-Opi road, the killer herdsmen shifted their criminal acts to Amansiodo-Oghe in Ezeagu council where they encountered the community’s vigilante.

A traditional ruler in the area, Igwe Umeanayo Okongwu, confirmed that the council area suffered insecurity caused by herdsmen who kidnap for ransom.

Sources said from Ugwueke, near the Nigeria Breweries Plc, Ama plant, down to Akama-Oghe, Olo and the rest of Ezeagu council, nowhere was safe as the herders had taken over the forests and bushes in the area.

“The herdsmen, who also engage in kidnappings, are too much. There have been many occurrences at Ugwueke and some have been arrested, while the DPO at Aguobu-Owa is in a position to say the number arrested and other details.

“There have been kidnappings in Obeleagu-Umana, Umumba-Ndiagbu and Olo on daily basis, because the Olo community is between Uzo-Uwani and Ezeagu. It is almost a daily affair that people are no longer sure of going to Ezeagu and coming back safely,” Igwe Okonkwo lamented.

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