Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, has emphasized that his administration has not embraced cattle colonies or grazing reserves as part of efforts to end the herder/farmer crisis in the state.
This was contained in a statement by Nathaniel Ikyur, his chief press secretary.
Ortom accused Lauretta Onochie, presidential aide, of giving a false narrative on his stand on the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP).
According to the governor, Onochie made it seem like the state supports grazing reserves, because Benue is listed as one of the states that applied for funds from the federal government for the purposes of establishing ranches.
But the governor said his government only agreed to key into the NLTP because it was approved by the National Economic Council (NEC).
The NLTP was introduced by the federal government to address the farmer-herder crisis in the country.
As of June, the ministry of agriculture said 22 states and the federal capital territory (FCT) have registered for the project.
According to Ortom, Benue will only implement aspects of the plan that suits its peculiarities.
“Onochie made spurious allegations, painting the picture that Governor Ortom supports RUGA because the State Government was listed as one of the states that applied for funds from the Federal Government for the purposes of establishing ranches,” the statement reads.
“It is on record that Governor Ortom has rejected all manner of coinage from the Federal Government in a bid to grab land from Benue State.
“When the Federal Government toyed with so many ideas, ranging from Open Grazing, Grazing Reserves, Grazing Routes, Cattle Colony, RUGA and lastly Farm Centres in the 109 Senatorial Districts across the country in a very suspicious manner, Governor Ortom rose up and opposed it. He rejected any of such policies bring imposed on Benue. He has not shifted from that position.
“The Benue State Government only accepted to key into the National Livestock Transformation Program (NLTP) because the National Economic Council (NEC), which has the 36 state governors as members, approved the National Livestock Transformation Plan which after series of engagement incorporated suggestions by stakeholders from the State.
“The NLTP provides that States are at liberty to adopt and implement aspects of the plan that suit its peculiarities. Unfortunately, the presidency rejected this but would rather continue to dribble Nigerians.
“For us in Benue State, our peculiarities are that we have a ranching law and in the area of livestock farming, our competetive advantages include indigenous cattle, piggery, goats, fisheries, etc. All these have been captured in the Plan and Benue State has accepted the implementation of the Plan based on these conditions.
“Benue State has continued to reject the establishment of Cattle Colonies, Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) settlements and Grazing Reserves or any other form of coinage previously proposed by the Federal Government allegedly to curb farmers-herders’ clashes across the country because it had every tendency of subterranean plots to undermine the safety and lives of the indigenous people of the State.
“Benue State’s position has therefore not changed.”
The governor warned Onochie — whose nomination as a commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was rejected by the senate after public outcry — to desist from attempting to use him “to warm her way back into the consciousness of the President for patronage”.