Amidst the ongoing debate over the national grazing bill before the National Assembly, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has urged the federal government to limit the proposed reserves to the northern region of the country so as to forestall further clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers.
The governor said that the federal government should take urgent steps towards in the direction to avoid the situation snowballing into a major crisis in the country. He stated this on Monday, May 23, 2016 during a press conference in Asaba to mark his one year in office.
“If the grazing reserves are created in the North, we may be able to limit the movement of the herdsmen down South,” the governor said.
“The reason is because there are more lands in the North, and with the minister of agriculture bringing in foreign grasses that grow faster and with the right irrigation, the ranches in the North can help end the growing suspicion and unease between the herdsmen and their hosts in the South, where there are less lands for grazing,” Okowa explained.
The governor also noted that the present economic crunch in the country has severely affected his proposed developmental plans for the people of Delta State in his first year as governor.
He added however, that despite the present economic downturn in the country, his government has remained on course, although has not achieved as much as it expected in terms of his campaign promises made to the people.
Governor Okowa explained that his government has refused to adopt the federal government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) because he needed to modify it to stem the challenges it poses for commercial banks.
On the ongoing pipeline vandalism by the militants in the Niger Delta, the governor said his administration, with collaboration from host communities, is working on bringing the destruction of oil facilities to a close.
He also revealed that the deputy governor, Barrister Kingsley Otuaro, is presently in the creeks discussing with the militants to that end.
He, however, informed journalists that it was still too early for him to tell whether they were prepared to down weapons, but assured that the advocacy of Otuaro’s team will speed up results.
On allegations of his complicity in the alleged fraud in the Delta Independent Power Project (IPP), Okowa denied receiving any fund since 2008 when the project was initiated by former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
He said “I was not directly involved in the project, I can pride myself that I didn’t collect a kobo from the project. If I have had interest, the probe initiated by the house of assembly wouldn’t have commenced. The truth is that I did not stop the House of Assembly from probing the project. Like every other Deltan, I will want the project to be completed”.
He listed some of the challenges in the project as gas turbines and evacuation plants, while noting that government is looking at possible ways of either selling or continuing the project, saying “we are deliberating whether to sell it or continue with the project.
“The completion of the project is going to take time, investors from South Africa and Nigeria have shown interest to acquire it. The IPP does not have a holistic plan before it was initiated.
“At the moment, the gas and evacuation plants have not been built. These things will cost billions of naira, which the state government cannot afford in these lean times.”