The 139 hectares huge mango plantation belonging to former President Olusegun Obasanjo has been burnt down by unknown hoodlums at Howe community in Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue state over alleged land compensation.
The 140 hectares plantation was said to have been torched at about 2 pm on Saturday by the arsonists following probable disagreements with the locals over compensation for the piece of land that originally belonged to the state government.
Confirming the indigent, 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 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.”
When contacted, the Director of the State Fire Service, Mr Donald Ikyaaza, said his office received a call from the police Saturday afternoon and successfully put out the fire late at night.
“When we received the call from the Police in Aliade the Local Government Headquarters I dispatched my men to the place immediately and we were able to put out the fire outrightly.
“In fact, my men while coming back to Makurdi that night were caught by armed robbers who beat them seriously and collected all the money they hand on them including their handsets. So that was the compensation we got for fighting the fire at the Obasanjo farm.
“As for the exact cause of the fire, the men who went there said the people were fighting for compensation for land.
“Maybe the land was not adequately compensated so that is why they decided to set fire on the farm. That is the only information I got from them.
“But it was not all the farm that was burnt. Some trees are still there, the seeds were also saved,” he said.
Contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent, SP, Catherine Anene confirmed the incident.
The former President had in 2019 when he visited the farm said over 1,000 workers would be employed in the farm when fully operational.