Some portion of Orchard Farm belonging to the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo went up in flames on Saturday.
The former president had acquired about 2,420 hectares of farmland at Howe, a few kilometres away from Aliade, headquarters of Gwer East local government area of Benue State where he planted mango and orange trees.
While the cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained, locals in the area said that some youths in the area might have set fire on the farm to ventilate their grievances for not paying compensation for the land.
When contacted, the State fire Service director, Donald Ikyaaza confirmed the fire incident at the former president’s farm and said that the office responded immediately by sending his men to the farm and were able to put out the fire before it spread to some parts of the farm.
‘Officials initially offered to help but when the number of able-bodied citizens at the centre increased, they left us unattended to’
He said, “Yes, I discharged my men to that place immediately and the portion we met, we were able to put out the fire outrightly.
Ikyaaza said that he received information that the people in the area decided to set fire on the farm due to the issue of compensation.
He said, “The exact cause of the fire my men who went there said the people were fighting for compensation for land. Maybe the land was not adequately compensated for so that’s why they decided to set fire on the farm.
“That is the only information I got from them.
The fire service boss however lamented that his men who went to put out the fire were robbed and beaten mercilessly by suspected robbers on their way back to Makurdi.
According to him, “In fact, my men while coming back in the night, armed robbers caught them, beat them seriously and collected all their handsets, so that was the compensation we (firefighters) got for fighting the fire at Obasanjo’s farm.
“Not all the farm was burnt. Some trees are still there, the seeds were saved.