Residents of communities of Agba, Bansan, and Obubra in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State are still counting their losses following a mysterious fire incident which razed many of their farmlands last week.

Majority of those affected claimed to have taken soft loans from microfinance banks to invest in cocoa plantations. They said many of them would find it difficult to pay back the loan following the incident. 

They said the mysterious fire incident occurred from the night of March 12 to the early hours of March 13, and had destroyed economic crops such as cocoa, plantain, banana, oil palm trees, bush mango and avocado peer, in an area spanning over 1,000 hectares. 

Speaking to community members and journalists, the clan head of Agba 2 community, Mr Patrick Ekpang, consoled the people over the incident, which he said had caused hunger in the communities. 

According to him, over 200 farmers were affected in the fire incident, adding that the victims had become jobless and have no food to feed their families. “As you can see, the entire farming forest has been destroyed by fire. We woke up one morning to hear that fire has gutted the entire farmlands involving three communities. 

“We all rushed to the area, but before we could put off the fire, our economic trees have all been destroyed. Before the incident, some cocoa and oil palm farmers were preparing for harvest. 

“We have lost millions of naira and now, some of our youths who also own large farmlands have become jobless. “We are appealing to the National Emergency Management Agency, Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management including corporate organisations and individuals to come to our aid. 

“We need food and financial assistance to help us procure more nursery and inputs to start a fresh planting ahead of the rainy season”, he said. One of the victims, Mr Stephen Asu, told journalists that the tragic incident had caused poverty and that it would be difficult for the victims to recover soon. 

“We have become beggars in our own communities. We don’t know the immediate cause of the fire incident that has damaged our economic trees and rendered us jobless and hungry”, he said. 

Another victim, Mr Peter Agbor, who said the fire incident started from his farm, lamented that his 20 hectares of cocoa, oil palm trees and avocado trees were all gone. “For me, I have four children, I don’t have any other occupation apart from farming. There is serious hunger in my house now,’’ he said. 

Mr Princewill Ayim, Director General of Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, confirmed that the incident had been reported to the agency and that they have taken assessment on the extent of damage caused by the fire incident. “We are still in the dry season, I want to advise farmers in the rural areas to stop the burning of bushes within this period. “I sympathise with the affected victims because I know the hardship that has befallen them. 

We hope that relevant agencies will intervene swiftly to ameliorate their plight. 

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