Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom and a coalition of civil society groups at the weekend differed with the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Director-General Osita Okechukwu on President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of fund for the establishment of a ranch in Katsina State.
The While Ortom and the coalition, Workers and Human Rights Defenders and Mass Movement For True Democracy, Integral Development and Good Governance described Buhari’s action as hypocritical and misuse of public funds, Okechukwu said it was a welcome development.
Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari had on Thursday announced that the President had approved N6.25 billion for the state to embark on social development projects, including ranching.
This is the first direct intervention through the state government about Federal Government’s ranch development initiative,” Masari disclosed, adding that N5 billion out of the N6.25, billion was already in the state government’s account.
But in his reaction to the development, Ortom said if Katsina, the President home state, could be handed fund for ranch development, other states should be entitled to the same largesse.
He demanded that N100 billion be extended to Benue State, the epicentre of farmer-herder clashes to also commence its own ranch.
The governor also demanded an apology from Buhari for apparently accepting ranching, an idea he (Ortom) said he had trumpeted for long even when the President continued to talk about grazing routes.
Ortom, said: “It is hypocrisy for the Federal Government to approve money for ranching in a state and leave others out.
”In fact, the governor of (Katsina) State(Aminu Masari) in his remarks said N5 billion had already been remitted to their coffers. So, I begin to wonder, where are we headed.
“If the President has approved N6.25billion for Katsina State, they should also approve N100billion for Benue State with an apology to me because we started it (the call for ranching)”
The governor also stated that Nigerians were suffering and smiling today because the All Progressives Congress (APC) led-Federal Government had failed the country.
He recalled a song,‘Suffering and Smiling,’by the late famous Afrobeat exponent, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, saying he (Fela) spoke prophetically.
His words: ”I appreciate the late Fela Anikulakpo Kuti. He foresaw what is happening today in the country. His song titled ‘suffering and smiling’. is exactly what we are going through in Nigeria under the APC-led Federal Government.
Today, Nigerians are truly suffering and smiling. I feel so sad because we have failed our country but I pray God helps us.”
“Tell me where we are economically, security wise and politically? Where is Nigeria? So, when I hear people say that they are decamping from one political party to the APC, one wonders what they are going there to do.”
Also, Workers and Human Rights Defenders and Mass Movement For True Democracy, Integral Development and Good Governance said the release of fund to Katsina State “cast serious doubts as to its legality, due process of the approval and real motive, purpose, and would-be beneficiary.”
It is quite illegal and indeed highly immoral for the president to use the opportunity of his being the president to divert the tax payers money to establish and develop private business of selected people from his own tribe to the neglect and disadvantage of the other members of Nigeria people,” the group said in a statement yesterday by its President Jerry Chukwuokolo and Deputy, Zulu Ofoelue.
It added that “the way and manner of such approval, the speedy manner of release of fund and the purpose leave no conscious being in doubt as to the personal interest of the President is known to be a notable cattle owner..”
But VON DG Okechukwu stoutly defended the President for releasing fund for the Kaduna ranch which he described as the “poster boy of the National Livestock Transformation Plan.,”
Okechukwu, who spoke with reporters in Abuja, urged Buhari to fast-forward ranch development nationwide because it would herald an end to herder-farmer clashes
He pledged to donate his community land for ranch development. and counseled other states to queue behind Kastina State by providing land for the establishment of ranches.