Northern Nigeria is known for its wealth of agriculture. Both the land and the people are friendly with agricultural production and growth, but the current security situation as well as other economic factors has remained militating agents against the successful use of agriculture for economic growth in the area.
Recently, the agricultural investor’s forum was organised by State leaders in the north to deal with the agricultural problems of the area.
Gov. Idris Wada of Kogi, who took part in the forum, said his state had put in place a number of incentives ranging from tax holidays, access to land, among others.
According to him, the ` Confluence State’ has huge coastal area for the production of aquatic products.
“The convergence of River Niger and River Benue provided the state with a coast environment that should be exploited.
“We also boast of fertile land for the production of rice and other plants that require water to grow,’’ he said.
His Benue counterpart, Gov. Gabriel Suswam, said investors must utilise the friendly atmosphere of the state to invest in agriculture and energy.
The governor said the state required investments in agriculture and energy in order to realise its status of being called the “Food Basket of the Nation.’’
But how do farmers in the area and indeed the people view their comments?
In this telephone conversation with Adams Dauda, an indigene of Kogi state, he said the people of the state have not exactly benefited from the rich aquatic product in the area. “Yes we know that Kogi state is rich in water and as such should have a high amount of aquatic products like fish which should consequently be cheap, but the fact is that fish, especially in Lokoja is very expensive, you will only get good fish in the villages. Like there is a place they call Bagana in Kogi, it is a suburb and the fishes there are quite cheap depending on the type and size you want to buy”.
He attributes the problem to poor infrastructure, saying the inadequate roads and other facilities needed to bring theproduct to other parts of the state has not helped the people in enjoying from the natural benefits of the land.
“I think the problem is because of the bad road, the people there who get these fishes; that’s the fishermen have to go through the stress of either looking for a longer route where their fishes will safely get to the town, thereby paying more, or risk the chance of having to sell their fish at a low price within the shortest possible time.
Similarly Michael Ugenyi said he knows that his state is expected to have food stuff at very cheap price, but adds that that the case is not so in most parts of the land. The only product that is relatively cheap in Benue is Yam, and even that is only found at such incredibly cheap prices in villages. In some parts of the capital and in towns, you will find cheap yams, but it is almost the same with what you get in other places. The case is always as a result of poor transportation facilities.
“The governors who stated that they were happy with United States, Britain, France, China and Canada, that have offered support to tackle the insurgents, drew the attention of prospective investors to the favourable investment climate in their states.
Governor Suswan of Benue State said; “Benue state has coal and with the recent discovery of gas in commercial quantity, exploring and exploiting energy to support industrialisation in the state has become profitable”.
Gov. Murtala Nyako of Adamawa decried the poor standard of living in the region and stressed the need to harness the agricultural potential in the area.
“We should harp on the region’s huge population and land mass to contribute positively to the growth of the region and the country as a whole.
“Agriculture and sundry activities around it still remain pivotal for the region to rise above the numerous challenges brought by poverty and ignorance.
“We should also continue to strive to provide our people with western education in order to position our human capital for both local and global competitive economic environment,’’ he said.
On his part, Gov. Shettima Shema of Katsina State, said the state was working hard to commence value addition to its animal husbandry.
“We are gradually approaching an era where cattle rearing would no longer be fashionable as efforts are geared toward maintaining animal farms and grazing areas with great diligence.
“Katsina State prides itself as a hub for large cattle settlement and therefore, we are calling on investors to exploit the opportunity of converting animal cheese to process milk,’’ Shettima said.
All the governors from the northern states that spoke agreed that the key to the transformation of the area is going back to agriculture.
Alhaji Mansur Ahmed, the Executive Director, Dangote Group, said the group would invest 2.3 billion dollars in sugar-cane and rice production in the country by 2017. “In three to five years, Dangote Group would be investing about 2.3 billion dollars in the northern part of the country, the current investment is low and we are prepared to upscale it,’’ he said.
He said that the conglomerate would require about 250,000 hectares for sugar cane production and 130,000 hectares for rice farming.
Ahmed explained that the investment was capable of generating 180,000 direct employment for the inhabitants of the region.
“The group will not be deterred by the security situation in the region.
“There is nothing wrong attracting foreign investors to the country.
“But I think it will work well for all of us if local investors set the pace as that would raise the confidence level of other conglomerates to do business here.
“So, Dangote Group is prepared to lead the way for the industrialisation of the north and the country as a whole,’’ he said.