Total occupation: ‘Wives of herdsmen now harvest our crops’
Jos – Plateau State in the North Central of the country is blessed with diverse tourism potentials, clement weather, exotic fruits and accommodating people. These should naturally improve its internally generated revenue but that is not the case as Plateau, considered a “Civil Service State” is constantly plagued with one crisis or the other. herdsmen The crises have moved from Jos, the State capital to the hinterlands where the narrative has taken a new dimension. In the villages, hitherto “unknown gunmen” now called “suspected herdsmen” terrorized the indigenous tribes, uprooted them from their ancestral homes and took over their property. Despite the continued lamentations of the people and promises by the authorities of bringing perpetrators to book, not much has been done to ensure justice for the victims. Following the seeming failure of the government, there are now calls for self-defence by the people. Those in support of the call for self-defence maintained that the country was on the brink of acute food shortage as farmers were being killed with cattle grazing on their farmlands while the farming communities have been sacked from their farms. Surviving farmers have now been accommodated in the Internally Displaced Persons camps spread across four local government areas of the State. Since the killing of over 200 people and displacement of thousands of survivors about a month ago, especially in Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas of the State, herders have continued to harvest crops found in the farms and destroying others thereby causing the survivors, especially those who took loans to cultivate the crops more trauma. In the past two weeks, residents of the attacked communities, especially in Garshish District and Dorawa Babuje all in Barkin Ladi local government area have reported cases where “wives of our herders neighbours invaded our farms, harvesting our crops for themselves while their husbands grazed their cattle on the harvested farms.” A survivor of herders’ attacks, Pam Uba who had fled Dorowa Babuje with his family and were being accommodated by a friend in Pankshin local government area narrated his experience. He said, “Before my father’s death on May 2 this year, we had cultivated some farmlands but a week after his burial, we discovered that the Fulani people grazed their cattle on the farms and destroyed everything. “After the incident, we cultivated the farms again but last week Tuesday when we went to harvest our Irish potatoes, the farms were empty. They had harvested everything and after harvesting the potatoes, they put their cows in the farms to eat the maize.” Another farmer, Ezra Matawal from Bokkos who had one hectare of farmland where he also cultivated maize and Irish potatoes said, “The Fulani people came and destroyed everything and all my labour and resources were wasted. I cultivated Irish potatoes and maize but at the time I was supposed to harvest the crops, they cut down everything in the farms.” A Ward Head (known as Mai Angwa) at Dorowa Babuje, Da Sambo Chollom told Saturday Vanguard, “I am highly disappointed and angry with what has happened because by now, I had wanted my people to go back home but it is not possible because there is nothing for us to eat as all the potatoes, the maize and other crops have been destroyed. “The herders have plucked virtually everything from our farms; we don’t know what to do. To enable us scavenge the few crops they left, we had to seek the assistance of the Mobile Police Force to go to the farms as we were tired of going to the Operation Safe Haven who would not respond to us when we sought their assistance. “We are at the camp at Werreh, life there has not been easy. The people who are harvesting our crops are people we know, they are the Hausa people with whom we lived together. Sometimes, whenever we were going to our farms we would see them with hoes and bags coming from harvesting our crops. “Sometimes when we summoned courage to go to our farm, they would come and meet us there. The Fulani herdsmen who came to attack us were harboured in their houses and have gone but the Hausa people in the community are the ones harvesting our crops.” According to him, “I knew when the Fulani people came, I called the Mai Angwa in the Hausa community and asked him why he was accommodating the Fulani people and he was denying but when the attack happened, the attackers came out of their houses.” Piqued by the development, a former Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Plateau North, Rev. David Bamidele called on the federal government to do all within its powers to bring to an end the wanton attacks and killings of local farmers in the communities of Middle-Belt states and other parts of Nigeria to avoid a situation where people will begin to resort to self help. The cleric said the Federal government has what it takes to bring the carnage to a halt within a short time, stressing that if the government could order the Military to employ operation crocodile smile to bring the activities of IPOB in the South East to an end, the same government could use operation crocodile cry to halt the activities of herders currently on rampage in communities of Middle Belt States. He noted that it is the responsibility of government to rebuild the burnt houses of the victims who are now in IDP camps and take them back to their communities as displaced persons cannot afford to stay in camps for too long to avoid a situation where herders would turn the abandoned communities into permanent grazing land for their cattle.