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Special Report: Herdsmen Attacks, Cause Of Rising Food Prices, Scarcity




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By Lukmon Akintola

Food is one of the basic needs of man. When regular production and supply is continuously threatened, food shortage and even famine may occur.

This reality stares Nigerians in the eye, as there are indications that the country is set to experience food shortage in the near future. This is also evident in the sharp rise in cost of food in recent times.

The northern part of the country is the food basket of the country with staples such as rice, garlic, ginger, yam, cassava, maize, soya beans, sesame seed, sugarcane, pepper, tomato, sorghum, and wheat predominantly produced there.

The largest food producing states are Benue; which is aptly named the food basket of the nation, and Plateau States.


Also big on food production is Taraba State, which cultivates 1.5 million hectares of its four million hectares for mostly yam.

Asides food, the Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FSN), said some 300,000 tons of fish caught in the region represents about 12% of fish consumed nationwide.

Indeed, the north is the source of most of the supplies of food crops, fishes and spices consumed in Nigeria.

Sadly, despite the importance of the regions to the food security of the country, these areas in recent times have been prone to violence, unrest and senseless killings. This has resulted to a gradual reduction in food production.

With the increase in the activities terrorist groups came a reduction in food production, and unavoidably, a hike in food prices.

The sad situation was buttressed by Wale Oyekoya, Managing Director, Bama Foods; when he spoke with Saturday INDEPENDENT Newspapers regarding the probability that the killings and sacking of farmers from their farm lands by both Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen could lead to a sharp fall in food productivity and eventually result in famine.

In his words, “It is already affecting us and that is why we have food crisis already. The food crisis we had some years back is not comparable to what we have now.” He also explained that the shortage and increase in price has affected his company’s operations.

Borno State Commissioner of Agriculture, Alhaji Muhammad Dilli, painted a clear picture of the fate of farmers in the state when he told news men that two tractor drivers namely Kashim Bukar and Shettima Mustapha had been killed by insurgents while working on a farm in Jere Local Government Area of the state. As it were, farmers simply became the targets of the insurgent. Soon, they started abandoning their farms, as they sought safety.

The fear of death is not restricted to farmers alone, as fishermen are not left out.

The freshwaters of Lake Chad, which once made northern Borno the state’s food basket is now a shadow of itself. This is because Lake Chad is currently a Boko Haram hotspot and economic activity has been ground to a halt.

On May 20, Jihadists killed six farmers as they worked in Amarwa village near Maiduguri. Five days later, four more were killed and two others abducted, again in the outskirts of the city.

If you think that the experience is saddening, that of Bulama Buba Kadai will jolt you. A man who once owned 20 farms and more than 100 head of cattle near Gwoza in north-eastern Nigeria had it reduced to just two cows when Boko Haram attacked his village. His farmland, cows and two sons were killed; he said.

Crisis between nomadic herdsmen and farmers in recent times have further thrown the food security of the country in a state of limbo.

In the past three years, over 50 herdsmen attacks have been recorded with majority of them leading to deaths and razing of farmlands. Many farmers have reported low yield over the issue, while some have abandoned their farms all together.

More recently, over 100 persons were killed in Riyom, Jos South and Barkin Ladi local government areas of Plateau State by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

The member representing Barking Ladi at the state’s House of Assembly, Peter Gyengden, said about 170 people lost their lives. But Mr. Francis Chung, the national president of Gashi Development Association (GDA), in Barkin Ladi, said he counted 139 dead persons. According to him, the attackers, numbering about 100, wore masks.

The killings, like those of Boko Haram insurgents, have also seen farmers fleeing their farmlands and running for their lives. In some cases, farmers have had to relocate to other cities, while some have been cohabiting with their relatives in other states to guarantee their safety. The end result has been a nosedive in food production.

Analyzing the food crop shortfalls from the attacks by Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen, Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organisation, funded by the British Department for International Development (BFID), carried out a research in 2016 on the causes and effects of the perennial clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria and revealed that the incessant attacks had a drastic effect on food security and had caused a loss of $14 billion in three years.

The study also pointed out that ongoing conflict is thwarting the country’s economic development to an enormous extent, and if conflicts were resolved the average household affected today could see income increase by at least 64 percent, and potentially 210 percent or higher.

The report also stated that states affected by herdsmen-farmers conflicts lost an average of 47% of taxes (Internally Generated Revenue) during these attacks.

Reacting to the probability that the loss of farmlands, cattle and fishes to both Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen can lead to famine, Emmanuel Ijewere, Coordinator, Nigerian Agribusiness Group (NAGB) said “Famine is a strong word; I don’t think that it can cause that, but I can say that it can cause food shortage. Boko Haram insurgency and Fulani herdsmen killing are not happening in every part of Nigeria, it is happening in the northeast. The planting season is here, but they can’t plant, so that might lead to food shortage and an increase in the cost of food, but famine is a very strong word,” he said.

Though the government has severally been quoted saying that the Boko Haram group has been subdued, there are still bombings in parts of the northeast, while nothing seems to have been done about the Fulani herdsmen who have been killing and sacking farmers from their farmlands.

Whether the end result of farmers not being able to produce adequate food for Nigerians will lead to famine remains to be seen.

Reactions from various markets visited by Saturday INDEPENDENT Newspaper confirms that food shortage is imminent. From Ajah Market to Epe Goat Market and even Mile 12 Market, all in Lagos, the traders spoke in one voice.

Speaking with our correspondent, Mohammed Rabiu said “Boko Haram was disturbing us from getting regular supply of products, but things have been made worse by the Fulani herdsmen now. In the past, we were buying a basket of grapefruit for as low as N300.00, but now it’s selling for as much as N500.00, so we have almost 80 percent increment. If we had five trucks coming in the morning from the north, we now get less than that. In some cases we get four trucks and at other times three. So, the situation is really bad. Produce are almost scarce to find; that is the situation we have found ourselves in and it is all because of the Boko Haram killings coupled with the herdsmen attacks. The situation has made the products more expensive, but people buying from us don’t want to understand.”

Also, suppliers and distributors of food are starting to look elsewhere for their supplies.

Aminu Danjuma, a vegetable merchant says, “If you look at what we are selling, you will find out that these are more of the Yoruba type of pepper and tomato. The reason is because we can hardly get supply of the Tomato coming from Jos. So, we augment with the one from this part of the state. The truth is that it also has its own advantages because these ones from Yoruba land are less expensive to acquire and sell faster because the demand is high.”

On his part, Huntua Adamu, who sells goats and cows in Epe Market, just by the T-Junction said “there is no Hausa man or woman bringing products from the north that would say that Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen killings has not affected market. The truth is that we have to be realistic. We used to bring in cows and goats into Epe regularly before the fighting started. Now, we hardly get more than a truck coming in and sometimes it takes a week before another comes in. This has also affected the prices of these goats because we have to factor in the fact that what we buy is what we sell. Before, we could predict the arrival of supply, but now we can’t.

“Farmlands have been destroyed, cattle have been killed, so if we have to travel three cities to get our market, the brave ones among us now travel to other states to buy these cows before transporting them to the market where we eventually sell.”

Setiu, who also spoke with us, revealed that in some places, there is the tendency to find a lot of tomato and onion because the supply comes from northern states where there is no fighting going on. He explained that their supply comes majorly from Sokoto State, hence they get regular produce, and this makes up the surplus in the market.” Asked if they don’t get produce from Maiduguri and Benue State he answers no, insisting that they only get supply from Sokoto, Zaria and Kano State.

Explaining that Jos is the major source of Irish potato, Rukayat said it has now become a scarce commodity with supply coming predominantly via importation. Before, hotels that sell chicken and chips dishes patronise us, but now they don’t bother asking us if we have because they know we don’t. While speaking with our Correspondent, she explained that fighting in Jos has affected farming and supply too.

Jabir Mohammadu Garba, a trader who sells pepper and onion in Ajah Market however believes that things will get better as government intervention in the area increases. He said that there are several factors mitigating regular food supply to the market. According to him, the truth of the matter is that the scarcity of onion is not because of Boko Haram or the Fulani herdsmen fighting. The government has been able to handle the Boko Haram issue and a solution has been found. Unlike before when people from different states couldn’t go to Maiduguri to buy produce, they can now do that and leave alive. The people who couldn’t farm before have started farming gradually, so soon regular supply will begin to come in.

At the moment, some modern farmers are taking advantage of the situation by increasing their production. Seun Igbokoyi who owns Trisat Farms in Lagos explains that his produce has become a ‘hotcake’ in recent times.

“I usually sell my tomatoes only to hotels and fast food restaurants because they are premium tomatoes. They are grown in greenhouses so we have quality yield. They are quite expensive from the ones you buy at the open market. But recently, people from Mile 12 and other markets have been coming to buy our products despite the price.”

Igbokoyi says the demand has informed his decision to expand his farm and to increase his tomato production.


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