BEFORE the invasion of Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State by Fulani herdsmen early
this year, Ndayakoh Ahmadu Alechenu, was one of the
leading farmers in his
Working with his three wives and 14 children over the years, he has been able to build a five-bedroom bungalow in his native home of
Agatu where he lived with his family.
Before the tragedy that befell him came, five of his children have also passed out of secondary school, while Ahmedu his second son and
Aminatu, the third daughter, graduated from the university
Since he was not educated, he had set the target of training all his children wishing to acquire
higher education with his farming business.
Alechenu, 57, through diligence and commitment to his vast farm land where he grew yams, sweet potatoes, oranges and other cash crops sold to merchants from cities across
the country, was highly respected in his community.
But early this year, however, things turned awry when in the dead of the night, while he and his family were sleeping after a hard day’s toil at the farm, a band of Fulani herdsmen invaded his community and
burnt his house, his Toyota Hilux pickup van and other
valuables he had laboured for over the years.
Worst still, three of his younger children were among over 300 killed by the rampaging herdsmen although he, his
wives and other children were lucky to escape alive.
But the problem now is that Alechenu’s
family like other Agatu farming
households do not feel safe again in their homes and farm
for fear the attackers may return some day.
Today they are also numbered among the Internally Displaced
People (IDPs) in the country and the hope of contributing to Nigeria’s food safety initiative is gone for now. Alechenu’s story is similar to what had befallen most farmers in the North East, South East and
the North Central states where Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen are dislodging, raping and killing farm hands and in the process threatening the nation’s food safety
Food is by all means the most important need of man. The lack
of it or threats to its availability has also been at the root of
social conflict, strife and social disharmony. For Nigerian, the threat to food security had
never been so pronounced and
worrisome at any other time than now when insurgency,
militancy and diseases are staring farmers in the face.
But those at home with Nigeria’s economic history from independence in 1960 are blaming successive
governments for neglecting the
agricultural sector despite its huge potentials.
It therefore came as a relief last year when
the Muhammadu Buhari administration announced it would tackle the menace
headlong through appropriate policies.
Hopes were raised that at least, the Maputo declaration
would be implemented in
Buhari’s first annual budget.
That declaration by Heads of African governments in 2003
was that, at least, 10 percent of annual budgets should be
deployed to agricultural
investments to boost food production.
But a cursory look at countries’ compliance with Maputo declara
tion of 2003 shows that Nigeria has only attained 1.66 %,
Ethiopia 10%, Niger 10%, Mali 10 percent, Malawi
10% Burkina Faso 10%, Senegal 10%,
and Guinea 10%.
But despite his promises, the threat of food insecurity still
haunts the country’s teeming populace. At present, Nigeria’s
food inflation appears to be the
highest contributor to headline figures announced by the
National Bureau of Statistics.
Many also believe the current food challenges seem to have been further compounded by
the negligence of government, the adoption of neo-liberal economic policies such as trade lib eralisation, naira devaluation and withdrawal of government from economic activities, ethnic and religious conflicts, disasters,
as well as pests like the recent Tuta Absoluta known as Tomato Ebola ravaging tomato and
other farm produce, climate change and lack of irrigation.
Only last week, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET)
warned that the prevailing extreme weather conditions in the country could worsen food sup
plies in the months ahead unless the Federal Government
stepped up efforts at
implementing right climatic and economic policies to mitigate the foreseen danger.
For the first time in over three decades, Nigeria is going
through the worst food crisis with most staple or essential
foods and fruits suddenly becoming scarce. Some of the
affected foods badly affected and whose prices have now be