Presidency, Governor Umahi deny N6 billion ranching transaction
By Ruth Oginyi, Ebonyi, Sunday Elom N, Awka
As rage and criticism trail the allegation that Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State received the sum of N6 billion from the federal government to establish cattle ranching in the state, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu and the Special Assistant to Governor Umahi on Media and Publicity, Mr. Francis Nwaze, have denied the allegation, saying that such transaction never took place.
Recall that Mallam Shehu had on Wednesday during a political interview on Channels Television said that Ebonyi and three other states of the federation have received N24 billion from the federal government to establish cattle ranching in their states.
Shehu had listed the four states to include Ebonyi (Southeast), Yobe and Katsina (North) and Federal Capital Territory Abuja (North central) and had said that each of the four states got N6bn for ranching and other associated purposes.
However, following heated rage and criticism by Ebonyians and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the state, Shehu stated that, “Ebonyi State Government is correct in saying that they did not receive N6 billion for ranching.”
Shehu’s statement read, “Re: Four States Get 24 Billion,
The Ebonyi State Government is correct in saying that they did not receive N6 billion for ranching. In that interview, I said “ranching and associated projects.”
“The State Government had a different priority for which they received their own part. But the source of the fund from which the four states benefited is of course the same. Had the interviewer asked for detail, this clarification would have been given in the course of the discussion.”
Mallam Shehu’s statement of denial came after Ebonyi state government denied getting any money from the federal government for ranching purposes in the state, saying there is no available land for ranching in the state.
According to a statement by Mr. Nwaze, “We have received the news making the rounds that Ebonyi State is among the states in the federation that has received the sum of 6 billion naira each for ranching as attributed to the Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu while responding to questions on Channels Television on Wednesday night and we wish to clarify as follows;
“That Ebonyi State Government never at any time received any money for ranching in the State and will not receive any money for the same purpose as there is no available land for ranching in the state.
“That should any Ebonyian opt to engage in personal ranching, Ebonyians should see such a venture as a personal decision of such a person who must use his/her land for the purpose. This is because the Ebonyi State Government has continued to maintain that there is no land for ranching in the state and it is not about reneging from the decision.”
Also, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Chief Ogodo Ali Nome said that the state has not collected any money from the federal government for the establishment of cattle ranches in the state; but noted that the state government was intending to develop its rural cows through its motony policy.
“We have not collected any money for ranching and we have no intention to collect any money, it’s a gossip. We didn’t propose to give any land for grazing in Ebonyi, there is no intention to do that and we have no intention to do that. I know the state of my Governor’s mind is that no land should be allowed for any RUGA or any grazing routes.
“We have not started anything on ranching, we have not. We only have hope of developing lands for our rural cows, what we call motony. We have plans for it, we have a programme on it but we have not started doing anything. No money was given for it because if money for Agriculture will come out, it will pass through us. We didn’t apply for ranching money, it has not come to our notice and I am sure that our Governor has not collected money for that effect”, he stated.
In the same vein, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Bar Cletus Ofoke while speaking to journalists in Abakaliki said, “Well, I am not aware on what Garba Shehu said about Ebonyi on ranching, I am not aware of it,”
Meanwhile, PDP, in a statement signed by its Ebonyi State Publicity Secretary, Silas Onu, called on the state government to immediately make full disclosure of the ranching fund for public good.
“We need to ensure that cattle are no longer seen in the public and in the farms of our people. This will settle the clashes that have taken lives needlessly.
“We are eternally committed to do justice for the good people of Ebonyi State and will not allow this issue, together with many others, to be swept under the proverbial carpet,” the main opposition party stated.