Residents of Zabarmari town in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State Sunday marked the one year remembrance anniversary of the death of 48 rice farmers with prayers.
The farmers who were inhabitants of Zabarmari were slaughtered by insurgents at the neighbouring Koshebe town in Mafa Local Government Area. They were reportedly working on their farms in different locations including Zabarmari, Koshebe, Bulaburin, Karkut, Gudda, Gudda Cizama and Azaya before they were assembled at Koshebe and killed.
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Secretary, Jere Rice Traders Association, Malam Mika’il Mohammed, said people including traditional leaders in the area gathered and made supplications “to Allah” for the repose of the souls of the departed as well as for peace and protection in line with their traditions.
He said the families of some of the assassinated farmers who were still struggling to make ends meet needed assistance.
He said all those killed were residents of Zabarmari, which is among the largest rice production areas in the state.
The incident, he said, frightened farmers, some of whom abandoned their crops to pests and birds.
“Later, troops were sent to the area who escorted people to their farms and stayed with them daily until the end of the harvesting period. The protection given to farmers in the area has really helped even though some never returned to their farms until this year. Unfortunately, this season is not bumper for rice due to insufficient rainfall but we are making preparation for the dry season. Hopefully, there will be an improvement,” he said.
He said most of the villagers had returned to their farmlands this year and that hundreds of acres left unplanted after the attacks are now rice paddies.
“Most of these unplanted farms are located in distant areas where farmers were scared to go. At the moment, people have reclaimed their farms and planted rice and few other crops such as cowpea and maize,” he said.
He called on authorities to provide farm inputs to local farmers to boost crop production as the insurgency ends gradually.
Another farmer from Koshebe said many people were devastated and heartbroken at the killing of the farmers as well as at the conditions of the immediate families they left behind.
He said the essence of the one year anniversary was to remember and pray for the late farmers and for the community to come to the aid of their families where necessary.
He said though a similar incident was not experienced, other minor attacks had continued to deter farmers from cultivating distant farmlands.
He also called on state authorities to provide roads networks in the rural communities.
Governor Babagana Umara Zulum, who attended the funeral prayers of the farmers last year said, “It is disheartening that more than 40 citizens were slaughtered while they were working in their farmlands.
“Our people are in very difficult situations, they are in two different extreme conditions. On one side, they stay at home, they may be killed by hunger and starvation. On the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents.
“This is very sad. We are still appealing to the federal government to ensure recruitment of youths in the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), and hunters into the Nigerian military and the Civil Defence so that they can form part of the agro rangers that will protect farmers.”
The governor later recruited additional 1,000 hunters to provide protection to farmers and residents of rural communities.
The families of the farmers killed during the attack were given financial assistance and food supplies.
The Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Saina Buba, said 48 families of those killed received N600,000 each and bags of food items from a committee assigned by Governor Zulum to transparently convey external donations to the victims.
He said the fund came from the combined support of N20 million by the Northern Governors Forum, and N5 million by the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
A total of 13,000 bags of rice, maize and beans, 1,300 cans of vegetable oil, 2,116 cartons of seasoning cubes, 1,083 tomato and 650 sachets of salt were donated by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development for distribution to the families.
To further motivate the fathers, the member representing Jere Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Hon. Satomi Ahmed donated 250 rice miming machines to farmers in the area including Zabarmari for this year’s dry season farming.
In his remarks, he said the machines were donated to the farmers mainly to improve their output and income.