In the end, it all boils down to land grabbing by any means. The terror enterprise that has endured in Zamfara state against pastoral farmers is changing narration. The herders, who are dishing out the terror and gangsterism in Zamfara state, are altering the playbook.
‘We can give you reprieve, if you sell your land to us,’ they now tell the frightened and subdued farmers in the state.
Having ridden roughshod on the farm fields, rustling livestocks, abducting for ransom and burning down farmsteads and communities, the herders want to put a seal of perpetual control on the indigenous people by taking over their land.
For instance, in Hwadama, Bakin Gulbi in Moriki Community of Zurmi local Government area of Zamfara state, farmers are in daily agony, mulling their fate of unrestrained attacks or life long slavery. The herders appear reassured that no state law nor its enforcers could rein in on their rascality.
Hwadama, Bakin Gulbi is an irrigational area with year round access to water. The swathe of land around the area is populated with peasant farmers who cultivate potatoes, onions, and other vegetables. Their livelihood is farming and their entire lives are tied to the parcels of land they own and cultivate.
Long begotten to violence with firm footholds in places of power, the herders are railroading their way with a threat and a buy out option which value, of course, must be determined by them.
The herders seem to be beating a retreat from their notorious violence spots in the North Central states to the North West and are viewing lush land such as is the case in Hwadama, Bakin Gulbi as an entitlement for which a further act of warfare can fetch.
The delayed rain is putting a limit to the places their herds could graze on. The herders are under pressure. There is a desperation to survive. Some of the farmers spoke with HumAngle:
According to Shehu Moriki, one of the farmers, “the Fulanis would come with hundreds of animals in broad daylight while we work on our farms. They would demand that you sell the farms to them.”
How much are they ready to spend, you might ask? “The highest amount they have ever offered is N300. And your response is of no consequence to them because right before your eyes they will unleash their animals on your crops for grazing while using their cutlasses to destroy your harvest.”
Another farmer, Sani Abu, who lost his harvest and farms to the herders, was overcome with emotion when he narrated his ordeal, “they came here and warned us to pack everything we can and gave us an ultimatum of one week.”
“We never took it serious till they came back after the set time and asked me to sell my farm to them for their animals to feed on. They offered N200 and I refused to sell. They violently chased me away from my farm while they destroyed the crops and harvest.”
The communities are finding these hard to believe. They told HumAngle how they had been helpful host to the Fulani herders over the years. According to the community leaders, they operated an unwritten code whereby the herders normally take their herds to the farms after the farmers had finished harvesting.
While this seemingly unwritten code lasted the communities dwelt peacefully. But the turn of events now beats their understanding. And they are raising alarm and calling for government intervention before their clans are wiped out by the vicious herders.
One of the farmers who spoke with HumAngle estimates that almost 75 per cent of farmers in the community have experienced the same brutality and aggression. Most crops planted in the area are beans, potatoes, onions and other vegetables which are products widely consumed by the animals.