From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) Osita Okechukwu, has explained his role on the controversial land for Integrated Farm Estate for the Enugu West Senatorial District, Enugu State.
The explanation came at the heels of accusation that he was engineering the Senatorial zone to cede lands to non-indigenes in the community.
Explaining his role on the issue, he said: “my position is that the farm is a community farm, to be owned by the community, managed by the community and the Community would make choice of what they would want to do with it.”
“Whether they want to do piggery, palm tree plantation, cassava or any other crop, it is not going to be manned by any outsider but the community. It is community base.
“All l am saying is that if the federal government has a programme, we should be a beneficiary to the programme. In my many decades on earth, I am a witness to many projects abandoned out of the spur of emotions which later turned out to be the edifice or solid pillar of economic development. Methinks this is one of such projects in a declining oil economy.
“This integrated farm Estate, it is agreed that it should be one per Senatorial zone and we should make sure that we have one in each Senatorial zone in the South East manned by our communities and the community people would decide what would be planted in the farm.
“The whole idea is for them to benefit from the federal government because at the end of the day, whichever money that is used is a collective money, whether it is borrowed or funds generated. If it is funds generated that should be our own share, if it is the one borrowed whether we rescue ourselves or we participate when the time of payment comes, we are going to be part of those they would deduct money from.
“They are not going to do it by taxation, they are going to deduct from source and when they deduct from source, the money they deduct from is everybody’s money. So, we should benefit because the farming would provide not only food on the table but it would also generate employment and that is why l support the programme.
“Federal government has spent over a trillion on anchor borrowers programme and l don’t know how many states in the South East that got up to N10 billion, which l know some other states got more than that. That we should not rescue ourselves from germane federal government projects or programmes,” Okechukwu argued.
The VON DG was accused of ceding lands to non indigenes in a letter he wrote to the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA).
In the letter dated September 13, addressed to the NALDA Executive Secretary, titled: ‘Ogui Agu Eke, Enugu State offers Land for integrated Farm Estate’, the letter read in part: “May l humbly inform Hon. Executive Secretary that my community, Ogui Agu Eke, Enugu West Senatorial District; after a meeting of community stakeholders resolved to offer swathe hectares of land for the establishment of integrated Farm Estate in own town.
“We have carefully not only observed your uncommon commitment in discharging your duties; but highly appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari transformation in agriculture; hence the Buhari’s Agrarian Revolution, which started with Anchor Borrowers Programme, Prime Anchor and now integrated Farm Estate.
“Sir, it may interest you to note that we did not benefit from the Anchor Borrowers Programme, albeit would wish you oblige us the golden opportunity to be a beneficiary of integrated Farm Estate.
“Our community and by extension our neighbors are fertile in cassava, palm oil, maize, cotton plantations and our people are engaged in fish farming, piggery, chicken poultry, etc.
“Accordingly, we request to be included in Mr. President’s initiative to produce what they eat and provide employment directly and indirectly to hundreds of youths and women.”
The letter was however misconstrued, especially by the Indiginous People of Biafra (IPOB) as ceding the South East lands to the Fulanis or non indigenes.