By Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin
Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki on Tuesday expressed excitement over the N69 billion Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) invested into Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP).
The initiative of the Godwin Obaseki-led administration to rejuvenate the sector for global competitiveness.
Governor of the apex bank, Godwin Emefiele, at the launch of the programme in Benin City, said Edo with Nigeria’s largest oil palm plantation, is the best place to invest, if the Country must revive its oil palm industry.
Emefiele who commended Obaseki’s commitment to developing the country’s oil palm sector, said the CBN will make available N69bn funding facility required for the ESOPP.
In a speech, Edo State Governor Obaseki, said the project is in line with his administration’s agenda to harness the State’s rich human and natural endowments to achieve economic growth and wellbeing of Edo people.
He maintained that his government is committed to diversify the State’s economy, achieving economic prosperity, creating jobs and improving the lives of the people.
“The focus on the oil palm sector alone can stimulate and drive the economy of any state as it has done to Malaysia and Indonesia.
“This programme will enable us move from complaining and talking about what we have lost to concrete action towards regaining what has been lost”.
Obaseki said the ESOPP will leverage on what the CBN has initiated, adding, “Ours is to remove the critical risk in the oil palm sector by solving the biggest hindrances to plantation farm in Nigeria and making land available to farmers”.
He said his administration has provided about 120,000 hectares of land for oil palm development in the State.
“Successful implementation of the programme will create over 600,000 more jobs as well as 25,000 hectares of forest cover. This programme will cost us about $600 million, which is approximately N200bn. The money is there globally as money is not out of reach with investors on ground”.
The governor said he is setting up the Edo State Oil Palm Programme implementation office, noting that consultants, surveyors, community relations experts will be trained to review and ensure guidelines are strictly followed.
“I thank the CBN governor for stimulating the agricultural sector, creating the platform for our dream to come true. As a state, our goal is to be that trigger state for oil palm in Nigeria as the nation needs millions of lands for oil palm. We will stand as a stimulant for other States”, Obaseki added.
Meanwhile, the CBN governor, who said Edo State made available 120,000 hectares of land for the project, noted that the state has already benefited over 80 percent from the apex bank’s N30bn agriculture intervention for states.
Emefiele said, “I want to thank Governor Godwin Obaseki for showing the required commitment and leadership in developing the oil palm sector in Nigeria. When we contemplated on reviving the oil palm sector in Nigeria, he was the only one that came out aggressively from the South-South and South-East governors and made available 120,000 hectares of land for this project.
“Edo State has the largest oil palm plantation in Nigeria and in reviving the oil palm industry in Nigeria Edo State is the best place to start. The CBN has disbursed about N30 billion naira to entrepreneurs in the oil sector in Nigeria in the last one year and out of that amount, about N25 billion has been channeled to support companies into oil palm plantation in Edo State.”
The CBN governor also warned that the bank will deal ruthlessly with smugglers of palm oil in the country if they fail to stop their illegal operations.
Earlier, Special Adviser to Edo State Governor on Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security Programme, Prince Joe Okojie said the 120,000 hectares of land for the programme was made available by the four Local Government Areas in the State.
According to him, while Ovia North East provided 25,329 hectares; Ovia South West had 36, 759 hectares; while Orhionmwon and Uhunmwode provided 51,000 and 23, 000 hectares of land of land respectively.