There have been wild speculations in the social media about snake farming in Benue State. In fact, the state governor, Samuel Ortom, is being
linked to a rumored snake farm and importation of snakes into the country. However, in this piece, SUNDAY OGLI, our Benue State Correspondent,
reveals his finding about the allegations and public fears which shows that nothing could be farther from the truth.

 

RECENTLY, the people of Benue State
were alarmed over speculations on
social media that the state governor,
Samuel Ortom was breeding snakes
at his Oracle Farm along Naka
Road in Makurdi. According to the
speculations, several persons had
already died of snake bites in the farm.
It was also speculated that the
governor was the owner of three
consignments containing snakes
intercepted by the Nigeria Customs
in Calabar, Cross River State. The
consignments contained 140 species
of snakes, including other 600 animals
made up of geckos, millipedes, hairy
frogs and spider imported into Nigeria.
The items which were Lagos bound
were said to have been imported from
Cameroon and were intercepted by
officers on July 24, 2017, on arrival at
the NIWA jetty, with a market value of
N6.9 million.
While the stories on the above subject
matter which were published by some
national dailies did not indicate that
the animals belong to the governor,
some elements who posted the
development on social media stated
that the consignments belong to him.
However, a visit to Oracle Farm
and other farms, including the one
in his country home in Guma Local
Government Area did not indicate any
existence of snake farm, except fish
pond, cattle, snail and grass cutter.
Although snakes are known to be
dangerous reptiles because of their
deadly venom, experts say they are
beneficial to human existence as they
serve as anti venoms and other drugs
for the treatment of cancer, heart
and strokes des eases, Parkinson and
nervous related ailments.
In spite of their benefits, the state
Commissioner of Agriculture, James
Ambua who spoke to newsmen
recently on the above allegation said
snake farming is alien to the people of
the state.
“Snake farming is alien to the people
of Benue state and the culture. To say
someone rears snake in this state is not
true because, it is alien to the Benue
culture. I don’t know anybody who
rears snakes in Benue. Anybody that is
known for rearing snakes is something
that can be described as evil. Therefore,
nobody can rear or think of having
snake farm in Benue.
“The governor rears snails,
grasscutters, rabbits, cattle and other
animals which are properly ranched.
The farm is very close by and anybody

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can go there to verify if there is any
snake farm there.
“Although I know that some people
in other cultures in Nigeria eat snakes,
Benue people don’t eat snakes and
so, no Benue person would venture
into such business of rearing snakes,”
Ambua said.
Similarly, Press Secretary to Gov
Ortom who commented on the
intercepted consignments said: “That
report on the intercepted consignments
in Calabar which was skewed and
published on facebook by opposition
members in Benue State is proof that
most of these young men who call
themselves opposition on social media
are bereft of any idea to help develop
their state.
“The cacophony of ridiculous lies
they posted claiming that Governor
Ortom is the owner of the intercepted
consignments is not only false; it is also
shameful.”
On his part, the state governor, Samuel
Ortom while chatting with newsmen
recently in his office in Makurdi said
the speculations were the handiwork
of the opposition who are out to tarnish
his image, more so that constitution
guarantees public office holders to
venture into farming.
He said, “It is not an offense and as
far as I’m concerned there is nothing
restricting the kind of farming you do.
So nobody is restricted to do whether
snake farming or any other kind of farm.
But to tell lies against your governor is
an issue.
“Firstly, I don’t operate a snake farm.
Though it is not illegal. I’m aware that
the venom of snakes are also ingredients
for anti snake venom. People do this
and make money. But associating me
with snake farm just to castigate and
cast aspersions against me is targeted at
portraying me in bad light.
“The farming I’m doing today started
over 27years ago. Whatever I have here
in Makurdi and my village have been
going on since that time and several
people have been there including the
media. It’s not a hidden thing and not
a crime for me to go into. But the fact
still remains that I don’t operate a snake
farm.”
He said he has instructed the Attorney
General and Commissioner of Justice
in the state find out where his alleged
involvement in snake farming emanated
from in order to instill discipline in the
polity. “Let people say the truth and be
ready to defend what they say.
“And so I think that those who wrote

such things will be asked politely to try
and clarify where they identified us with
snake. Maybe we will all go to the farm
and see whether we have snakes there. I
know that in my farm we do livestock,
fishery, poultry, we are into citrus, snail
farming and also grains. And of late
we are trying to introduce mushroom
because it is a new diet across the globe
and we need to introduce it in Benue
state.”
“I have asked the security agencies to
ensure that the person who made that
allegation should justify and defend it.
“That is what I’ve chosen to do and no
one can fault me on that. It will not be
an abuse of anybody’s human rights by
asking him to explain what he said and
wrote on social media. I also saw the post
while on vacation. I want to know why
and how he is associating me with that.”
He disclosed that God gave him a
divine assignment over 20 years ago to
treat victims of snake bite. “Over 20 years
ago, God gave me an assignment, people
were dying of snake bite. It will amaze to
know that there is a case that we treated
to the tune of over N1million. Most of the
victims of snake bite are usually peasant
and poor people who cannot afford even
N10,000 for treatment.
“One day, I went to the Federal Medical
Centre and I saw a young man bleeding
from his nostril, his eyes and all over his
body and I asked what the problem was
and I was told that he was bitten by a
viper. They were there for two days and
there was no money for treatment. His
parents were about taking him home to
go and die. I wept like a child that day.
But God gave me that burden though
I could not do anything that very day
because I didn’t have the money.
“But God said look you would have
sold your car to preserve the life of that
person. Since then I picked that burden,
I engaged Saint Theresa hospital in
Makurdi here, you can go there and cross
check this fact and Raharama hospital
also in Makurdi for free treatments. I
also made an announcement by faith for
people to access those hospitals for free
treatment, it was about 20 years ago.
“I made it clear that anyone who was
bitten by a snake and could not afford
treatment should go to the hospitals for
free treatment in line with my agreements
with the hospitals and since then millions
of Naira have been spent on treatments.
As I talk yo you, as at the end of June I
have a bill of over N31million. I don’t
know the beneficiaries but they could
have died because how do you expect a
peasant farmer to raise N30,000 for such

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treatment.
“If I have my way I will kill all snakes
because I know the pains that snake
have brought to people. If I have my
way I will kill all snakes. That is the
instruction from God that I should
bruise the head and that is what I’ve
been doing though it has caused me
pains and resources because for many
months I’ve been spending money
on treatments. The N31million I
talked about was just for four months
treatment only. That bill excludes July.
He said the above amount is enough
to build a house or put into a business
that can generate more funds, stressing
“if I have my way I will embark on
snake farming but I don’t have the
capacity. People are free to go into the
business. It is not a crime for people
to do that. I want to tell you that
thousands of people have been saved.
It’s just that it has become a burden on
my finances.
“But the programme through my
NGO is for the less privileged that lack
the capacity for treatment. Though I
wasn’t wealthy when I started it 20
years ago, I was virtually living from
hand to mouth at the time. But one
thing that God has done for me is that
since I started the programme no one
has been turned back by the hospitals
because of my inability to pay, so
I commend the hospitals because
even when I was not able to pay they
accumulate the bills they allow me
time to off set it.
“Today people I don’t know from
anywhere see me and run to me
thanking me for saving their lives. That
gives me joy and fulfillment. Not what
the opposition is saying.”
He expressed dismay and sadness that
instead of promoting and projecting
his philanthropic disposition which
has saved lives some are out to tarnish
and drag it in the mud.
On the issue of the seized containers
in Calabar, Ortom said their destination
was not even Benue and wondered
why anybody should imagine he the
owner. “Those containers of containers
of snakes and reptiles that where
imported and seized in Calabar were
not even destined for Benue state. So
how do you associate that with Ortom
and Benue state because you want to
tarnish my image?
He called on those spreading those
false stories against him to join hands
with him to build the state as peddling
lies against him would amount to a
waste of time.

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