The governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom, has directed police in the state to investigate and arrest masterminds behind the fire incident that razed former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s mango farm in Howe community, Gwer Local Government Area of the state.
A huge mango plantation belonging to the former president was burnt by unknown hoodlums on Saturday.
The Gwer East Local Government Chairman, Mr Emmanuel Ortsega said it was deliberate sabotage by hoodlums.
He said: “the fire on the 139 hectares farm was started at about 2 pm on Saturday by hoodlums and nearly half of it is gone. It was clearly a sabotage.
“It was strange that there was fire outbreak in the farm because the farm was properly safeguarded; so it was obvious that it was a sabotage.
“We summoned a meeting of stakeholders and leaders over the matter in order to fish out the perpetrators and by the grace of God we have already apprehended four persons and investigation is still ongoing to fish out more culprits.”
Reacting, Ortom expressed sadness over the incident and directed that the investigation should “unravel the remote and immediate cause of the fire outbreak.”
A statement issued Tuesday in Makurdi by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Nathaniel Ikyur stated that the Governor received the report of the incident from the Chairman of Gwer LG Council, Mr. Emmanuel Otserga, “where it is discovered that the fire was an act of sabotage and the perpetrators must be brought to book.”
The Governor insisted that no act of sabotage would be tolerated by the government, saying that his administration had a deliberate policy to encourage local and foreign investors especially in the agricultural sector.
While urging security operatives to do everything possible to get to the root of the matter, Governor said, “it is the height of irresponsibility for anyone to think of setting ablaze a farm that is set to, in a very near future, boost the economic development of the area in particular and the state in general.
“Obasanjo as a former president is a statesman and need to be accorded his due respect anywhere in Nigeria and Benue state cannot be an exception,” he was quoted as saying.
He then directed the Benue State Commissioner of Police to ensure that the perpetrators were fished out immediately and brought to book.
According to the statement, the Chairman of Gwer LGA, Mr Atserga had while briefing the Governor disclosed that over half of the mango farm covering over 139 hectares of land got razed and four suspects had been arrested and more were being trailed.
Otserga said he suspected foul play because “from the look of things, the fire was caused by the deliberate act by mischief makers. The farm is well safeguarded, there is no way fire can cross over from any quarter into the farm”.
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