At a critical time like this, when developing countries have started diversifying their economies into growing the agricultural sector, Nigeria is not an exception to exploit the endowed natural resources at its disposal for guaranteeing food security, employment generation and in shoring up its internal revenue base. In Ogun State, its pilot scheme, the joint intervention of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has come into play at a right time. Notwithstanding, the present administration in the state is not leaving any stone unturned, while it is thinking outside the box to breathe life into the dwindling fortune of the once-upon-a-time inherited legacy the Gateway state is noted for. With abundant potentials that are being put in place, in the areas of good road network, power plant, rail, deep sea port, gas pipeline, dams, among other factors that promote industrialisation, the current administration is not found wanting. The giant strides, no doubt, began to manifest few months after Prince Dapo Abiodun mounted the saddle of leadership in the state.
However, it is not surprising that Ogun is among the six states that the AfDB team on Environmental and Social Assessment Appraisal Mission, in collaboration with the IFAD have chosen to implement the proposed Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone (SAPZ).
A fortnight ago, during a visit to the governor, the duo of Dr Chuma Ezedinma (head of the AfDB/IFAD team) and Dr. Patrick Habamenshi (IFAD Country Director), it was established that Ogun State had an ample opportunity for achieving greatness through agriculture.
“Our vision is to make agriculture a model. We are here (in Ogun) to develop this programme together, between AfDB and IFAD. We want to ensure that the vision is coming within and it is going to be a big plus for the state. We are committed to support Ogun state to make this vision happen, by bringing agriculture to an enviable position,” said Habamenshi.
Ezedinma also charged the government to seize the opportunity provided in the programme. By and large, the present administration has placed premium on agriculture. The agricultural agenda has been bold, encouraging and exemplary since the administration assumed the mantle of leadership on May 29, 2019. Of note is that the encouragement of the scheme has attracted no fewer than 80,000 people (mostly youths) who have keyed into the agricultural value chain opportunities, with the linkage of well over 15,000 to credit, input and guaranteed market and productivity in the FGN/CBN Ogun Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and other programmes, despite a restrictive COVID-19 pandemic year, and a host of others.
The intervention of the global agricultural authorities and experts, as part of the bid for the Special Agro-Industrial Zone (SAPZ) project is driven by the administration’s continuous efforts to seek partnership and collaboration in the resolve and commitment to support all levels of agricultural activities, including small-holder farming, achieve food security, create job opportunities and link primary producers and youths to your industrial process, and promote agricultural industrialisation.
Not left alone, the involvement of the private sector participants would go a long way in adding impetus to the scheme, because of their leading role in the SAPZ implementation which is also expected to align with the current reforms in the state, with the creation of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) office and Ogun State Investment Promotion Agency (Ogun Invest).
No doubt, Ogun is naturally an SAPZ location and suitable for its innovation and case study, considering the current infrastructure, concentration of Agro-Investors, close proximity to raw materials and ready-made markets. There is a level of coordination, aggregation and agro-transformation that is ongoing in the state, as the largest hub for both conventional industries and Agro-Industries which are located near Lagos, one of the largest markets in Africa. Also, the improved coordination of aggregation, processing and access to large markets will accompany the much desired SAPZ and will transform lives, commerce well-being of the people in the state, Nigeria, Africa and the world, at large.
While taking congnisance of the potentials, in terms of infrastructure, such as road networks, power plant, rail, deep sea port, gas pipeline network, rivers and dams that are available, the potentials alone will not translate to industries, jobs, competitiveness and large markets. But inter connectivity of resources, partnerships and support, such as being proposed to AfDB, is intended to change the world of agricultural and industrial interventions, which will achieve win-win situations and sustainable inclusiveness.
However, the governor, Abiodun, strongly believes that the competitive bidding process would be beneficial to all and sundry.
According to him, “I am delighted that the process would guarantee a prize for everyone-whether through the Agricultural Transformation Centres or Infrastructures and hubs or other proposed features of the SAPZ-no one would be left with nothing.
“I am particularly delighted with the mutual approach by the Ogun and Lagos teams, to cooperate and benefit from the new focus on agriculture, as evident by the presence of the Lagos team, led by the Honourable Commissioners for Agriculture and Economic Planning and Budget, to support Ogun State.
“Their presence here today, is an extension of the cooperation between Ogun and Lagos states, respectively, since the AfDB-SAPZ inception workshop held last year, with Ogun State recognising Lagos State as a market destination, and Lagos State cooperating with Ogun State as a national resource and primary production and processing hub. Ogun State enjoys similar relationship with stakeholders, both nationally and globally.
“Ogun State has taken the AfDB-SAPZ initiative to a higher level with deliberate earmarking of 20,000 hectares, including advance level brown field activities, and commencement of the Cargo Airport which will complement export opportunities and nationwide supplies. The first phase of the Cargo Airport would be delivered in 2022.
“I note with great pleasure, our agenda to pursue international collaborations which is leading us, with hope from the AfDB-SAPZ initiative, just like our collaboration with IITA which has helped us deliver on key agricultural outputs, with extraordinary performances; and FGN/IFAD Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), where 13,000 people have been linked to credit, market and jobs; as well as benefits of infrastructure, markets, roads, land clearing and others.”
Similarly, Mr. Dapo Okubadejo, Ogun State Commissioner for Finance and Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) to the Governor, noted that the AfDB/IFAD programme and the Environmental and Social Assessment (E&S) to the state were part of the requirements before the proposed Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone could kick off.
He said the process was a determinant of the readiness of the state government and the engagement of the AfDB/IFAD to do business with the state.
Earlier, the team, which had commenced a two-day Environmental and Social Assessment (E&S) of the proposed Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone, had met with the State SAPZ Inter-ministerial Techical Team, local communities where hubs, farmlands and other infrastructure would be situated. Also, it had inspected local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and industrial hub and other project locations.
Meanwhile, the event attracted a good number of top financial experts, traditional rulers, critical stakeholders and top government functionaries. Essentially, Agriculture remains the cornerstone to the economy of the state, and if well harnessed, it will put the economy development at a very fast space.
–––Ezekiel wrote from Abeokuta, Ogun State