The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) has cautioned that unless government frontally tackled the lingering herdsmen/farmers’ clashes, Nigeria may soon experience serious food crisis.
The National President of the association, Barr, Ken Ukaoha, gave the warning at a one-day Farmers Consultative Meeting to Document and Validate Farmers Concerns and Challenges penultimate Thursday in Abuja.
While charging the Federal and State Governments to proffer urgent solution to the festering crisis, Ukaoha pointed out that with the crisis dislocating Small Holder Farmers (SHF) from their farmlands and causing socio-economic hardships on other economic operators in the North East and North Central zones, there was need for the government to act fast in ending the clashes.
As a strategic step of proffering long-term solution to the lingering crisis, the NANTS leader called on the governments at all levels, legislators and other critical stakeholders to discuss the underlying issues fanning the clashes and find lasting solutions to them
The NANTS boss said: “Out of six geo-political zones in the country, two zones are grappling with serious challenges in agricultural production. In the North-East, food production is almost non-existent. Boko Haram has decimated that axis.
“Then in the North-Central, regarded as the food basket of the nation, we have herdsmen/farmers clashes. These two major agricultural producing zones are almost cut-off. What is the future of the food security in the country?
“If care is not taken, the food import bill will overwhelm the country. These crises have negatively impacted on agricultural productivity. In the next few years, if these crises persist, we may resort to begging food from other countries, but God forbid”, Ukaoha cautioned.
On the issue of engaging farmers on policy issues that directly affect them, the leading advocate of fiscal justice lamented that over the years governments had treated farmers with disdain, especially in terms of their non-involvement in discussions on agricultural policy formulation, implementation and financing.
He therefore urged the Federal and State Governments to consult SHFs and other agricultural sector producers on matters affecting the sector from time to time such that policy decisions on the sector at national and sub-national levels are taken based on the interest of farmers.
He expatiated: “Majority of the Nigerian populace are farmers, however, they appear to be the poorest constituency in Nigeria. These small scale farmers have not been supported adequately over the years by successive administrations.
“Their voices are scarcely heard, neither are they adequately represented in policy-making process and in governance. This constituency has also been excluded and dis-empowered, while a major chunk of their concerns and interests are not taken into account or addressed,” Ukaoha added.