Farmers at Idege, a farmstead in Ado Ekiti, the capital city of Ekiti State, invested millions of naira in cultivating their farms, but they are currently in tears as a result of the destruction of their farms by herders.
Some farmers at Idege, a farmstead under Ado Ekiti, the capital city of Ekiti State, are hoping they can recover from the losses running into several millions of naira they suffered due to the destruction of their farms spanning several hectares by herdsmen and their cattle.
They said it would take the intervention of the government to stop the menace of the nomadic herdsmen who feed their crops to their cattle whenever they come around in addition to being a threat to their continued interest in farming.
Governor Biodun Oyebanji, concerned about the crises between farmers and herders as well as other crimes in the farms that posed great threats to peace and food security in the state, had in September 2023 reconstituted the state Farmers-Herders Peace Committee.
The committee, which included cattle breeders, herdsmen, farmers, security outfits, and traditional rulers among others, was saddled with responsibilities including mitigating clashes between farmers and herdsmen and ensuring a greater level of productivity.
Consequently, as a proactive way to prevent the occurrence of clashes during the dry season with the anticipated North-South movement of herders, the committee in November last year extracted a commitment from stakeholders to work together and prevent nomadic herders from grazing on farms in the state.
One of the affected farmers, who identified himself as Ibrahim, alleged that between December 2023 and January 2024, about 30 farmers’ farms were destroyed by Fulani herders.
Ibrahim said, “The recent destruction was massive. They destroyed my farm and wreaked havoc on my brother-in-law’s farm. About 30 of us were affected. Farming is our means of economic livelihood. These people are silently killing us. The time for the government to take action is now.
“I appeal to Governor Oyebanji, Ekiti State Commissioner of Police, Mr Dare Ogundare, and the Commandant of Ekiti Amotekun Corps, Brig. Gen. Olu Adewa (retd.), to save us from unwarranted and willful destruction being wreaked on our farms,” Ibrahim said.
A middle-aged farmer, Pastor Tunde Umaru, who said he had been farming at Idege for the past 10 years, lamented, that the herdsmen destroyed their cassava crops and yam seedlings.
He said, “I am in serious pains. What I lost is to the tune of millions of naira. It is from the farms that I get money to fend for my family, send children to school and as well take care of my elderly mother.
“This development will have a serious negative effect on food production. The yam seedlings we are supposed to cultivate to produce yam were used to feed cows. They come at night, destroy our cassava, and uproot our yam seedlings for their cattle. We cannot harvest cassava again.”
Umaru, however, said that the way forward to save the farmers and promote food security was for the government to assist the farmers, saying, “The government should assist us and caution these herders.
“Let the two herdsmen arrested by the police following our report of the destruction of our farms be made to call their leaders so that we can sit down and iron things out. They (herdsmen) have leaders, we can sit together to agree on beneficial ways for farmers and herders.
“They are not supposed to be rearing their animals at night. The government should stop night cattle rearing or movement. Again, the government could make them leave to end their menace to encourage food production and keep hunger and poverty at bay.
“The activities and movements of the herders should be monitored and regulated. If the government takes serious steps against them, especially because of their destructive activities, they will go,” the embattled farmer said.
A 38-year-old victim, Hadi Salawudeen, who said he engaged labourers to plant cassava and yams at his farm, said, “I harvested the yam in August. I was planning to uproot the yam seedlings for cultivation in my new yam farm when the herders struck on December 14, 2023.
“They started with the destruction of my cassava, I had about 3,000 heaps in the farm. As the herders were feeding the cassava to their cows, they were also destroying the yam seedlings, uprooting and cutting them to pieces.
“On December 18, they invaded the farm again. What was left on the farm was negligible, less than 700 heaps. On New Year’s Day, I went to the farm to take some yam seedlings, but on January 2, 2024, the herdsmen were there again to finish everything on the farm. As I speak, they have destroyed everything on the farm.
“Many other farmers are having similar experiences. To go to the farm now is a stress. If we go to the farm in the morning, we would have to go back there (farm) in not more than two hours so that they do not come to ruin our farms.
“We reported the December 2023 incident to the police. The police were able to arrest some of the herders. I learned two suspects are still in police detention.
“But surprisingly, it was when the police arrested these two men that the herders upped their destructive activities in our farms. It was as if the arrest of the two herders emboldened others to do more. They increased the intensity of their destruction.
“We plead with the government to arrest them or send them away from the area so that we can farm. We are frustrated. The government should come to our aid,” he said.
Another victim, 42 years Jamiu Ahmed, who corroborated Salawudeen’s statement, said, “Following the destruction of our farms in December last year, we made efforts to see the Commissioner of Police. When we later reported the matter to the Odo Ado Division. The Divisional Police Officer assured that the Police would take steps to stop them. The Police from the Odo Ado Division went there, and two of the herders were arrested.
Ahmed, who said his parents had been cultivating yam and cassava at Idege for over 40 years and that he followed the trend, said his personal experience with the herders began in 2022.
He said, “My farm was ravaged in 2022 the same way it was destroyed in December last year. When we cried out early last year, Amotekun operatives went there, but they could not arrest them before the rains came last year.
“The herders returned in December last year and ruined the farm. As I speak, all my cassava and yam seedlings on the farm were destroyed. The same thing applies to all of us who have farms there. The herders uprooted our cassava to feed their cows.
“We plead with the government to intensify steps on this. All our cassava and yam seedlings have been ravaged. The government should help us by proffering lasting solutions to this incessant destruction of our crops”, Ahmed said.
However, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Brig. Gen. Ebenezar Ogundana (retd.), who doubles as the head of the farmers-herders peace committee, said the state government was working round the clock to end conflicts between farmers and herders.
He said the government was giving the issue of destruction of farms or conflict between farmers and herders the deserved serious and urgent attention.
He also said there were ongoing efforts to ensure a sustainable harmonious relationship and mutual respect between the two sides as business people.
Ogundana said, “We arrest herders who destroyed farms. Some of those arrested by police and Amotekun recently are either with the police or their matters have gone to court. Some of them are already in detention.
“Some were made to pay compensation and signed undertaking. But we don’t even want a situation of compensation, what we want is that there should be no cause for conflict between farmers and herders.
“We understand there is herders’ migration to the South during the dry season, as such, we have already made provisions by contacting all the stakeholders – the Fulani, Ebira, Tiv, Igede etc.
“We held a meeting with them in November 2023 where they resolved to work together. The Fulanis agreed that they would inform us when the nomadic herders are passing through Ekiti State so that we can pilot them to avoid farmlands. We are not relenting. Our task force is up and doing.
“We are already putting in place an arrangement where all the stakeholders – the traditional rulers, local government chairmen, the Fulani people, farmers, religious associations etc will come together and discuss the issue of farmers and herders and see how the nomads will avoid farms.
“The governor recently set up a peace committee on farmers and herders issue. The committee will meet this month (January) so that we can sit down and see how the nomads will not go through farms. Each side needs to ply its business peacefully without infringing on that of the other,” the security adviser said.
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.