The rising incident of insecurity in the country is making some investors in farming activities regret their investment decisions as it is putting their investments at risk thereby threatening food security at the national and regional levels, investigations have shown.
Aside the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of the country; Benue, Ekiti, Delta, Kaduna, Ebonyi among others, which has put farm activities in check, as farmers stay out of farms for fear of being mauled; kidnappers are turning to local farm workers whom they regularly whisk away to demand ransom from farm owners.
Investigation in Lagos, for example, shows that a few investors some of whom were encouraged to return to Nigeria from overseas by the Federal Government’s hype to zero in on agriculture as the next economic growth driver following the dwindling fortunes of crude oil; are reappraising their decision, as they lament frequent payments of ransom to kidnappers to rescue workers abducted from their farms around Egansoyindo, Ketu and Igbodu in Epe.
According to findings, farmers engaged in poultry, piggery, fishery, crops and vegetables, including watermelon, are moving out of farm settlements, leaving them desolate as fear spreads over the activities of kidnappers.
“I am regretting relocating from the United States to invest in agriculture in Nigeria, says Nelson Akingboye, a farm owner in Epe, Lagos said.
According to Akingboye, he is watching his life’s saving invested in farming in Lagos going down the drain, as “some criminals that call themselves kidnappers keep coming to my farm to kidnap my workers. My tractors and farming equipment worth billions of naira are wasting away.”
“First time I paid N700, 000 ransom to get my workers back. Two weeks later they came to pick three, I paid N300, 000 with pleading to release them. I am fed up with this. I can’t cope, I can’t take it anymore,” laments the American returnee.
Akingboye discloses that about 15 gunmen dressed in military uniform also recently invaded a farm along Igbodu-Isiwo Road in Epe and abducted four poultry farmers away, adding that in all, some 25 farmers have been kidnapped within the last five months. “Nobody’s safety is guaranteed anymore here,” he says.
Lamenting similar fate, Akin Braithwaite, chairman of Farmville, an organic agro-allied firm, says four farm workers of Farmville were abducted and taken into Igbodu forest by suspected militants.
The entrepreneur, who says he went into farming to ensure food security and create jobs, says he could not hear from the four victims until the following day when somebody contacted him to demand for ransom.
“Our worst fear was confirmed when someone contacted us through a telephone that our workers were abducted by kidnappers. They demanded a ransom. Following that initial call, there were series of telephone calls until the farm workers were finally released.
“As to the payment of ransom, the kidnappers gave clear warning and instructions as to where the money should be dropped. Later, we got to know what happened to the victims while in captivity when they were released.”
Braithwaite, who calls on the government and the security agencies to rise to the emerging challenge, says Igbodu requires special security attention having been opened up because of the large-scale farming going within the community.
Olaitan Oshodiro, a community leader in Igbodu, says the kidnappers may be those dislodged from Arepo in Ogun and Isawo in Ikorodu area of Lagos, relocating to Epe to pose security threat. “We cannot sleep anymore. We cannot go to farm, so as not to be kidnapped,” he laments.
The Lagos State House of Assembly passed recently passed a law authorising death penalty for kidnappers in the state.