By; Jacob Onjewu Dickson
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has refuted reports credited to the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong that he has agreed to host grazing reserves in his state.
He made his position known in a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua.
He said his colleague may have misquoted him.
“Our attention has been drawn to reports in the media credited to Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State that he and Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom had signed a grazing reserve agreement in order to get a World Bank loan,” it stated.
Governor Ortom categorically states that he has not signed any such agreement and is not even aware of the existence of such a deal.
The Governor believes that his Plateau State counterpart may have been misquoted because since their assumption of office, they have worked closely as colleagues but have not signed any such agreement.
He wishes to place it on record that when Governor Lalong with other All Progressives Governors paid him a sympathy visit on the incessant herdsmen invasion of the state last Thursday, he reiterated his stand on the establishment of ranches as the permanent solution and as the best global practice in cattle rearing as well as panacea for herders and farmers’ clashes.
The visiting Governors were hosted at the New Banquet Hall of the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi publicly and those present including prominent sons and daughters of Benue State as well as journalists were present and all heard Governor Ortom’s position.
The following is what Governor Ortom said on the issue on that day: “In those days when we had the land and the population was less. Just like I keep emphasizing, people who propose that we should do grazing areas and grazing routes, I tell them, yes, it can be done in other states, maybe. I don’t know, we are Governors of various states, but in Benue there is no free land, or is there any land anywhere for grazing?
“The truth is that in the fifties when cattle routes were carved and areas designated for grazing reserves the total population of Nigeria at then was less than 40 million. By 2012 projection, Nigeria’s population was over 170 million and by this year, it may hit more than 200 million. And likewise Benue state, we were less than a million people in the fifties. Today, we are over six million and we have farms and so there is nowhere that you can go and identify 10 hectares of land that is empty that people can go in and graze. There is nowhere in this state.
“I’m a farmer, four years ago when I wanted to acquire 500 hectares of land in my own village, it’s one of the remotest in this state where we believe that there is land. I went there and I had to settle more than 100 people to acquire the 500 hectares. So that is the challenge, the land is no longer there, the land that used to be, in the fifties, 923, 000 square kilometers is still the same land that we have and today in 2016 the land is even less but the population has grown. If you take away Bakassi that was given to Cameroon, it’s no longer the 923, 000 square kilometers. So this is the challenge we have and for us, we are not saying that people should stop raising cattle or breeding them but we must do it in a civilized way.
“All of us here are educated; we have traveled all over the world, to America, to Europe, and other parts of Asia. What is done is ranches, not grazing because it is impossible when development comes along the way it affects Nigeria and so we are emphasizing that we have no land for grazing.”
Governor Ortom remains resolute on what he said in the presence of Governor Lalong and his other counterparts last Thursday and at several other fora. He reiterates that he did not sign any grazing reserve agreement for any reason.
Governor Ortom says the bill on cattle ranching which is before the Benue State Executive Council will soon be sent to the State House Assembly for passage into law.
Grazing Reserve: You are on your own – Ortom tells Lalong
By; Jacob Onjewu Dickson