The insecurity situation in the country is taking its toll on farming activities as many small and large scale farmers in crisis-prone areas are abandoning their farms in fear for their lives, kidnapping, farm equipment and produce thefts, among others.
Our Agric Editor, who has been monitoring the worrying situation, reports that what seemed to be a threat mainly to farmers in the northern part of the country initially, is now assuming a national outlook with many of their southern counterparts being attacked on their farms.
Stakeholders in the agric sector have expressed concerns that if the ugly situation is not adequately addressed and quickly, too, the country’s effort towards attaining self-sufficient in food production would continue to suffer.
Worried by the situation, the Federal Government had in 2017 set up a security outfit within the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), called the Agro-Rangers, to primarily protect investments in the agricultural sector, including cattle rustling and farmers-herders clashes across the country.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that the formation of the security outfit was part of the outcome of series of meetings between the immediate past agriculture minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Ministry of Interior, office of the National Security Adviser and other stakeholders.
The composition of the Rangers
After it was agreed that a special security outfit for agro protection be provided by the NSCDC, the Commandant General of the Corps was directed to create a special unit called Agro Rangers unit with an Assistant-Commandant as head. Officers were further screened and sent for special training for the task. State commands of the corps were asked to replicate same for posting. Over 5000 personnel had reportedly been trained and posted for the task.
How it works
At the time of formation, the national head of Agro Rangers, Assistant Commandant Adamu Soja, told our Agric Editor that the rangers are meant to secure large-scale agric investment such as cattle ranches, integrated farms and such other agric ventures in any part of the country.
He said interested farmers would make written request to the NSCDC and that such request would be processed and an inspecting team dispatched to the farms for necessary appraisal.
AC Soja said such checks would reveal the number of agro rangers needed in the farm as well as other requirements by the outfit.
He said when an approval is given by the Corps, the required number of rangers would be posted to the farm.
Asked if there is any payment involved on the part of interested farmers, AC Adamu Soja said the service was free but that the farmers would have to provide where the rangers would stay.
He said the corps had enough personnel to protect agric investments across the country.
Why more state NSCDC commands establish Agro-Ranger units
Competent sources within the NSCDC said the continued threats to agric investments in many parts of the country require more security presence.
“Many farmers are requesting for the rangers; including in the southern parts of the country and to make the process simpler for them, we need to ensure easy access to our personnel in any part of the country. That is why the state commands are establishing their units,” the source said.
Recently, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State launched the Agro-Rangers squad to protect farms in the state.
“Government has opened farmlands across all the major highways and shall safeguard the land as well as the farmers,” he said.
The state commandant of the corps, Abdullahi Ibrahim, said the rangers’ operation was limited to Maiduguri Metropolitan Council and Jere Local Government Area for now.
In Ebonyi State, an Agro-Rangers unit was established on Tuesday to check farmers and herders clashes in the state.
State Commandant of the Corps, Lucy Samu, said during the inauguration that it presented an opportunity for the nation to be hopeful security-wise and embrace peace.
Similarly, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has inaugurated an Agro-Rangers squad in the state to protect farmers against any form of attack.
Bauchi and Zamfara are among states that recently established their rangers’ squads. Kaduna, Sokoto, FCT and some others had earlier established theirs.
Mixed views about the Rangers
Stakeholders are, however, expressing mixed feelings about the scope and operation of the Agro-Rangers. While many welcomed the setting up of the squad, some see it as solely meant to protect big investors.
At the formation, large scale farmers expressed confidence that the agro-rangers, if properly managed, would address some of the security challenges.
The managing director of a farm on the Abuja-Keffi Expressway had told Daily Trust Saturday that agricultural investors would welcome any initiative to address the security situation threatening farming activities in the country.
The MD, who said his farm sits on 124 hectares, noted that apart from several threats to his life and that of some of his workers, the hoodlums had sometime invaded the farm and rustled over a hundred cows.
He said he had to abandon the farm for fear of such threats, adding that he hoped the agro-rangers squad would help to check the situation.
Meanwhile, small scale farmers have also said they faced serious security threats in their farms like herders’ attacks, produce theft and sometimes kidnapping.
John Gbagaya, a farmer in Niger State, said his colleague and his child were attacked while working in the farm early last month, adding that the man was incapacitated by the bandits because of absence of security.
Another farmer in Bwari, FCT, Isiaku Daniel, while also making a case for small scale farmers, said half of the maize he harvested was stolen from his farm this year.
“We are just going to the farms at our own risk. You and I know the security threat presently along Bwari-Jere Road. So, for them to say it is only the big agric investment they are interested in is unfortunate,” he said.
A security analyst, Toyin Adebayo, welcomed the formation of the agro-rangers but said a more robust security arrangement that can also be of help to the small-scale farmers should be put in place.
Adebayo, who spoke on telephone with Daily Trust Saturday, however said many farmers may not have the facilities that can accommodate the rangers on their farms. He therefore suggested that the rangers be located in farm clusters so that many farmers could be protected.