Produce theft is fast becoming a menace in communities across Nigeria even as harvest time of some crops is gradually winding up.
A farmer in Shongom LGA of Gombe State, Mr Kenos Ali, said his neighbour has lost 15 bags of maize to produce thieves this year.
“People now sleep in their farms to protect their crops,” he said.
He said that several people have lost their maize and beans to the thieves, adding “We are yet to ascertain the people behind these thefts. The thieves are very smart and we suspect they use phones to communicate with their colleagues in crime who alert them when somebody is going to his farm.’’
Ali stated that the district head of Shongom advised farmers to quickly harvest their crops to avoid losing same to thieves. He said it was the district head’s advice that informed the decision of some people to sleep at their farms.
“This menace started about a month ago in our area,” he said. Initially, it was not serious but the situation has now gotten out of hand. People have taken to sleeping at their farms, taking along with them their motorcycles, food and flashlight,”he said.
He listed the villages that usually come under attack to include Majidadi, Popandi, Pamajo, Pamadu, Gujuba, all in Shongom LGA, adding that the area around Majidadi where big time farmers are located, farmers have security operatives looking after their farms.
Mr Simon Osaya, who hails from Filiya village in Shongom LGA of Gombe State, said: “I am a victim of produce theft. I lost my beans to the thieves two weeks ago. I did not report to security operatives because I do not suspect anybody. Beside, about three people who have reported to them have still not received any good news yet.”
In another instance, Emmanuel Mamuda, a farmer in Kabusa, a community in Abuja, said he has never witnessed produce theft until this year.
He said that the problem started during the harvest season of maize and continues up to now.
“I know five people that were victims of maize theft and another two people who were victims of beans theft,” he said.
He claimed that the thieves used to visit peoples’ farms in the afternoon to steal, making passers-by to believe they own the farm.
Mamuda said that residents have now resolved to prayers “because sometimes even if a thief is caught, he will say its hunger that pushed him to steal. However, he added: “We now watch over our farms, but other wealthy farmers pay people to watch over theirs.”