I guess by now the whole world knows what has been happening in Kuru Jenta. I assume you have read or seen the reports from AFP, Al Jazeera and the BBC, all of which seem to accurately depict the situation in our village. Well over 160 bodies have so far been recovered, but there are still more scattered around the area and it will take some time before the final toll is known. I feel extremely bitter that despite all efforts this needless slaughter was allowed to happen. I sincerely hope that a proper investigation will be carried out by both local and international bodies, that justice will prevail, and those responsible be appropriately punished. Unless this happens we will continue to see endless repetitions of these tragedies.
Our farm is more or less intact. Our store was looted and four of our six water pumps stolen. We have managed to recover most of them. Our crops are still there, but very dry, and need several days of watering before we can start harvesting again.
As you know, our Muslim staff are all gone. We have confirmed that several of them including women and some of the older ones who were security guards have been killed, some of the young ones are in refugee camps with the remains of their families, and some of them are still not accounted for. The condition of the corpses recovered by the Red Cross and military authorities was such that identification is virtually impossible, as they were either burnt, or decomposed in the wells into which they were dumped. So we may never know the actual fate of some of our workers.
We are currently assessing the future of the farm. We have assembled a skeleton staff of some of our old workers, but we have many problems to sort out before things are returned to normal. The Christian staff who are around all had their houses burnt, as the whole village was completely razed, so they have no where to live. They also lost all of their belongings, and need to be resettled, rooms rented for them in nearby settlements, and provided with basic necessities like mattresses, blankets, cooking utensils and clothes for themselves and their children. If we can do this, then they should be able to do a reasonable amount of work on the farm before we can engage some new staff.
Our first priority at the moment is ensuring that those of our staff who are in refugee camps are safely transported to neighbouring states like Bauchi and Kaduna where many of them have relatives they can stay with. It is very painful to see them as refugees, and most of them have lost members of their families. We are trying to raise funds for their transportation, as transport fares around the Jos area are extremely high and buses are very difficult to get.
The resumption of our deliveries to Abuja depends on a number of factors: whether we can garner the resources to resettle the remaining staff, whether the crops recover sufficiently that we can think of harvesting and sending them to our customers, and whether the curfew in Jos is relaxed so that it is possible to get to Abuja at a reasonable hour. At the moment, we are only allowed to move around between 10am and 5pm. Normally Audu leaves for Abuja early in the morning so as to have time for all of the deliveries. But in the present situation this is not possible. So we are waiting to see if the morning curfew hours are lifted a bit so there is time to go to the farm from Jos, load the van, and arrive in Abuja at a reasonable time.
We will definitely not be able to deliver any vegetables this coming week. But we will use the time to try to get the farm into some reasonable shape, and will let you know before the end of the week whether we will be able to begin delivering the following week,.ie the first week of February. For the past week the banks in Jos have not been functioning, and everyone has run out of cash. The little money we had in hand at the start of the crisis has been used to support our staff who literally have nothing left by way of food or belongings. Petrol is also extremely difficult to come by. So these things will have to normalise somewhat before we are in a position of resume deliveries.We will also have to see if we can recover from the losses we have suffered sufficiently to be able to run the farm.
We would like to thank all of our customers for their support by way of encouragement, and also donations made to the Red Cross and other agencies for the refugees. I know you have all done a lot to help, and all of us at Zamani Farms do appreciate it very much.
We will keep you up to date with developments, and write again after a couple of days when we see how far we can go this week to revive the farm. We would love to be able to resume deliveries the following week, but as I said, it depends on many factors that are not in our hands.
To all of you who have expressed concern about my own safety and that of our remaining staff, you can put your minds at rest. As of today, there are three armed soldiers posted in front of our house in Jos to prevent any retaliatory attacks. As you know, my name was mentioned prominently in several newspaper accounts and some people here are not very happy with me. But rest assured that we are well protected. I have lived in Nigeria since the Civil War, and have seen many things here, so this is by no means my first experience of crisis. But it has certainly been one of the most traumatic because of my personal involvement with the people concerned.
Till you hear from me again,
Monday, January 25, 2010
Long-term readers of this blog will recall various times when I posted emails from Norma at Zamani Farms in Jos. Her emails to customers regarding the fortunes of her most recent batch of broccoli or lettuce were hymns to the soil and skies of the plateau and all that could be grown there. All the more deeply the sadness I and I am sure you my readers have felt in recent days reading about what has happened to her farm and her workers. This is the most recent email update, sent earlier today (I couldn't upload any earlier because NEPA took light). Be warned, its tragic: