The Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr Osita Okechukwu, on Thursday explained the enormous benefits of providing land for Integrated Farm Estate in the South-East, especially in Enugu State.
Okechukwu in a statement in Enugu said the explanation had become necessary following accusations that he was engineering the state and his senatorial zone to cede lands to non indigenes in the community.
According to him, 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.
He said: “Whether they want to do piggery, palm tree plantation or cassava or any other crop, it is up to the community. 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, am a witness to 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 being 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 excuse ourselves or we participate when the time of payment comes we are going to be part of those that they would deduct money from because 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”.
Okechukwu noted that the integrated farm estate would provide not only food on the table but it would also generate employment.
He said that the Federal government had spent over a trillion on anchor borrowers programme and states in the South-East did not get up to N10 billion, “which l know some other states got more than that”.
It would be recalled that the VON D-G was accused of ceding lands to non indigenes due to a letter he wrote to the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA).
The letter, dated September 13, was addressed to the NALDA Executive Secretary and titled: Ogui Agu Eke, Enugu State offers Land for integrated Farm Estate.
The letter reads 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 Muhammaadu Buhari’s 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”.