Benue State governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom on Thursday, June 30, 2016 kicked against any move to carve out “scarce land” for grazing reserves for cattle, making it clear his state would not have anything to do with the idea. Rather, the governor endorsed the setting up of cattle ranches across the country as is being done by other cattle-producing countries including Swaziland in Africa.
The governor, who spoke to journalists in Abuja before attending a security meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Rock, pointed out that the idea of setting up grazing reserves across Nigeria for cattle had been overtaken by Nigeria’s rising population and the paucity of land.
Ortom said that Benue State as a farming settlement and food basket of Nigeria could not afford to trade away its farming areas for grazing reserves and would therefore liaise with the federal government to encourage the setting up of cattle ranch.
“Fulani herdsmen and Benue State is one notorious issue that has refused to go away. But we are addressing the matter. But I know that we need ranches to stop this menace round the country because globally that is what is being practised,” Governor Ortom said.
“Cattle are raised in America, Europe and Asia and even on African soil in Swaziland. They all ranch their cattle. Why should we refuse to do same in Nigeria? I have been talking to my people to deal peacefully with the herdsmen because two wrongs do not make a right. If there is any breach they should report to law enforcement agencies.
“I know the way out of the problem is ranching. We have sent a bill to the state House of Assembly to provide a law for ranching but will not allow grazing in Benue State. There is no land for that. The population is higher than the available space to allow for grazing.
“As for Benue State which is the food basket of the nation, we cannot afford the land for grazing but I can assure you that the state and the federal governments must put heads together to find a lasting solution to the problem,” Ortom said.
Explaining why the planned local government election in the state was surreptitiously put off, the governor revealed that the state could not afford the huge amount of money required for the polls.
According to him, the state electoral commission earlier presented a budget of N1.5 billion that was later scaled down to N860 million, which the state could not afford and had to postpone the election indefinitely.
The governor confirmed the receipt of N28 billion bailout cash by the state for the settlement of arrears of workers’ salaries, pointing out that the fund has enable him to pay workers at the state and local government levels a reasonable percentage of their outstanding pay.
Ortom lamented that the huge monthly wage bill of over N4 billion was deliberately orchestrated by his predecessor as a trap for him to fail but pointed out that he had been able to weed out the ghost workers and be able to pay the genuine ones and reduce the bill.
Hattip to Vanguard