With the onset of the farmers/herders crises, the state of insecurity in the nation’s farms and agrarian communities has become a major cause for concern essentially because of its negative impact on food security and, by extension, national security. Because of this unfortunate situation, farmers now dread going to their farms, particularly in states where agriculture is the economic mainstay. Already it is resulting in high prices of food commodities, high rate of unemployment, increased level of poverty as well as the possible risk that Nigeria can fall into a state of famine, a very stark reality.
We recall that when this problem reared its ugly head, the government had hinted at a plan to employ, train and deploy 3000 agro rangers in a pilot programme that would help promote security in major farming communities. It was generally agreed that the figure of 3000 Agro rangers is like a drop of water in a mighty ocean. However, experts saw it as a viable starting point from identifiable flashpoints.
Still, doubts persists for many a Nigerian farmer in the business just to eke out a living. For this category of farmers who have nothing else to do and for whom farming is life itself, a pledge to deploy a mere 3000 agro rangers is seen as not enough to tackle the issues of insecurity that has suddenly come upon them like a thief in the night taking away not just their farm produce but also their lives and other properties. The disturbing aspect of this dangerous trend is that it is in the process of disrupting what is largely a vocation as well as a cultural way of life passed down throughout the generations.
Farming communities, as they are previously known, are gravely disappearing with a lot of daring implications for the economy and the livelihood of those affected. Still, the plan as being enunciated by the government is important and, in the absence of other alternative measures, commendable as it demonstrates a desire on its part to address what has become a national embarrassment. For optimists, it should be accepted as part of government’s efforts towards tackling the rate of insecurity in the farms.
As things stand now, the worry of most Nigerians is not only that farming is becoming an endangered economic activity, it is also because those involved in it are becoming endangered as well. For most, this must be checked. The country is not at war, yet on a regular basis many are killed for the simple reason that they dared to go to their farms. As a way to addressing this high loss of value for lives, it has become imperative that government at all levels, aside promising to deploy agro rangers, must be seen to be devising other viable means of checking the menace of herders/ farmers crises.
One of the measures we are compelled to recommend in this direction is intelligence gathering that will help security agencies nip the crisis in the bud. Unfortunately, not enough of this is going on at this time to the extent that the entire security apparatus that ought to be proactive in matters like this has ended up being merely reactive, moving in to do mop up operations after the harm is done. Intelligence gathering entails a collaborative effort, a synergy of sorts between the locals and the agencies of government. Sadly, in our view, because of mistrust on both sides, not much of this is happening. Instead, what is common is allegations and counter allegations of collusion.
While this is going on, the monster continues to ride roughshod on the means of sustenance of the people, jeopardising their mainstay and exposing everyone to the vagaries of food insecurity. To make the whole issue worse, it is beginning to be politicised. It has shockingly become a campaign issue, trivialising what is, to all intents and purposes, a strategic national security issue.
Agriculture and its derivatives are huge and have the potential to attract investors, foreign and local. But without security guarantees, no investor, no matter how hard-headed, will be inclined to invest in an area so infested with marauders whose target in the first place is the farmers and their crops and animals. This is coming up at a time when the government is driving hard on its policy of economic diversification with agriculture as the focal point of interest, pumping in billions of Naira especially in the rice revolution buoyed by the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The government has every reason to look back into history. If it does, it will realise that most revolutions start with and empires collapse on account of food insecurity. A hungry man is an angry man. This is a well-worn cliché. No gun or political sophistry is capable of controlling the tidal wave of a hungry and angry mob.
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