Benue farm burning: Obasanjo to continue with agricultural investments
by GABRIEL ALOHAN
Former Chief of State, Olusegun Obasanjo, has stated that the actions of arsonists on his 17,000-hectare mango plantation will not halt his investment aspirations in Benue state.
Hoodlums set ablaze the farmland in Howe, a Gwer local government area in Benue state, on January 31 over probable land indemnity disputes with the natives regarding lands originally owned by the state government.
Obasanjo, delivering statements signed by his media assistant, Kehinde Akinyemi, gave assurances to the delegates from the Gwer local government that he would intensify his financial projects in the area by increasing the workforce from 150 to 1000 workers.
He also described the work perpetuated by the miscreants as short-sighted and should not be taken to represent or be perceived as the true nature of the people of Benue state.
“The land was acquired long ago and payment made for the lease of the land. If the government has paid no compensation to any family or that they have not been adequately compensated, burning of the farm was not the best to do.”
“You have said it yourself that the farm employed about 150 workers before it was burnt. Our plan was for the project to provide at least 1,000 persons directly, both on the farm and when the processing factory takes off.”
“What has happened was not a loss to we investors alone but to the 150 that were working on the farm before it was burnt and the people that we intend to engage in the processing factory, that had been delayed now even with the level of unemployment in the country.”
“The governor did everything to make the project a reality. What they have burnt was a pilot project for what we have in mind if things work well.”
“The governor, the Tor Tiv, the bishop, and other notable leaders and stakeholders, had empathized with us; they had intervened and had assured us that justice would be served.”
“What has happened is not in the character of the people of Benue and particularly, the community, where the farm is located. This action by these few misdirected miscreants should not be judged by the world. The action should not scare away investors, because Benue people are very accommodating and friendly.”
“Let me assure you we are not going to leave the area. We are looking at what we can do when the rain starts. The project will only be delayed but we shall improve on what we have on the ground.”
“The government had promised us the possibility of giving us more land and this will give us an opportunity for bigger plantation.”
Leader of the Gwer delegation, Dr. Akpe, empathized with Obasanjo and divulged that some perpetrators had been arrested while the remaining will be brought to book and proposed that the former president expand the agricultural projects to more land.
“We have identified other parcels of land and when we are able to strike an agreement with the host communities, request you to expand the farm to other parts of the local government.”