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How continuous voluntary surrendering of Boko Haram fighters affects farming in Borno

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Boko Haram insurgents activities have consistently impacted on socio economic and political activities of Borno state for over a decade with attendant killings of hundreds of thousands of people both young and old, male and female apart from the wanton destruction of public and private property worth billions of naira.

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The insurgency however prompted several calls and pleas from all sections of the society from far and near by individuals and Organizations while others suggested for dialogue or reconciliation between the insurgents and government which led to non kinetic approach to the war as part of the post insurgency rebuilding and peace making processes.

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Our Maiduguri Correspondent, SADIQ ABUBAKAR gives an X-ray of how continuous voluntary surrendering of Boko Haram fighters have impacted on agricultural activities in Borno state.
A situation where there has been voluntary surrendering of thousands of Boko Haram insurgents to security agencies across Borno State which is the epic center of the thirteen insurgency.

Investigation revealed that recent Nigerian military reports indicated that over 50,000 repentant Boko Haram insurgents households have so far voluntarily surrendered to security agents and laid down their arms to the security agents.

It will be recalled that the Boko Haram activities, has fundamentally dethroned socio-economic activities by Increased crime and destruction of both lives a d property.

These abuses include murder, abduction, sexual violence, forced labour, forced conscription of children, looting, and burning public buildings (such as schools), personal property (such as farmland), and in some cases entire villages and agriculture. In Borno state being the major occupation of large majority of the citizens of the state as the most important sector of the state economy from the standpoint of rural employment, sufficiency in food and fibre, and export earning prior to the discovery of oil.

The Chairman, Zabarmari Rice Profession Sellers Association, Alh. Hassan Mohammed in a telephone conversation also told our correspondent in Maiduguri that,” Now we don’t have fear any longer about Boko Haram insurgents. We do meet with each other in the bush today unlike in the past without any fear of attack. They no longer kill or attack us. We do our farm businesses and leave for house peacefully unlike in the past.

“The Boko Haram insurgents who surrendered gave us more strength and power to go to farms even in far distances unlike in the past where we can not go to farm beyond 1 kilometer. Now, we can go as far as 10-20 kilometers or more to cultivate our farmlands, harvest our farms and transport our produces peacefully,” Hassan said.

Alh. Hassan said there was sustained emphasis on agricultural activities such that Borno is a major producer of dry season farming products like rice, pepper, tomatoes, onions, wheat, guinea corn, millet, water melon and other vegetables. In addition to these crops, Borno produces enough food crops such as potatoes, cassava, maize, millet, sorghum and soya beans so that there is practically no need for food importation. Hitherto, agriculture accounted for over 60% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) According to BOSADP statistics in 2018.

He however appealed to the state government to assist and support their members/farmers, especially, those that have willingly accepted to return to their ancestral homes to live a normal life with their major occupation as farming, calling on the Government to provide them with farming implements, fertilizer, seedlings and seeds as well as water pumps and their kits for the dry season farming as well as rice farming.

According to him, the level of food produces this year has multiplied compared to last year’s availability of food produces in the market and unlike last two years when nobody can dare make any attempt to access farm far away from his or her farm one kilometer away from the Resettlement area.

He also claimed that the Zabarmari Rice locally produced is one of the best and better in taste and quality that those of the foreign ones, noting that, rice buyers and sellers prepare to patronize the local rice than the rice from India and Thailand.

Hassan said with the Government support and empowerment on rice and wheat production, a bumper harvest should be expected next year as all the support and facilities provided would be channeled towards agricultural activities of the state.

In the 1970s, 1980s , and 1990s, Borno was known to be a major agricultural producer in Nigeria. While Nigeria once provided 18% of the world demand of cocoa, second in the world in the 1960s, that figure has drastically reduced to 8%. Also the country which was known to produce 65% of tomatoes in West Africa has become the leading importer of tomato paste.
But on his part, the Special Adviser to Governor Zulum on Agriculture, Hon. Ali Audu Damasak in an interview with our Maiduguri Correspondent said,” Boko Haram activities resulted in the poor performance of the agricultural sector of the state truncating farming activities with killings, burning and displacement of people in rural areas and their property”.

He said,” Their attacks were below economic expectation where the criminals activities are still capable of frustrating socioeconomic development of people living in remote and rural areas, most especially in the northern Borno as they engaged more in agriculture than any other trade in order to sustain themselves, and trade within their capacity or capabilities for profit making “.

“However, the on-going Boko Haram insurgency has affected the rural agricultural economy in the northern part of Borno. The impact of voluntary surrendering of Boko Haram fighters on agricultural sector of Borno and its environs is enormous with lots of benefits as most farmers especially in the northern part of the state have gained a lot from the state government by way of support and assistance including water pumps, fertilizer, seedlings, seeds and cash among others.”

“A lot of farmlands were cultivated and youths engaged as labourers while large or expanded farmlands were allocated to the rural farmers as no more terrorists attacks. Even a few Boko Haram fighters are in the bush, they no longer attack the farmers and interfere into the farming activities of the villagers.

“We have been to many communities and provided them with farming implements and facilities including farmlands, fertilizer, seedlings, seeds, water pumps machines, pesticides and even transport facilities. Although agriculture is not limited to crop production alone.,” Audu said.

According to the Special Adviser, the Northern Borno also involves animal husbandry and fishery which they engaged in business even before the colonial era. The manifestation of Boko Haram recently has been a great threat to the Borno business environment as farming and other business activities are being harmed

While Nomadic cattle rearers who have been taking their cattle out for grazing have abandoned their business, as the environment is no longer safe for them. Same thing goes with the Fishermen. The lives of those that are still involved in the businesses are also at stake, because attacks of Boko Haram can occur at any moment in any place.

According to the Special Adviser to Governor Zulum of Borno state on Agriculture, Hon. Ali Audu Dasamak some of the crops being produced in Mibbar, Kukawa, Magumeri, Gubio, Baga, Monguno, Nganzai and Guzamala areas are also perishable and need to be consumed on time.

Consequently, the security challenges in the past one to two years had also led to poor cultivation, of farmlands harvest of farm produces, transportation, of farm produces, high transport cost, displacement of people, properties and high risk to lives from periodic attacks.

These crops get spoiled leading to wastages and some of these crops need to be marketed on time, but due to imposed curfew and several restriction of movement; they perished and become unmarketable where the hazard caused by Boko Haram is not only felt in Borno but in some other parts of the state

The Special Adviser added that Niger, Chad and Cameroon republics sharing borders with Nigeria in the North East part are also affected. Traders from this country can no longer come to Maiduguri (Borno) to buy or sell.

The borders were closed some time ago and occupied by Boko Haram fighters, restricting movements, importation or exportation from the countries which affected their economy. The Niger Republic economy is also affected, as it shares border with Nigeria and both countries benefits from each other socio economically and politically.

The PRO who doubles as the Operations Officer of the Lake Chad Basin Fishery Association, Alh. Labo Dahiru on behalf of the National Chairman, Alhaji Garba Gamadi told our correspondent in Maiduguri that the voluntary surrendering of the Boko Haram fighters at the Lake Chad Basin has tremendously resulted in increasing number of fishermen who have returned to fishery business and commended the state government as well as the security agencies for their role and support.

He further called in the state government and other organizations to support them with fishing inputs and kits among others to boost their business while expressing gratitude for the recent state governors financial assistance to the association members

Labo however said that the voluntary surrendering of the Boko Haram fighters has impacted in the fishermen by way of having access to their business places and transporting their products peacefully without any attack unlike in the past two years while appreciating the support of the security agents and government.

The Operations Officer also appealed to the government to ensure complete elimination of the Boko Haram insurgents in the bush, pointing out that, there is still skeletal presence of BHTs in the bush but this time around they don’t attack or kill the farmer and fishermen but they do tell them to vacate or relocate from their escape routes.

This has led to decreases in not only food production but milk production, meat production and by extension an increase in the prices of the cattle. And fish Poultry farmers who also do not find their businesses as usual lucrative anymore, as they have been displaced, maimed, killed, attacked and hired while the people purchasing the cultivated goods have been displaced and threatened.

It will be recalled that the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri has disclosed that the level Boko Haram insurgents have been voluntarily surrendering is in the increase in Borno and the theater command at large.

Where the Theater Commander, Operation Hadin Kai, Major General Chris G. Musa had disclosed to newsmen in Maiduguri recently that more than 50,000 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists and their families have surrendered to the Nigerian troops of Operation Hadin Kai in the North-East between September 2021 and April 2022.4 Apr 2022

He added that a total number of 470 Boko Haram insurgents, among them, more than 50 senior commanders and their families have surrendered to troops of Operation Hadin Kai in the Southern part of the Borno State.

Following availability of security and accessibility to farmlands in the rural areas across the state, especially, the northern Borno axis, where farming activities have resumed in earnest, the state government has consistently been encouraging the returnee IDPs whose major occupation is farming to cultivation larger size of farmlands at even far distances or locations at the outskirts of their various communities for bumper harvest .

This led to Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum in Monguno recently to direct the release of five vehicles and a business grant to fish marketers where Zulum’s offer, issued during an interactive meeting with fish dealers in Monguno town was aimed at enhancing the trading of dried fish previously suspended as a result of the activities of Boko Haram insurgents.

The Governor who was in Monguno to supervise the distribution of N275m alongside bags of food items and textiles to over 90,000 IDPs and vulnerable members of the host communities to boost economic activities in Borno were disrupted due to Boko Haram’s attacks on security forces and communities, which led to the displacement of millions of people.

Before the insurgency, which disrupted business activities in most communities in Borno, dry fish was commercially supplied to other parts of Nigeria and to the neighbouring countries.

Zulum has in 2019 directed for the disbursement of billions of naira aimed at supporting business owners whose sources of livelihood were crippled by over a decade conflict in the northeast. While Governor urged the traders to cooperate with the security agencies by providing information about suspicious activities relating to insurgents.

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