By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
“The current problem we are having in Nigeria is tied to poverty and unemployment. I believe that one solution to this insurgency is education and employment. The easiest employment is farming, because a large number of our youths are not educated and skilled. I applied it here in Rivers State and it worked. We created the Banana Farms that have created jobs for over 2,000 persons. We revived the Risonpalm; it was dead when we came, and it has employed over 5,000 workers. Also, the Songhai Farm has employed over 2,000 workers, while Five Fish Farms in strategic locations have been completed. We have done all that to create employment opportunities for our people.” – AMAECHI
In my series of examining the extraordinary feats of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and exposing him as the epitome of exemplary leadership in governance based on the theme for his 54th birthday ceremony that comes up on 27th May, 2019. I have already treated the type of Rivers State that was inherited by this enigma of our time and published by some leading Media Organizations in the world. According to thst treatise, Rivers State inherited by Amaechi was described as a war zone or aptly put a jungle where the fittest determines the fate of the lesser animals. It sounds pretty surprising but not unexpected that the city of Port Harcourt, a once very glamorous city, was ranked among the three most dangerous cities in the world by then. The human resources unit of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos. had ranked Port Harcourt with Baghdad, Yemen’s capital of Sana’a and Khartoum in Sudan, as the world’s most dangerous cities. Going by the ranking published by Bloomberg, Port Harcourt ranked with Baghdad as one of the world’s most dangerous cities for foreign workers as criminal gangs and militia groups seeking greater control of energy revenue step up attacks. For Amaechi to have ended this dangerous trend and rescued Rivers State from the menace of militancy demonstrates that he is a leader ahead of his peers.
In that treatise which I titled, “AMAECHI’S 54 BIRTHDAY: THE ROLE OF EXEMPLARY LEADERSHIP IN GOVERNANCE WITH SECURITY AS A CASE STUDY (PART ONE)” , I highlighted how this man fought and dismantled this demonic menace that caused Port Harcourt to be ranked among the worst and most insecure State capitals in the world. I concluded that piece by preferring solutions to the unfortunate insecurity situation of the State under the watch of Governor Nyesom Wike.
In this part two of these series titled, “AMAECHI’S 54 BIRTHDAY: HIS FEATS IN THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR AS A CASE STUDY IN THE STUDY OF HIS EXAMPLARY LEADERSHIP IN GOVERNANCE (PART TWO)”, I intoned to highlight the vision and extraordinary feats he achieved when he was the Governor of Rivers State which sadly the present Governor of the State have destroyed or dismantled.
For avoidance of doubt, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, erstwhile governor of Rivers state, incumbent Minister of Transportation and the undisputable leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-South region of Nigeria, will be celebrating his 54th birthday on 27th of May, 2019. According to the organisers of this year’s birthday celebration, which theme is “The Role of Exemplary Leadership in Governance”, the great Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Nnnaemeka Alfred Achebe, CFR, MNI, will be expected to chair the epochal event, while the keynote speakers have been carefully selected: H.E. Nasir El-Rufai, the Executive Governor of Kaduna state; Senator Olorunnimbe A. Mamora, the Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA); Prof O. Georgewill of the University of Port Harcourt; Barr. Bele Tariah, a beneficiary of Rt. Hon. Amaechi’s Undergraduate Scholarship Scheme; and Hon. Nancy Stephens, former Deputy Mayor of Port Harcourt local government area (PHALGA) will moderate the epochal event.
Though the great minds mentioned above, expected to speak on the theme are all well qualified and very capable to do justice to it, however having followed the politics of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi these past thirteen years, I will be doing a great injustice to the world if I fail to bring to the fore what made this enigma of a man, not only unique, but a true example of what leadership is all about.
Today, I will focus on Amaechi and his strategies to change the landscape of the Agriculture Sector in Rivers State and made the State a model for any serious State in Africa to develop her agricultural prowess.
Amaechi and His Revolution of the Agriculture Sector of Rivers State
“In a world of plenty, no one, not a single person, should go hungry. But almost 1 billion still do not have enough to eat. I want to see an end to hunger everywhere within my lifetime.” –Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General.
“If there is food for all then we have a rich nation but when we don’t have food for all then we have a poor nation.” –Owelle Rochas Anayo Okoroacha, Governor of Imo State. With these postulations therefore, the importance of providing food for Nigeria’s large populace needs not be over-emphasized.
This treatise is principally aimed at unraveling the strategies adopted by one of the most visionary leaders ever from the shores of Nigeria.
As obtainable in other states in Nigeria, agricultural policy was almost nonexistent in Rivers State at the start of Governor Amaechi’s administration. There was therefore no vehicle upon which the sector could be driven. The sector appeared to have suffered from total neglect by previous administrations, leading to the following:
- The parastatals and companies were in a state of decay, e.g. School-To-Land, Delta Rubber, Risonpalm, ADP, etc. •Non-release of approved budgetary provisions. •There were no functional projects. •Agricultural infrastructure was in a deplorable state. •Counterpart funding on the part of the government was poor. •Staff training or capacity building was nonexistent.
With the coming of Governor Amaechi all these woes facing the agricultural sector were confronted headlong. He has succeeded to the extent that most world leaders that visited Rivers State commended him for his vision and commitment towards the development of agriculture in the state.
The first major step Governor Amaechi took was to initiate an agricultural policy that would guide his administration in his vision to create another economic base for the state outside oil.
Agricultural Policy of Rivers State Under Amaechi
In a broad sense, the policy of government on agriculture was to encourage full private sector participation in order to attain food security, sufficiency and best practices. Government is also to be strategically involved in creating the necessary agricultural environment for farmers by way of providing facilities and promoting programmes in collaboration with external agencies, institutions and Governments for the development of agriculture in the state. It has equally committed itself to invest in agriculture as a foreign exchange earner and use the sector to generate massive employment opportunities for its citizens.
The second step Governor Amaechi took in his vision to revolutionise agriculture in Rivers State was to appoint a very young, vibrant, unassuming and well focused leader in the person of Mr. Emmanuel Chinda as the Commissioner of Agriculture. This versatile, workaholic, egalitarian, well exposed politician and a University of Nigeria Nsukka graduate was all that Governor Amaechi needed to make much impact in this sector.
Amaechi’s Agricultural Revolution and Remarkable Feats
The administration of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi since inception in 2007 has introduced several programmes to revamp the agricultural sector and encourage people to go back to farming. According to Amaechi, agriculture cannot be separated from the state’s overall development plan as the sector is being developed to equally stimulate the state’s economy. His administration has established the Songhai Centre, Fish Farms and Banana plantation as well as revived the Risonpalm in addition to other initiatives to improve agricultural growth and output in the state.
Under the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Amaechi-led administration has been providing farmers with credit, subsidies and incentives to boost their output and develop agriculture in the state. It has consistently provided farmers in the state with high yield and disease resistant varieties of crops and other planting materials, including providing professional guidance and assistance to fish farmers.
Apart from food security, the robust agricultural programmes of the Ameachi administration are designed to generate employment for the teeming unemployed youths in the state by encouraging them to go back to the land in order to resuscitate the sector.
Practical Steps Taken by the Amaechi Administration to Promote Agriculture in Rivers State
- Songhai Rivers Initiative Farm (SRIF)
Songhai farm located at Bunu-Tai/Ban-Ogoi in Tai Local Council covering over 314 hectares of land was introduced after studying the Songhai Centre in Porto Novo, Benin Republic. The Songhai Rivers Initiative Farm (SRIF), which is 20 times the size of its prototype in Porto Novo, has since its establishment recorded huge success in its operations. This farm currently under the supervision of the RSSDA is the biggest agricultural training project/programme in the country.
A good number of Rivers people, mostly youths, have benefitted from the government’s scholarship programme at the Songhai Training Institute in Benin Republic while others have been trained internally to work at the SRIF, fulfilling part of the goals of the initiative.
Such goals include creating employment opportunities for the people, promoting enterprise development especially amongst the younger generation, promoting research in new agricultural techniques and varieties, encouraging skills transfer and adopting appropriate technology by local farmers. Others are enhancing agricultural production and value addition, building interest in commercial farming and facilitating agro-tourism in the state.
Another major aim is to diversify the economy of Rivers State by moving away from dependence on oil and gas, encourage export and serve as a model for developing rural cities in the state as well as make the state the centre of agro- based export free zone.
The Songhai Rivers Initiative Farm is an integration of Livestock, Aquaculture and Agro-tourism. The Centre is designed as a place of excellence for training, production, research, demonstration and development of sustainable agricultural practices. It is tipped to become the number one hub of agricultural development in the country.
Prior to commencement of work at the farm in 2010, the Amaechi administration had dispatched to the Songhai International Centre in Benin Republic a group of 105 young Rivers men and women from the 23 Local Councils of the state to receive 18-month training in various specialised agriculture and agro-based areas and imbibe an entrepreneurial culture.
Fifty trainees out of the number have already been absorbed in SRIF as the first set of workers who will have the opportunity to run their own farm units, sharpen their entrepreneurial skills and eventually set up and manage their own businesses with support from the centre.
- Aquaculture Projects in Rivers State
- MoU was signed with ONIDA of Israel for the development of the Fish Farms at Buguma Andoni, Ubima and Opobo all commissioned and operational before Amaechi left office in 2015 and sadly, Wike in his effort to run down the economy of Rivers State has made all these farms redundant.
- The total production capacity of these farms is 5,000 tons per annum.
- The project createed employment in the hundreds, generate revenue for the state and pay back in about four years. It also has the objective of transfer of technology to our local investors who may wish to replicate this farm in smaller units.
Strategy and future considerations
- Fish Farming in Rivers will improve local community income and alleviate poverty.
- Services for the industry will create more jobs around the farms.
- Food supply increase in the country.
- Replace fish imports and enable.
Buguma Fish Farm
The Buguma Fish Farm has been completed and commissioned and was ready for commercial production.
- A company, Buguma Fish Farm Nig. Ltd., has been incorporated with the Cooperate Affairs Commission (CAC).
- Recruitment of qualified personnel into the company has been concluded for the first batch of staff.
- The Andoni, Opobo and Ubima Fish Farms have also commenced.
- Banana Plantation Development
- The project is for the cultivation, production and export of banana for commercial purposes in partnership with San Carlos Nig. Ltd.
- A Special Purpose vehicle (Precious Bananas Nigeria Limited) has since been formed for the project.
- About 6,000,000 boxes of banana will be produced annually and marketed locally and internationally.
- 2,000 hectares of land have been acquired for the project at Khana and Tai LGAs.
- The value of the project is 45 million US dollars.
- Out of this RSG is to contribute 40% while the partner is to contribute 60%.
- So far the first phase of about 250 hectares has been fully cultivated.
- Production for the first stage has been successful as harvest has been made and local sales effected.
- Land preparation for the second phase (250ha) has commenced
- The farm has so far employed about 4,000 people directly.
- Oil Palm Development in Rivers STATE Risonpalm Ltd
- Agreement has since been signed with SIAT Nig. Ltd. for the rehabilitation and replanting of the 16,000 hectares Risonpalm estate under a lease arrangement for 35 years.
- Rehabilitation of infrastructure and installation of new processing mills almost completed.
- Engagement of new staff in progress; Risonpalm has the capacity to employ up to 5,000 people when running fully.
- Value of project is N20bn in the first 10 years.
- Rehabilitation of the Ubima and Elele estates, i.e. about 14,972 ha of palm trees, has been done.
- Rehabilitation of Oil Mill, with present capacity of 30 T/Hr
- Oil Palm Development
New Oil Palm Estate
- The state has sourced 10,000 hectares for the development of a new oil palm estate in Okwale, Luebe, Lorre, Wikue, Lueku and Kpaa Azuogu, Ndoki, Obete of Khana and Oyigbo LGAs.
- Investors are being sourced for project, though discussions are on with a few investors that have shown interest.
- Rubber Development in Rivers State
- Delta Rubber: Rehabilitation and planting of the state owned 7,000 hectares Delta Rubber Company Limited with provision of processing facilities. MOU has just been signed with private investor, SIAT Nig. Ltd; on lease of the company.
- Rumuewhor Rice Project
- Planting/cultivation of a 10,000 hectares rice field with provision of modern processing facilities.
- 10,000 hectares has been acquired for the project at Rumuewhor in EMOLGA
- Discussions with investors have gone far.
- Project is expected to commence soon.
- Rivers Fadama Project
Fadama is a word for low lying seasonally flooded lands. The following has been achieved in this area:
- Establishment of three new farm villages for the cultivation of various crops, chief of which is cocoa.
- The project comes with a central processing centre to achieve value addition.
- MoU has been signed with LR Group of Israel who are investors/partners.
- Project is expected to employ up to 4,000 people.
- 5,000 hectares is being acquired for the project which is supervised by RSSDA with the involvement of the State Ministry of Agriculture.
- Value of the project is about 140m dollars
Small and Medium Scale Projects
National Fadama Development Projects: Rivers State is benefitting from a World Bank Programme to develop the agricultural sub-sector of the economy supported by the federal, state and local governments to be implemented using Community Driven Development Approach.
Rivers State ADP: The ADP has the following programmes:
- Root and Tubber Expansion Programme (RTEP)
The programme aims at providing grants to farmers in the state to achieve sustainable increase in the production of root crops e.g. cassava, yam, cocoyam and sweet potato.
Focus in the state is centered on the production and processing of cassava. Funding is by IFAD, FGN and RSG.
25 Farmers Co-Operative Societies in the state have received grants for this programme. RSG counterpart funding since 2008 is N23m.
- Community Based Natural Resources Management Programme
This programme is for the empowerment and development of rural communities through community driven approach in partnership with IFAD. The programme is being implemented as of now, in 5 LGAs. Funding by RSG is N101, 200,000 (2008 & 2009).
Investment Opportunities in Agriculture in Rivers State
The mission of the Rivers State Government is anchored on integrity and good governance. This it hopes to achieve using its God-given resources to improve the quality of life of its present and future generations and empower its people.
Rivers State Government is promoting job creation by investing in its agricultural sector to promote businesses anchored on public private partnership.
In pursuing this goal, attractive and flexible investment incentives are available for investors to the state. This package of incentives which is exclusive to Rivers State is further enhanced by other Federal Government investment incentives; and is mainly in the areas of taxation, fiscal policies and guarantees.
Potential Areas of Investment
The state has over 10,000 ha of land marked out for the development of additional oil palm estates on PPP basis. Investment in the industry will yield high returns. RSG is sourcing for investors to leverage on this opportunity.
The state is in the rubber zone of the country and it has enough land for rubber development especially at the Elele/Ubima and Etche axis of the state. Investment in the product will be highly profitable.
Few regions of the world are as endowed as Rivers State in the production of tropical crops like banana and plantain. Investors need to leverage on this opportunity.
RSG has acquired 10,000 ha of land for rice production/processing and is sourcing for investors to exploit this opportunity. Additional land is available especially in the upland areas of the state for rice cultivation. The soil is quite suitable for the cultivation of this staple food.
There is enough fertile land for cassava planting/cultivation in all the upland areas of the state and some of the riverine LGAs such as Degema. A large market already exists for the product. Value addition will increase the benefits of investing in cassava planting/cultivation.
Pineapple, Orange, Pawpaw, Coconut
This is a key area of industrialization (fruit juices) which has not been fully explored. Enough fertile land exists in the state for their production.
Investment in food processing/packaging will be rewarding in the sense that there is a huge market for such products in the state. The state capital, Port Harcourt, is a cosmopolitan city and Nigeria’s second largest commercial and industrial centre. With 23 LGAs, Rivers State is rightly described as the investors’ haven.
Rivers Sate is one of the most endowed states in the country in terms of aquaculture/fishery. The state currently has four fish farms on PPP basis with a production capacity of 5,000tons/annum but this is just like a drop in the ocean considering the fact that about 2million tons of fish is currently imported into the country annually. There is a huge market for the commodity and investors need to exploit this opportunity.
Other areas where investment opportunities abound
- Agro-tourism/Wild Life
- Hatchery, Poultry and Processing
- Feed Production, Packaging and Marketing
- Livestock/Meat Processing and Animal Husbandry
- Horticulture/Export of tropical plants and flowers
- Wood Processing, etc.