Farmers in Molai, a village close to Maiduguri, have been stopped in their tracks by the military which has blocked all routes to their lands, even though it is the start of the wet season and the best time to work their lands.
The farmers have asked the Borno State government to urgently intervene, saying that if they cannot work their land, they will not produce crops and there will be no harvest, which could contribute to food insecurity down the line.
Maliu Bukar Mainari said: “Last year the governor [Babagana Umara Zulum] came here and he ordered the military to open the road for us, so that we could work on and lands and be free to continue our business and other activities freely. This year we were expecting the same help from the governor ordering the routes to our land to be opened so we could start farming again. Other places have already started planting seeds, but in Molai we have not even started to clear or sweep our farmlands because the military has closed all the routes. We are now just sitting here doing nothing. It is very frustrating.
“We are all facing hunger. As we have not been able to farm on a large scale, we did not have a decent harvest. And, even if our farmlands were accessible, we will need help from the government with seeds and fertilizer. We do not have the means ourselves and we cannot farm when we are starving.
“We are IDPs, who have been living in Molai for about eight or nine years now. But the government has forgotten us. Our little children are suffering because they go to be with empty tummies. We also urgently need other social services.”
Tijjani Ibrahim said: “We really appreciated what the state governor did last year when he came here to open the main road for motorists. He promised us that we would soon be able to start our farming activities without obstacles. He even distributed seeds and fertilizers, among other much-needed farming equipment. He promised to help us by providing food and social services as he has done in other areas. But we have not seen him since then and we have not had any humanitarian assistance as he promised. Most of us are now living in abject poverty. There is no work and we are not allowed to farm. We don’t have anything to eat.
“We want the governor to fulfil the promises he made. We are suffering because of hardships we face. Mr Governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, I don’t know if you are listening to this station [RNI]. We have tried various media to remind you about the promises that you made. Mr Governor, you know you are the one who promised to assist us and we have not forgotten that promise. Thus, Mr Governor come and fulfil the promises you made by providing food items and social services. We are begging you to come and open this route, so that we can start going to our farms.”
Modu Aisami Umarari, one of the ward heads of Molai village, told RNI that the traditional rulers had tried their best to urge the military to open the routes so that farmers could access their farms, but it has been all in vain.
“Our main problem is the closure of access to our farmlands. What led to the closure of the routes was an attack by Boko Haram recently. For months before the attack, the road was open. But after the attack the military closed the routes and they have remained closed. I think the routes have been closed since last month during Ramadan and have remained closed for about 40 to 50 days.
“On behalf of the people of Molai, we, the traditional rulers, have approached the military several times, begging them to open the routes so that we can continue with our businesses, farming and other activities. But the military has refused. They told us to be patient, saying the closure of the routes was for security concerns. We have tried our best as traditional rulers. Now we are pleading with all the authorities concerned, especially the state governor, to look in to this matter. Farming is the only means we have here to sustain our livelihoods.”
SHETTIMA LAWAN MONGUNO