Samuel Ortom, Governor of Benue State, has refuted claims by the Federal Government that the state was not invited to participate in the Ruga settlement initiative.
In a statement issued by Terver Akase, his Chief Press Secretary, on Tuesday in reaction to comments made by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Governor Ortom described the Presidency’s claims as “false, misleading and lacking honour.”
Shehu had during a news interview on Channels TV on Monday said Governor Ortom had no business meddling via his comments in the Ruga initiative as Benue State was not invited to participate in the programme.
But responding, the governor claimed that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture had notified the state Ministry of Agriculture via a letter of its decision to establish three Ruga settlements in Otukpo, Tarka and Ukum local government areas of the state.
He, however, said the state ministry replied the letter, informing the Federal Government of its rejection of the proposal.
He added that the Federal Government was displeased that he spoke up as the Chief Executive of the state to reject the imposition of an initiative that would not benefit the state.
The statement read: “We watched in disbelief the comments Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu made last night during the 10pm news of Channels Television.
“He stated that Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom should not have spoken against the imposition of Ruga settlements on his state because, according to the Presidential spokesman, the Governor was not included in the Ruga plan. The statement was as contradictory as it was false, misleading and lacking honour.
“The Federal Government, through its Ministry of Agriculture wrote to the Benue State Government informing it about the decision to establish Ruga settlements in the three senatorial zones of the state. Our Ministry of Agriculture which received the correspondence responded that Benue has no land for the Ruga settlements. It added that the state only has land for ranches as stipulated by the state’s Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
“The Benue State Government subsequently made public its rejection of the Ruga model of animal husbandry and reminded those pushing for the illegal settlement patterns about provisions of the country’s Constitution and the Land Use Act.
“We were therefore shocked to hear Mallam Shehu claim that Governor Ortom was not invited/included in the Ruga project and therefore had no right to comment on it.
Governor Ortom also claimed that contractors were sent to erect signposts of the Ruga initiative across different areas of the state.
The governor accused Shehu of culpability, stating that he erroneously stated that Benue State was not asked to participate in the Ruga initiative, whereas the Federal Government had already earmarked lands in the state for the same purpose.
“If the Senior Special Assistant to the President claims that Benue was not included in the Ruga arrangement, why did the Federal Government send contractors to mount the project’s signposts in parts of the state? If Benue was not included in the Ruga settlements, why did the Federal Government say it has gazetted lands in the 36 states for the project?
“It is now clear that Mallam Garba Shehu is misleading the Presidency and telling lies about a sensitive matter that affects the entire country.
“We choose not to join him in his comfort zone – where he makes unpresidential statements and vilifies anyone with a contrary opinion. His repeated unprovoked attacks on the person and office of the Benue State Governor only expose his temperament and those of others in the same league as persons who are intolerant of alternative views on issues”, the statement read.