Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State has lamented that farmlands across the State have been taken over by Fulani herdsmen.
The Governor raised the concern on Thursday in Abakaliki during an interactive session with agricultural stakeholders in the State.
According to Umahi, the growing penchant for political offices and appointments by supposed framers and other citizens in the State has left most agricultural lands fallow for invasion by herdsmen.
He regretted that most political office holders, including local government councillors, no longer live and interface with the people for conflict resolution as obtained in the past.
He maintained that Councillors and other political office holders should complement the desired number of farmers for the State, adding that his appointments henceforth would be based on the quality of farm and number of those empowered by any seeker.
Governor Umahi directed LG chairmen to engage traditional rulers to form farmer associations in the communities to enhance agricultural development in State, while those farmers with over 10 hectares of land should deal directly with the State Ministry of Agriculture.
The Governor, who officially flagged off the 2019 farming season at the event, directed the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Moses Ogodoali Nome, to constitute a sub committee on Fertilizer and Rice Seed Distribution, assuring the farmers of availability of adequate quantity of fertilizers and other inputs.
Umahi lamented: “We are moving into a very serious disaster.
“The statistics given by food commissioners are very frightening.
“I won’t forget the day we had meeting with the herdsmen and a traditional ruler said the reason why in Ebonyi Local Government they don’t have problem, not that they don’t have, but they resolve it through constant meetings.
“Our leaders have abandoned our people.
“I remember when the people were sending messages that they want to become liaison officers, that they will tackle our agricultural programmes.
“We appointed them.
“We gave out N2 billion cash and we only recovered N10 million.
“I don’t know the total of what we gave out last time, but the last time I checked, we only recovered N7 million.
“Is that how people can survive?
“These are not government money.
“They are loan from the Central Bank.
“What is Ebonyi State turning to?
“We have abandoned our farms to the herdsmen, while everybody is looking for appointments and when you get it you have nothing to do with the people.”
While setting the tone for the interaction, the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Senator Emmanuel Onwe, advocated that any farmer who was able to own and manage up to 10 hectares of rice farm should be given special incentives.
]He commended the Governor for giving proper attention to agriculture, especially rice production, pointing out that the Umahi-led administration in the State has worked very hard to end hunger and poverty through farming, agro and commercial enterprises.
Onwe, a renowned rice farmer, stressed that Agriculture has become the only alternative to dwindling oil economy in the country.
According to him: “If oil cannot help Venezuela, it cannot help Nigeria as well and the only means of survival is agriculture.”
Other stakeholders who spoke during the meeting, including the Chairman, Ohaozara LGA, Nkechinyere Iyioku; and Chairman, Town Union President, Chief Ugochukwu Akpa, pledged to commit themselves towards advancing the laudable agricultural policies of the government.
In attendance at the meeting were farmer groups, cooperative societies, Chairmen of LGAs, Councillors, Traditional Rulers, political office holders and other stakeholders.