Revamping The Agricultural Sector Amidst Herdsmen’s Menace
Before the discovery of crude oil, agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Agricultural products being exported from the Northern, Eastern and the Western parts of the country were the major sources of the country’s revenue then.
However, with the sudden discovery of oil and its high sales, successive governments in the country abandoned the agricultural sector. With surplus money from the oil sales, the jamborees and extravagance among the leaders and the led in the country continued unabated with impunity amid neglect of the agricultural and infrastructural sectors of the economy.
The recent sudden crash in the price of the crude oil appears to have re-awakened the consciousness of the country’s leadership on the need to refocus its attention on agriculture as the mainstay of the country’s economy.
But Many Nigerians are of the view that revamping the agricultural sector would be a herculean task for the governments and the farmers as well, in face of the endless menace of the herdsmen across the country, especially in the North Central, Southeast and South South zones.
The recent attack of six agrarian communities in Agatu Local Council of Benue State by herdsmen has once more raised serious security concerns of the possibility of revamping the agricultural sector amidst herdsmen’s menace.
Agatu attack was just one of the many incessant attacks by herdsmen across the country. Apart from the attack on human lives, engaging in armed robbery, abduction, raping and killings, the herdsmen and their cattle invade farmlands at will and destroy crops. Armed with sophisticated weapons, it is obvious that they pose a serious security threat to the country, which, if left unchecked, will seriously affect the present government’s plan to revive the agricultural sector.
Today most peasant farmers and rural dwellers in the North Central States, South South and Southeast zones cannot sleep in their homes talk less of going to their farmlands for the fear of being attacked by the herdsmen.
The incessant herdsmen and farmers’ clashes have continued unabated, despite several promises by successive governments in the country to tackle it. The immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan once promised to establish a grazing route for them.
Also in the same vein, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into the recent killings by herdsmen in Agatu, Benue State.
“We will conduct an investigation to know exactly what happened; the only way to bring an end to the violence once and for all is to look beyond one incident and ascertain exactly what factors are behind the conflicts.” President Buhari said in a statement signed by the special assistant to the President on media and publicity, Garba Shehu.
He expressed “deep shock” at the large-scale violence that led to hundreds of deaths in four communities in Agatu Local Council of Benue State.
Many houses were also razed and properties destroyed before security agents restored peace.
He added that all Nigerians must learn to live together as one, in peace and unity.
“We are all one nation and one people,” he said. “There should not be any reason why Nigerians of any group or tongue cannot now reside with one another wherever they find themselves after decades of living together.”
The President further expressed condolences to the government and people of Benue State, particularly the people of the Agatu communities, assuring them that government would do everything possible to ensure that no such incident ever occurred in their midst again.
“Once the investigations are concluded, we will act immediately to address the root of the problem,” he said.
Before the Agatu attack, the Minister of the Interior, Lt General Adbulrahman Danbazzau (rtd) had promised that the ministry would ramp up activities aimed at curbing the herdsmen menace through capacity building and equipping security officers operating under the umbrella of the Ministry.
Speaking at a Presidential Panel Roundtable on Investment and Growth Opportunities at the opening session of Africa 2016: Business for Africa, Egypt and the World at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt recently, President Muhammadu Buhari said that the priority of his administration was to ensure national food security before export of food products.
Buhari stressed that Nigeria, being a mono-economy dependent on oil, and with a teeming unemployed youth population, the way out of the current slump in the global oil market, is for the administration to focus on agriculture and solid minerals development.
“The land is there and we need machinery inputs, fertilizer and insecticides”, he said.
Speaking to The Guardian on the issue, a security expert, Mr. Samuel Akwam said that the Federal government should do more than rhetorics in tackling the herdsmen’s attacks in the country.
“There is no way the country can achieve food security or revamp the agricultural sector in the face of these ugly and endless clashes between the herdsmen and their host communities.
“Most North Central States are the food basket of the country, but they have been under regular attack by the herdsmen. How can we achieve food security in this situation?
“Food Security according to the World Food Summit in 1996 is a situation which exists when all people, at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
“The Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) identified four pillars of food security as availability, access, utilisation and stability. Most farmers do not have access to their farmlands today. There is no stability in the society, because of the nefarious activities of the herdsmen.”
On the way out, Akwam said the Federal government should, as a matter of urgency, address the menace of the herdsmen and rustlers across the country before thinking of revamping the agricultural sector.
To be sincere, anything contrary to this will fail. This is because it will be a case of putting the horse before the cart. Herdsmen activities pose serious security challenge. The earlier it is tackled, the better for the country especially now that the country needs to revamp agriculture to serve as the backbone of the country in face of the dwindling price of crude oil.
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