Farmers, especially those on large-scale, are keeping away from their farms owing to the activities of kidnappers, consequently posing threat to commercial farming in Nigeria, Daily Trust reports.
There are many large scale farmers across the country with hundreds of hectares of land engaged in both crop and livestock farming.
However, the increased incidence of kidnapping in some parts of the country, particularly in the North, are at present threatening commercial farming as the owners are specifically becoming the target of kidnappers.
A chief executive officer of an integrated farm along Jere-Kagarko Road in Kaduna State said owners of commercial farms were becoming the target of kidnappers, which he said was forcing them away from their farms.
The CEO, whose farm sits on about 250 hectares, told Daily Trust that there was an attempt to kidnap him on his way to the farm.
He said, thereafter, one of his staff was kidnapped at the farm and he had to pay N2m as ransom before he was freed.
“Since then, I ran away from the farm and I even contemplated shutting down the farm but still considered the huge investment I have made on it,” he said.
His integrated farm cultivates crops like maize, ginger and soybeans. It also has a 250,000-capacity fish pond.
He also rears goats and sheep and has about 50,000 laying birds in his poultry.
The CEO hailed the move by the Federal Government to set up agro-rangers even as he further called on government to consolidate security presence along the Bwari-Jere-Kaduna Road.
Daily Trust reports that police presence has improved along the road.
Also, the managing director of another farm on the Abuja-Keffi Express Way told Daily Trust that he ordered the closure of the farm five months ago due to the activities of kidnappers.
He said apart from several threats to his life and the lives of some of his workers, the hoodlums sometimes ago invaded the farm and rustled about 160 cows.
The farmer, whose farm sits on 124 hectares, said prior to the closure of the farm, he cultivated about 160,000 heaps of yam, which yielded a bumper harvest last year, and that he cultivated watermelon too.
“I farm all-year round because I have irrigation facilities, but my family advised me to stop going to the farm because of the activities of kidnappers and because of trust: you can’t just leave your investment in the hands of your workers, and even at that, what if they kidnap any of them and start demanding big money, where will I get the money? That was why I thought I should just close down the farm until the situation improves,” he said.
The MD further said he advised his farmer friends to do same because of their safety. He, therefore, urged government to be serious about the security situation in the country.
Another commercial farmer at a village outside Bwari in the FCT also disclosed how he narrowly escaped being kidnapped on his way to farm some weeks ago.
The farmer, who combines cultivation of crops with animal husbandry, said as he was moving to the farm along the Jere-Bwari Road, some hoodlums opened fire on his jeep, adding that since then he had not stepped into the farm.
“I have not been to the farm since then; who knows what is happening to my animals and crops there. Sometimes you don’t trust some of these staff; you need to be going there to see things yourself,” he said.
He described the situation as worrisome and also called on government to address the situation. Also, most of the more than a dozen large scale farms on the Kaduna- BirninGwari road have been abandoned by their owners since the road became security-challenged for the last few years.
Farm owners along the axis described the situation as worrisome.
Farmers, foreign investors scared – Dangote
President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, recently raised alarm that kidnappers were scaring away not only commercial farmers, but foreign investors also.
Dangote, who spoke through his company’s Executive Director on Stakeholder Relations and Corporate Communication, Mansur Ahmed, at the just concluded NABG AgrikExpo and Conference, said kidnappers were forcing farmers to abandon their farms.
Dangote said: “I know a large number of people who used to have farms between Abuja and Kaduna: most of them have stopped farming because quite a few of them have been abducted. I know at least half a dozen people who have farms in that area who have been kidnapped.”
The National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Architect Kabiru Ibrahim, described the issue of kidnapping as a serious problem.
“I go through a lot of problems here. If I am going to Abuja, when I arrive, my family will call to find out if I arrived well, and my people in Abuja, when I go back to Kaduna, also call me to know if I had arrived safely,” he said.
A Professor of Agricultural Economics at the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) in Ibadan, Aderibigbe Olomola, said the Abuja-Kaduna axis had become notorious for kidnapping, a trend which, he said, affected not only farming activities, but all other businesses in the area.
He said large-scale farmers were not necessarily targeted because they were just farmers but because they were rich.
He said kidnapping was a general social problem and, therefore, charged government to develop infrastructure in the domain of farming: the rural areas.
Oseni Yusuf of the Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Department, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said the impact of kidnapping of commercial farmers was great, including its negative impact on income generation, standard of living and that it had health consequences on the families of affected farmers.
How to apply for Agro Rangers
The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, said efforts were being intensified to address the ugly scenario.
The Director, Minister’s Office at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Mr. Victor Mayomi, said to safeguard heavy investment in the agricultural sub-sector, a security group called agro-rangers had been set up with over 3,000 personnel to guard agric investments.
He said the agro-rangers constituted a unit within the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
In an interview with Daily Trust, the Head of the Agro-Rangers Unit, AdamuSoja, an Assistant Comptroller General, confirmed that the scheme had started with over 3,000 personnel.
He said the corps had already deployed personnel to safeguard a multipurpose farm in Sokoto, adding that the unit had also received applications from farmers, which he said were being speedily processed.
ACG Soja advised interested farm owners and other agric investors to write request letters to the Comptroller General of the NSCDC, from where the Agro-Rangers Unit would get directives for immediate processing.
“Once the unit receives the letter, if the security situation of such farm demands urgent attention, I will first direct our nearest command to deploy personnel to the farm pending my security assessment visit to such farm,” he said.
He further said the security assessment visit would eventually determine the number of personnel and the nature of the security gadgets to be deployed to the farm, adding that the size of the farm and the security situation would determine the number of personnel that would be approved.
ACG Sojasaid the scheme was absolutely free anywhere in the country, but that farm owners might provide accommodation for the personnel deployed to them.
“Based on our security assessment, we may also ask the farm owners to build perimeter fences. This is to make patrol easier for our men,” he added.
He said upon request, agric investments of any nature would benefit from the scheme, stressing that the process was simple, fair and fast.