Agriculture Is the Way Forward – Wada

By Usman A. Bello

Agriculture Is the Way Forward
Agriculture Is the Way Forward

Lokoja — Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State, in this interview with journalists on his return from South Africa, said there will be no going back on his agricultural transformation agenda in spite of initial challenges. He speaks on the benefits of the trip to the state.

What was your mission to South Africa?

My trip to South Africa was at the instance of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture because there was an appendix in the forum for agriculture which was held in Cape Town, South Africa. There was a section in the forum which focuses on Nigeria agriculture transformation agenda and because Kogi State has fully keyed in to Agricultural transformation agenda of the federal government, we were called. We have focused on accelerated agricultural development and stable crops processing development at Agbado in the western part of the state. I was invited to share my experiences in some grey areas with investors, with development partners on the efforts that our state is making in translating agricultural transformation into reality to address the challenges we are facing and also find out the opportunities that are available in Kogi State to offer to investors. I also touched on the political will on the part of our government which is the catalyst to investors’ confidence in agricultural transformation. I had the opportunity to present a paper on this subject which was well received.

What benefits will the trip offer the state?

Already we are enjoying the dividend of the conference, we have an encounter with Cadel company, a highly reputable manufacturing company based in United State of America. They have agreed to partner with us in the area of cassava growing and processing at Abado in the western part of the state. The company will grow special variety of cassava and establish a starch processing factory to produce sweetener and sucrose for various food manufacturing industries. There is a lot of benefit in agriculture programme because it will create jobs for our teeming unemployed youth in the state. This programme will involve small scale farmers going into commercial farming. We have allocated 15 hectares of land to Cagil company for this programme and Kogi State government has cleared three hectares of land for them because land clearing is a major problem in agricultural project. The representative of the company followed us from South Africa to Kogi State so that we could have an extensive discussion on the project. The other fallout of the trip is another company called Cardinal Stone which has also declared interest to invest in the state in the area of cassava growing because they also have a programme on deriving agricultural value chain arising from cassava programme. The company is already in partnership with Nigeria flour mill to utilize the Abado cassava project in Kogi state. I will be meeting with them to continue our discussion and sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), this will lead to another cassava production for the benefit of the people. These are the immediate fallout of the conference I attended in Cape Town, South Africa.

What are the challenges of agricultural transformation in the state and country at large?

The challenges I identified was allocation of land which in most cases belong to the communities, on this aspect we gave confidence to investors and their investment. The second challenge I mentioned was security. We all know what is happening in the country today, to bring foreigners into the country you have to assure them of their maximum security, and on this aspect also, I gave them full confidence that Kogi State will provide maximum and adequate security to any serious investors who are willing to come to the state for the purpose of investment; and this aspect will certainly have no cost effect on the investor. Also the political will (is another issue), showing that our government is willing to attend to issues that concern investors and their investment in the state. Land clearing is one aspect in mechanized farming where prospective investors get discouraged because of the high cost of hiring bulldozers and excavatosr to clear the land and prepare it for farming. So, where Kogi State has offered to clear three hectares for the investor is a major incentive to motivate and encourage the investors. It is our hope and desire to invest vigorously in agriculture and be the best in Nigeria. I have to state it categorically that Kogi State is very safe for investors. A typical example to buttress this assurance was the establishment of Obajana Cement in the state which today is the largest cement company in Africa and very soon it will be the largest in the whole world. This clearly shows that the state is not only safe but comfortable for business. Secondly, we have Ajaokuta Steel Company which again is the largest steel complex in Africa, even though it is not functioning properly as at now. Presently the state government and the federal government are making a concerted effort to see the possibility of the steel complex coming back to life because if the steel complex is functioning adequately, it will create jobs and many subsidiary companies will come in to do business here. So when I was at South Africa, I made it clear to them that the issue of insecurity in some part of Nigeria does not in any way affect Kogi state, and as such the state is very safe for any individual and corporate organization to invest. Those who are peddling rumour of insecurity in the state are not sincere to themselves and to the state. This is an era of politics where some people will never see anything good in the sitting government, and this is one of the challenges we have in this country where some citizen, because of our selfish political motive will destroy what belongs to our nation and our people. Any comment on insecurity in the state is not true and is totally irresponsible because Kogi State is very safe.

With the state’s limited resources, how are you mobilizing resources for this agricutural transformation?

We are not unaware of the limited resources the state is presently facing, but I am also aware of the natural potentials and the endowment God Almighty has given the state. We are trying to leverage on this by inviting investors both within and outside the country who have the necessary financial strength to come either to work on their own or work in partnership with the state government. What the government is presently doing in agriculture is really like planting a seed which will have a long time benefit to the people. Agriculture is a way forward to us as a country and as a state. The initial investment we are making is to show the way and that is why our focus in Sarkin -Noma, Koton Karfi and Ibaji is enormous and we have involved over 6, 000 people who ordinarily have nothing to do especially after the flood disaster that ravaged many communities. These people planted rice three months ago and they are harvesting it now and if they see that in three months they can earn a substantial amount of money, the interest and the zeal to do more will certainly be in them and this will definitely reduce crime in the state.

We on our part as government will not relent in our effort to assist farmers in the area of seedlings, fertilizer and other incentives to achieve in this laudable project. Kogi State government does not intend to run farms. That is not our business. Instead the government will encourage the people to farm in order to earn a living. Allafrica

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