February 4, 2022

Burnt Obasanjo mango farm: Many families have lost their source of livelihood – Benue Govt laments

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Olusegun Obasanjo

By Peter Duru, Makurdi

The Benue state government has lamented the implication of the arson at the ex President Olusegun Obasanjo’s mango farm in Howe, Gwer Local Government Area, LGA, saying many families would lose their source of livelihood as the plantation created economic activities in the area.

Speaking on the incident, Wednesday in Makurdi, Benue state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. Kester Kyenge who disclosed that over 95 percent of the staff of the farm were indigenes of the host community regretted that a project that was intended to better the lot of the people and the state in general was willfully destroyed by hoodlums for no justifiable reason.

Represented by Director of Agricultural Services, Mr. Thomas Unongo, the Commissioner explained that the over 2,000 hectares of arable land was developed in the 80s under the Land Development Site programme of the later Ape Aku administration.

The burnt mango farm

He said, “no initial compensation was paid to the locals but government had an understanding with the benefiting communities that the land would be developed for the benefit of the farmers and whosoever wanted to invest in agriculture the land will be made available to the investor with some little stipends.

“And several investors have come to Benue to see how they could invest in agriculture; and the Obasanjo Farms was one of the investors that did approach us here that they wanted to operate in Howe.

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“The state government sat with the community and the representatives of Obasanjo farms. It was agreed that the land would be leased out to them for 25 years for a token.

“And one of the things that the state government felt that Obasanjo was bringing in, apart from engaging the community members to work on the farm, was economic development

“In fact as I am talking to you, the manager of the farm is from Gwer, 95 percent of the workforce is from that place, there are several women in the communities who cook for the farm workers. Businesses were going on in the area because of the location of the farm.

“The state government felt that it was bringing development to the communities. So the incident is surprising to us. The former President was working there with the intention to hand over the plantation to the people at the end of his lease agreement.

“There was also an understanding to support the community develop their place. And they have been living in peace. In fact I was at the farm sometime towards the end of last year and I saw that some of the mangoes had started flowering and fruiting.

“And the good thing about the farm is that they even give out some of the foreign species of mango seeds that are good for export to the community members, and also train them on how to bud and other technics in the handling of the plant. So it is unfortunate that the hoodlums did what they did.”

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