Kogi at 22: Developing Agriculture and Industries: The Wada’s MoU Approach

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At last, Kogi State, blessed with agricultural, mining, industry and tourism potentials, yet rated among the poorest in the country, is on the verge of getting it right as an investors’ haven. Created August 27, 1991, Kogi is ranked 13th most populated in Nigeria. The state is richly endowed in natural and human resources and has the potentials of the food basket of the nation and also a tourist destination. According to a report published by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in 2009, Nigeria has commercial deposits of a total of 37 minerals, up from 33 minerals in 2008.

The report indicated that Kogi State alone has deposits of a total of 29 mineral resources available in commercial quantities.These include coal,dolomite,feldspar,bauxite,iron ore,tar,limestone,gold, tantalite etc. Each of the 21 councils in the state is said to have deposits of at least 2 minerals. According to the report, one of the coal-rich areas is the ” district of Ankpa Local Council, which alone holds reserves of 99 million tones of coal.

“As things stand, Kogi state alone has enough deposits of coal to supply all of Nigeria with electricity for 400 years. And enough limestone to keep three giant-sized cement factories (with over 15m tons annual capacity) operational for an unbroken stretch of 99 years”, quoted the FG report. The state capital, Lokoja also hosts historical relics and geographical monuments, notably the museum of old European commercial activities and the confluence of River Niger and River Benue.

Curiously, despite the amazing depth of her human and mineral resource and tourism endowment, over the years, Kogi State had placed last in all Nigeria’s social and economic indices.

Determined to rewrite Kogi’s story, Governor Wada, on assumption of office raised a think-thank comprising illustrious sons and daughters of the state, to prepare a development blueprint for the state, which was to serve like the road map for his government. 18 months after, Governor Wada admitted that although, it has been tough adhering to the spirit and letter of the blueprint in the face of fresh challenges, “we are not too far away from the blueprint”.

Wada enthused that one area of improvement is the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), which he disclosed had gone up by 100 percent since the advent of the Administration and assured of more benefits to come. In his goodwill message to Kogi people as the state celebrated the 22nd anniversary of its creation on Tuesday, Governor Wada described the avowed commitment shown by his administration to transform the state’s Industrial and Agricultural sectors as future hope for the State.

Undaunted by the several months of election related litigations, challenging the authenticity of his election and the initial funding challenges, Wada traversed Nigeria and foreign countries, while his deputy, Yomi Awoniyi ran errands on the domestic scene. This style had brought the governor under criticisms from the opposition who labelled him an absentee governor.

However, 18 months in the saddle, there are sufficient signals to suggest that Wada had made haste slowly as the seeds of the benefits of his silent trips overseas and outside the shores of the state, are beginning to germinate. Kogi is presently undergoing an agricultural and industrial transformation and this has been made possible through the influx of foreign investors to stimulate the state’s economy, as a result of which, Kogi now plays the role of a catalyst, culminating into the signing of about 12 memoranda of understanding running into billions of Naira.

The attraction of foreign partners into the state’s economy is anchored on the political will of Capt Wada and the creation of an enabling environment for business to thrive in the state. Wada told representatives of ETA, a Dubai, United Arab Emirate based agricultural and mining company which came visiting last Wednesday that the partnership will come with mutual benefits. “You get returns for your investments while Kogi people get their benefits through job creation and economic development”, he said.

Wada admonished the Dubai team led by ETA Managing Director Mubarak Hussein, to go round the state on sight seeing with a view to tapping into the mining potential of Kogi State and come back to the government house to share their experiences with him. He admitted though that for visitors from Dubai, the nascent city of Lokoja might be growing old, he assured that as part of the transformation agenda of his administration, a comprehensive urban renewal programs to beautify Lokoja will unfold very soon.

A day earlier, a consortium of investors from Saudi Arabia, indicating readiness to partner with Kogi State Government in the area of industrial and socio-economic development, said that they came to invest in Kogi because of the confidence they had in the leadership.

The leader of the delegation and requested during an audience with Wada in Lokoja, for land for quick commencement of their partnership venture with the state, stressing that they had already written application for land for them to commence work immediately, upon approval.

Also on the delegation, Vice Chairman of Alkatani Group of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Sallah Alkatani, who said they were willing to transfer the technology that they had learnt over the 73 years in the course of the family business to Kogi State, mentioned that they were into oil and gas, steel plant development and pipeline.

In addition to creating jobs for the teeming unemployed youths, the governor pointed out that there is the backward integration advantage to accrue to the communities where the projects are located and the state as a whole.

A proportion of the profit is also earned by the state thereby enhancing its revenue generation profile.

The nature of partnerships entered into by the state, will also ensure a dual advantage of having a direct and Indirect employment created on a massive scale while the lean funds accrued to the state from the federation account are channeled for other developmental purposes.

In all of the MoUs the state has signed, its equity shares have been to capitalize its land and its content through a “use it or loose it basis,” which allows the state to be allotted some percentage of equity.

Other areas the state remains a prospective bride to investors are in the areas of Waste Management, Urban Renewal, Hospitality and Tourism endeavors.

Aside incentives as Tax Holidays, Access to land with necessary titles, the state also facilitates exploration of minerals through the necessary federal agencies as support to investors.

The creation of an Investment Promotion Desk by the state government ,a one stop shop for information and detailed discussions, serves as an investment maternity ward for the safe delivery of investment projects in the state.

Towards ensuring the development of the state’s agriculture and industrial sector, the Wada led administration, thus entered into an understanding with willing entities, to form Joint Ventures and later as Build, Operate and Transfer with an enabling legislation to allow for Public Private Partnership already in its final stage.

The specific content of the partnership entered into by the state with Ostertrade Engineering and Manufacturing as well as with DPP International APS, include: a Joint Venture MoU for farming of up to 6000 hectares of Cassava and processing it into native and modified cassava starch . The project has an equity investment of 650 million US Dollars to be realized within 18 months by all parties.

The project also has a high net worth with a return on investment of 27 per cent and a pay back period of less than four years. It is also capable of generating thousands of employment in the area of its location.

Similarly, the partnership with Espera Global Limited in commercial Agricultural and Agro Industrial investments, which would operate on a Project Model called Strategic Fast Tract Agricultural Development System, seeks to invest up to 650 million US Dollars on 25,000 hectares of land.

Aside the backward integration advantage to the state, the state also enjoys 15 percent share of the project while employment would be created in Agriculture Infrastructure and Social Services.

The MoU entered into with Chelsea Group Limited, is for the establishment of Agriculture and Ethanol Plant and other associated Industries in Ilama Community in Dekina Local Government Area. The project is a 300 million US Dollars investment. The equity structure of 85 percent and 15 percent for cassava development for the partner and state government respectively, will occupy a land mass of 10,000 hectares.

The MoU with Favic Constructions Company seeks to exploit the immense location of economic advantage of Kogi State as a transportation hub. On the average, vehicles from 22 States pass through the Capital daily.

A Mechanic and Spare Part Market in Lokoja, is to be sited on a minimum of 10 hectares of land. The facility which will have an international hotel, car park that will take at least 200 Vehicles, a Bank, Open Court Restaurants, and Rest Rooms is structured on the basis of 75 percent and 25 percent for the investor and the state, respectively.

Towards providing mass housing scheme, the state entered into a partnership with Light House Financial Services Limited to build 1500 houses of various categories for it citizens. The scheme would be located majorly in Lokoja while other urban towns would be prosecuted in phases.

The importance of power in driving socio-economic development in any society, made the state sign an MoU with Good Earth Power Nig. Ltd and Astra Coal Nig. Ltd. The companies aside investing in housing, agriculture, infrastructure and power plants, would utilize the abundant coal deposits to generate the much needed electricity for the Country.

Astra Agriculture Resources Ltd, intends to establish a rice farm and mill at Ibaji. Infrastructures such as health centres, schools, roads, water and electricity would be provided by the investor as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.

Through the Kogi investment and properties Limited, a joint agreement with Kiabo Engineering Group Holding Limited of Hong Kong to Design, Construct and Operate an eleven story hotel and offices to be known as Kogi House is yet another brilliant initiative of the Capt Wada administration. The project which would be located in the central business area of Abuja, would see the State enjoy 80 per cent equity participation in the joint venture which spans a period of 30 years.

With the future of the nation said to depend on agricultural promotion, the state massive investment in agriculture especially in Sugar through the establishment of a 50 hectares cane sugar seed nursery, is believed to be geared towards enabling the planting of 1000 hectare of sugar cane in about a year, an investment anchored by BUA Sugar, Dangote Sugar and Unikem Sugar companies. The trio, planning to set up sugar plantation and refining facilities in the state, it is hoped, would help form the bulwark for the realization of the National Sugar Master Plant.

The Achaju Oil Palm is yet another project that will greatly improve economic outlook of the state.

Earlier in August, 90,000 hybrid cocoa seedlings were distributed to farmers in the nine cocoa farming local governments. Chairman of the Cocoa Rebirth Agenda, Yomi Awoniyi, said that the emphasis placed on agriculture sector by the Wada Administration followed the discovery that it is a major tool for development. He explained that the present administration placed so much premium on the cultivation of Rice,Cassava and Cashew and now cocoa and urged the youths to embrace farming instead of pursuing sudden wealth, adding that there is no shortcut to wealth except through hard work.

As part of the effort to confront the national challenge of importation of rice annually, running into billions of Naira, Awoniyi disclosed that the administration has laid the foundation stone that will make the state the biggest rice producers in the country adding that, having made rice a development product,the state now has five mini Rice Mills with the capacity to mill 200000 kilograms per day.

The icing on the cake in all of the partnerships, is the ongoing move to resuscitate the Ajaokuta Steel Plant.

The plant, recognized as the fulcrum of industrialization for the country, but which has been bedeviled over the years by some forces against its take off, would soon have its jinx broken as bold steps by the Kogi State Government to reawaken the sleeping giant is already concluded.

Reprom Company Nig. Ltd, in partnership with the Kogi State Government has put in place machinery to reactivate the steel plant in the next few weeks.

All of this efforts by the present administration are aimed at meeting the yearning of the people especially as the state is aptly described as a Civil Service State, with 80 percent of its revenue spent on the payment of salaries with little or nothing to run the state afterwards.

Without mincing words,the friendly environment created by the Capt Idris Wada administration and the states abundant potentials in agriculture, mining, tourism, human capital development as well as its strategic location is making it to presently undergo an agricultural and industrial revolution.

By Ralph Agbana and Mike Abu

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