By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has called on the Federal Government to compensate farmers whose crops were destroyed by herdsmen’s cows. MURIC suggests that the compensation which may be instalmental, should be paid to farmers whose farms were destroyed in all states of the federation. The group said it now has concrete evidence of the culpability of herdsmen, including video clips in which cows destroyed farms belonging to members of the organization.
This was contained in a press statement issued by the director of the human rights organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Friday, 5th February, 2021.
The statement reads:
“MURIC is now in possession of indubitable evidence of the destruction of crops on farmlands by cows brought by herdsmen. We sent out feelers to all states where we have branches of MURIC and the reports are overwhelmingly convincing. We asked our members to supply information on the activities of herdsmen in their states, including Abuja. In fact we were stupefied by the outcome.
“The most recent report from a young member of MURIC in Ogun State who ventured into agriculture reads: ‘Herders invaded my five hectares of rice farm three days ago (Sunday, 31st January, 2021) and it was totally destroyed. The incident happened at the farm of Sanpro Foods, a rice production company whose premises is located at the Oyan farm settlement, Ibaro Rice Village, Ibaro in Abeokuta North Local Government, Abeokuta, Ogun State. The farm is along Igboora Road after the roundabout.’
“The most heart-rending part of the report was towards the end where it added: ‘The most frustrating part is am not getting my investment back and I hate this feeling of ‘nothing can be done’. I don’t know what to do, perhaps I should organise a press conference.’
“As if that was not enough, the mudiir (principal) of a local Arabic school in Lagos also reported another sad incident in which herders brought cows to invade his father’s cashew farm in Ijomu-Oro, Kwara State. Everything was destroyed and he lamented that his father would have realised millions of naira had he been able to harvest his cashew nuts. He added that the fear of herders has forced farmers in Ido-Oro (also in Kwara State) to abandon their farms.
“This is frightening. Farmers in Kwara State are afraid of going to their farms due to the activities of herders. Farmers in Zamfara and Katsina have run away from their farms for fear of being killed or kidnapped by bandits. Farmers in Ilesa, Osun State, those in Igangan, Oyo State and those in Ebonyi live in palpable fear of herders. From where shall food come to our tables? Famine is coming! Cows and bandits have taken over Nigerian farms.
“MURIC charges FG and the state governments to take responsibility. It is very clear that FG is yet to appreciate what farmers are going through in the hands of marauding herdsmen. Perhaps we will appreciate the pain of farmers better when we realise that agriculture essentially entails a long and slow process from clearing to planting and harvesting.
“No crop starts germinating in a single day and ripens for harvest the next day. Both cash and food crops are the outcome of hard work and patient perseverance over time, sometimes two or three years. The shortest is three months for crops like corn and yam. How would you feel if someone just walks in and smashes all what you have been putting together for months or years? We therefore declare that farmers have been patient enough. FG should do something urgently.
“What MURIC will like to suggest is that FG should roll out a compensation programme, albeit instalmentally, to be paid to farmers of all categories who have evidence of loss of crops due to the activities of herders and bandits. This will make government’s policy of bailout comprehensive, fair and balanced.
“We recall our advice to FG two days ago in which we advocated for payment of bailout for herders to enable them buy land from private owners for use as ranches. The compensation we are now asking for farmers who lost their crops will be spread to all parts of the country: farmers in Benue, Ondo, Sokoto, Ekiti, Enugu, Ogun, Katsina, etc will be eligible. This is the way government can take responsibility. We may add here that such compensation will assuage farmers, douse tension across the country and inject a new dose of confidence in Project Nigeria.
“We were motivated to offer this advice after a female member of MURIC related her experience. She reported how she witnessed an argument between some herdsmen and farmers when she travelled to visit her mother in Ilesa in 2019. According to her, the herdsmen had driven cows unto a farm thereby destroying everything in it. The farmer insisted on compensation or there would be trouble and he only backed down after the herdsmen paid the money.
“This example shows that payment of compensation to farmers will bring peace to our troubled land. We are also aware that in the culture of the herdsmen, those who kill their cows can only be forgiven after compensation has been paid.
“We therefore appeal to all ethnic groups who are currently agitating to simmer down. There is no problem without a solution so long as we can have time to sit down and think. We call on the security agencies to descend on criminals among the herdsmen as well as others in society and bring them to book. What we should not do is ethnic profiling. But no tribe has immunity so long as crime has been committed and evidence has been provided.
“We remind Nigerians that wars and conflicts have not yielded positive results anywhere in Africa. It was Herodotus who said, ‘In peace, sons bury their fathers, but in war, fathers bury their sons.’ The question is : do we want to start burying our sons? May Allah forbid. Neither does anyone know who will survive if we start a war. That was why Bertrand Russell said, ‘War does not determine who is right, but who is left’. We hope Nigerians still have time to ponder before we start counting bodybags.”
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)