October 16, 2021

“Herdsmen accused me of murder and ruined my crops while in detention” – Plateau farmer

Zachariah and wife gather pieces of sheared crops

Mr. Zacharia Kumak, 43, lives in Maikatako village, 4kms north of the Plateau State University, Bokkos. He is a successful farmer, married with four children.“Dan Sunsu” as Zachariah is fondly called is known to be peaceful and a respected team leader; hence his appointment as the Chief security Officer of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) Local Council Maikatako.

However, in late April 2020, after working in his farm one day, he was picked up by Police and locked up for allegedly murdering a herder. Herders who had had quarrels with him while grazing indiscriminately around his farms had reported that they saw him in the farm hours before attacking armed robbers killed their kinsman.

The herders without prove, claimed that since Zachariah, a known opponent of their “freedom of movement” was in the farm the day of the murder, he must have returned along with the armed men at night to rob them.

While Zachariah was in detention undergoing torturous interrogation, the herders systematically followed his corn, vegetable and bean farms grazing on already maturing crops. After weeks in cell, Police found no evidence against him and decided to release him.

Only few stalks survived the blade of the destroyers

“I was devastated coming home to see the destructions on my farms, having lost heavy amounts trying to secure legal services. They accused me of murder only to destroy my only source of wealth while in detention,” he lamented.

Zacharia was however resilient; never giving up in his bid to provide food and other necessities for his family, his children’s education in particular. He sold off stored crops and sank the money back into farming afresh. He spent weeks guarding the crops to maturity but was told on morning of Tuesday, August 28, 2020 that his largest farm of over a hectare, which he left fine and blooming the previous evening had been sheared.

Crops clearly sheared with a blade

“My heart is so broken. I sank hundreds of thousands anticipating multimillion naira harvest but they grazed on and mowed down the crops while I was away,” cried the farmer.

His wife, Elizabeth Zachariah wishes she was dead having lost “everything” in the destructions. “I don’t know how we are going to start life with this,” she cried.

“This is akin to murder,” said community leader of Maikatako, Mr. Musa Istifanus Dang, a retired Assistant Superintendent of Police.

Mrs. Elizabeth Zachariah

“Security agencies should be swift to investigate crimes like these and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.

However, Zachariah reported tracing cattle droppings from the farm to an area occupied by the herders that previously accused him of murder, but Police and Task Force officials turned down his case, insisting he must first produce the suspects.

This is not the first crime by suspected herdsmen to be waived by law enforcements, said Mr. Dalork Yohanna Setmuk, the youth leader of the community.

“We get threats in different forms from the herdsmen. When we report, the case gets dismissed. They follow us, grazing right into farms and even homes. They are just having field days killing us using different means.

Cattle found grazing near Zachariah’s sheared farm

“They follow us into homes or ambush us on roads killing us one by one and still destroy our crops in an attempt to use hunger weapon against us.

“They have done this several times and are not likely to stop if government keeps ignoring their crimes.”

Maikatako is known as a large producer of maize, acha, beans, vegetables, Irish potatoes, cocoyam and many other crops. It is also the home of one of Nigeria’s largest agricultural markets, patronized by merchants from as far as Niger Republic, Benin Republic, Chad and other West African States.

The crimes continuing might affect supplies to the market opening every Monday, and by implication the consumers of its goods.