Published 26th February, 2022
Ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday urged investors across the world not to see the burning of his farm on January this year as any factor that would discourage them from making more investments in Benue State , saying those who perpetrated the act are ignorant of the economic value the burnt mango farm portends to the state, says such does not represent the attitudes of the people of the state.
Obasanjo, who decried the burning of the 17, 000 mango tree plantation on January 16, 2022 in Gwer East local government area of the state, urged investors not to use actions of a few miscreants that attacked his farm to represent the attitudes of the peace loving citizens of the state.
The former president stated this while playing host to a delegation from Benue State, who visited him at his his private residence located within the precinct of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.
The delegation, led by the chairman of the Gwer East Traditional Council, Dr Dominc Akpe, was accompanied by the House of Assembly member representing Gwer East Constituriency, Hon Geoffrey Agbatse, Chairman Gwer East Local Government, Hon Ortserga Emmanuel, among others, emphatised with the former president, on the burning of his mango plantation in the state.
While disclosing that his farm would bounce back, Obasanjo also disclosed that the farm will increase its direct workforce from the meagre 150 to over 1, 000 workers.
“This action by this few misdirected miscreants should not be judged by the world. It is not the true reflection of the people of Benue. The action should not scare away investors, because Benue people are very accommodating and friendly,” he said.
He lamented that the act had only delayed the vision he had for the project, adding that what happened was not the best for the state and the community.
“The land was acquired long ago and payment made for the lease of the land. If the government has not paid any 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 happened was not a loss to us 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 has 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 emphatised 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.
“You have said that you need Investment in the state either from within or outside the state. Therefore, the world should not judge Benue by this act of few disgruntled element that perpetrated this act.
“Let me assure you that 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 ground.
“The government had promised us the possibility of giving us more land and this will give us opportunity for bigger plantation.”
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Akpe, had emphasised with Obasanjo on the incident regretting that the incident happened at all.
The traditional ruler, disclosed that some of those that perpetrated the act had been arrested, stating that others would be apprehended.
“We have come to appeal to you not to lose hope despite the arson. During the several meetings and discussions after the incident, it was obvious that we initially regarded the farm as yours and did not own it. We have now discovered it’s important to us and has resolved to own it by providing security, regularly monitoring it, and holding regular meetings with the gist community to ensure that what happened on the 29th January 22, never repeat itself.
“Moving forward, we have identified other parcels of land and when we can strike an agreement with the host communities, request you to expand the farm to other parts of the local government