ORTOM RETURNS FROM SOUTH ARICA, DEBUNKS CESSION OF AGATU LAND TO FULANI

Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has on return from a trade mission to South Africa explained contrary to allegation by detractors that no part of Agatu land was ceded to the Fulanis in the recent peace pact between the state and that of Nasarawa.
ortomGovernor Ortom quashed the mischievous allegation when he featured on a special edition of Issues of the Moment, the Radio Benue Current Affairs audience participatory programme on Wednesday morning, and monitored in Makurdi by James Ibechi, a special assistant to the state commissioner for Information and Orientation.
The Governor said those making the allegation were detractors who were working on the prompting of his political opponents to spread falsehood so as to incite the people against him and his administration.
He said the peace deal was an initiative of the people of Agatu themselves, who after accepting the apology from the Fulani in the area, saw the need to bury the hatchet and co-exist with the herdsmen who have come to live with them peacefully.
The Governor who lamented that the opposition and detractors of his government had turned the Agatu peace process into something else, described as unfortunate the fact that those condemning the efforts in Agatu are from other local government areas where the herdsmen are co-existing with their people.
He emphasised that his administration would not relent in championing the campaign for ranching as the lasting solution to the herdsmen, farmers crisis but that since achieving this objective was a gradual process, the people should live in peace in the interim.
Governor Ortom also assured the people of the State of his commitment to upholding the Rule of Law in the pursuit of peaceful co-existence, pointing out that some herdsmen caught with weapons had been charged to court.
He said as Governor of the State, he had the duty to protect the lives and property of all residents and no amount of blackmail or falsehood would make him abdicate that responsibility.
The Governor said the opposition elements orchestrating the campaign of falsehood and calumny against his administration were doing so with the 2019 elections in mind, but reminded them that Benue people were wiser and would not allow those who looted the State blind in the past to return to government.
Sole Administrator of Agatu Local Government, Mr. Mike Inalegwu, who associated himself with Governor Ortom’s submission said none of the signatories to the recent peace agreement between the people of Agatu and the Fulanis in the area was coerced into signing the document.
Mr. Inalegwu who was one of the guests that joined the Governor on the radio programme explained that they voluntarily signed the agreement because they were convinced it was in the best interest of the people.
He also dismissed as false, the insinuation in some quarters that Agatu land was ceded to Fulanis, saying this falsehood was not from Agatu people.
The Sole Administrator disclosed that the people of Agatu especially at the grassroots were rejoicing over the new found peace in the area, pointing out that since 2012 when the people were attacked by the Fulanis, the indigenes living outside were able to return home last December to celebrate Christmas.
Mr. Inalegwu who condemned the politicisation of the Agatu peace process, said after the Fulanis apologised to them, the people chose the path of peace so that their brothers and sisters suffering as displaced people in other places could return home.
He said the lives of his people were beyond propaganda, saying the military and mobile police deployed to communities of the Local Government would enhance the process while a census of the herdsmen resident in the area would soon be done.
Mr. Inalegwu called for fervent and sustained prayers from the people of the State for God to intervene so that there would be lasting peace in Agatu and every part of Benue State.
The Chairman of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee on the Agatu-Fulani crisis, Mr. Akpa Iduh, has called on the Federal Government to adopt the post Nigerian Civil War strategy of reconciliation, rehabilitation, and reconstruction in addressing the Agatu challenge.
Speaking on the Radio Benue current affairs phone-in programme along with other participants, Mr. Iduh noted that considering the level of destruction in Agatu, the Federal Government should do something similar to its intervention in the North East in Agatu.
He pointed out that the Governors of Benue and Nasarawa States had led the way in this direction with their financial commitment to peace building in Agatu and urged the Government at the centre to do same.
The Peace Committee Chairman who stressed that there was no alternative to peace, said the people of Agatu had adopted the “no victor, no vanquished” approach and that 99 percent of them were committed to the peace process.
Mr. Iduh expressed gratitude to Governor Ortom for the genuine love he had shown Agatu people evident in the peace efforts and development of infrastructure such as roads, pointing out that he never dreamt of driving on a good road from Otukpo to his village.
Also speaking on the programme, Special Adviser to the Governor on Project Monitoring, Alhaji Isah Usman, emphasised that no portion of Agatu land had been ceded and urged youths in the area to avoid violence and support the peace efforts.
On his part, State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Michael Gusa, said the allegation that Agatu land was ceded should not have arisen at all because one can only talk about ceding land where two communities, states, or countries have a dispute over land, which was not the case in Agatu. Mr. Gusa urged the people of the state to learn to appreciate and encourage hard work and sincerity of purpose being demonstrated by the Governor, saying he was the first Governor in the present dispensation to make a strong case for ranching as the best solution to the Fulani-Farmers faceoff.
Meanwhile, Governor Ortom in the radio phon-in programe explained the gains of his trade mission to South Africa, South African investors have indicated interest in investing in agriculture and mining in Benue.
He said during the visit, members of the state economic team interacted with the management of Aid Trade Foundation, one of the investors who had indicated the willingness to come to Benue to invest.
The state economic team, apart from exposing the investment potential of the State to the prospective investors, also tapped from the deep knowledge of the Company in the field of agriculture, he said.
According to him, agriculture remained the mainstay of the Benue economy and the target of his administration was to empower the people and engage the youths in the sector with a view to achieving sustainable level of social security the people were yearning for.
The Governor admonished elders and statesmen who do not see anything good in his administration to think of better ways they could contribute to the development of the State rather than unjustly criticising his policies and programmes.
He described the trip as an eye opener and mission accomplished from the benefits the state stood to gain.
In his contribution, Chairman of the state economic team, Professor Dennis Ityavyar, said the trip was in line with the five pillars of the administration’s development blueprint and assured the people of the benefits that would follow the trip.
Another member of the team and Commissioner for Finance, Mr. David Olofu, in his remark, said government was committed to developing the economy of the State and urged the people not to lose focus but keep faith with the administration to deliver on its mandate.
In another development, the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Chief Odeh Ageh, disclosed that the long abandoned Radio Benue Idekpa Substation under rehabilitation by Governor Ortom administration was ready to hit back the airwave any moment from now.
Similarly, Ageh informed the Benue people that the Governor Ortom administration is working tooth and nail in spite of the challenge of paucity of funds to  make Benue State Television to begin transmission soon.
The state television project was abandoned for close to 10 years by the former administration, but since the Ortom administration came on board, it has pumped resources into it with the aim to  making the TV to work before long.
The commissioner therefore, urged the Benue people to continue to maintain abiding faith in Governor Ortom administration.

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