Farming in Kalari Abdulye is how most of its residents make a living – but rampaging insurgents and the forces’ lack of patrol cars, weapons and other security equipment is stopping them from doing their jobs, so instead they are sitting idle at home.
The agrarian community is in the Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State and its inhabitants depend almost entirely on farming activities and rearing livestock.
The community has suffered major setbacks in their agricultural activities because of the 13-year insurgency. And the remaining insurgents have made their lives a nightmare, instilling terror and stopping them from farming their land and rearing livestock.
A few months ago, a number of farmers were attacked and decapitated on their lands. Such attacks have terrified farmers, forcing them to stop any kind of agricultural activities, including rearing livestock. And they take their lives in their hands whenever they have to fetch firewood.
The many attacks have left the farmers feeling extremely vulnerable as ongoing raids by insurgents worsen their feelings of insecurity.
Some farmers in the community told RNI that they had been sitting idle, unable to go to their farmlands for almost eight years.
They said they had resumed partial farming activities in the beginning until the insurgents put a halt to that.
Mallam Faltaye said: “I’m a real farmer. I have been farming for more than 30 years but when the insurgency started all farming activities came to a standstill. We can farm and fetch firewood in the nearby forest but still we cannot go further than 1km away because if we do the Boko Haram [Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād – JAS] insurgents will attack and abduct us for ransom.
“Sometimes they force us to pay a lot of money. If you don’t have the money, they will kill you. We have been experiencing such attacks for so many years and nothing has been done to help us. We did not even prep for this year’s farming activities, not only because of the lack of rainfall but also because we are terrified of being attacked by Boko Haram terrorists.”
Faltaye said the high level of insecurity was a very real issue of concern in the community, adding that even though there were Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) members patrolling the village, they did not have the means to protect residents’ lives and property.
He said it was imperative for the government to provide adequate security personnel, as well as much-needed farming equipment, so that they could continue farming without always living in fear.
Sulum Bukura Kalli, another farmer, said: “We started partial farming activities but we are still frightened by the series of attacks by Boko Haram insurgents. Even if we go to the farm or forest at about 9am, we cannot stay for more than two hours. At about 10am or 11am we quickly return home because we fear we will be attacked.
“If we stay any longer, the Boko Haram insurgents come to us, riding motorbikes and carrying rifles. Sometimes they ask us to pay huge amounts of money. If you don’t have it or if you refuse to pay, they will kill you. Sometimes, they will raid our village and steal our livestock. Just recently, about four days ago, they came here and stole more than 300 goats and cows.
“The situation is critical. We have not been able to engage in any kind of farming activities and have not been able to do so for almost eight years. And we don’t have any other means to make a living. We depend solely on farming activities and rearing livestock. Our major concern is the lack of adequate security officers, despite the fact that there are more than 200 Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) members and local hunters. The trouble is they do not have adequate weapons.”
Kalli said the government needed to support the vigilantes by providing adequate weapons, adding that there should also be more military personnel in the community.
“We urgently need to resume farming activities without the ongoing security challenges.”
Bulama Mala, the ward head of Kalari Abdulye, told RNI that farmers in the community had not been able to go to their lands for years. Recently they resumed partial farming activities but they were terrified of being attacked by the insurgents.
“We have not been doing agricultural activities, neither irrigation nor seasonal farming, because of the persistent and deadly attacks by Boko Haram insurgents. This year we have been able to start farming again, but only partially. The attacks are terrifying. Many farmers have had to run from their land, chased by Boko Haram insurgents riding motorbikes and carrying guns. Some farmers have been killed and others abducted. The security challenges we are facing right now are even worse than two or three years ago.”
Mala told RNI that the lack of security made everyone in the community feel fearful.
“Our demand is that the government must provide adequate security personnel to safeguard and protect our lives and property, including our farmlands. Without this, we will not be able to return to full-scale farming activities as we did before.”
Bunu Bulama Umar, the CJTF commander of Kalari Abdulye, told RNI that the unit needed the government to support them by providing adequate weapons and other security equipment.
“Before, we use to safeguard the town voluntarily as vigilantes until the state government integrated us on to its payroll system. We have been and still are continuing to work as the CJTF, even though we have limited security equipment. That’s why there are some vigilantes who have joined us patrolling the area both day and night. Sometimes, we split into two groups; some of us work at night, protecting the irrigation farms in the town, others work during the day to safeguard the people’s farmlands and other property.
“Sometimes, if we go out to patrol the forest and the outskirts of the town, Boko Haram insurgents attack the town, killing people and stealing their livestock. Just three days ago, Boko Haram members attacked the community and stole many goats and cows, while we were at the Konduga Local Government Area’s headquarters collecting some bullets.”
Umar said this kind of thing happened all the time. As soon as the CJTF members were out on patrol, the JAS attacked the community. “It seems there is a mole among us who is communicating and feeding information to the insurgents. Sometimes we follow the Boko Haram insurgents and fight them in the bushes and retrieve the stolen livestock and other possessions. But it is difficult to defeat them because we do not have adequate weapons.”
He claimed that the military and police did not always cooperate with them. “Some try their best and do support us. We need their approval and clearance before we can go out on patrol.”
The government should support the CJTF members and vigilantes by providing adequate weapons and other security equipment, said Umar.
“We also need patrol vehicles, because CJTF members and local hunters that operate in Amarwa, Kaleri, Wanori, Bori and Laujeri do not have any. They are also short of other security equipment. We hope the government will provide these for us so that we can continue to secure our home town and the farmers will be able to go back to their lands.”
SHETTIMA LAWAN MONGUNO