Efforts are currently ongoing by the Federal Government and the Ministry of Nigeria Delta Affair to revive some crucial moribund agricultural facilities and industries in the Niger Delta region.
This followed a visit to some of the moribund industries by the Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative and the Niger Delta Agricultural and Industrial Development Initiative to Delta state.
The visit was basically to attract foreign and local investors to partner the Delta State government and the Federal Government to revamp the ailing agricultural sector in the state.
One of the moribund agricultural facilities in the state is the Songhai Delta Limited which was set up in 2005 by the Delta State government to produce high quality agro and agro base materials and for purpose of poverty alleviation for the youth restiveness in the Niger Delta, so that the youth can be trained and acquire skills in agriculture.
According to the Executive Consultant of Songhai Delta, Dr. Theo Okpidi, students from higher institutions in the South-East and South-South come to the centre for their industrial attachment.
The centre which is located at Eko village, Amukpe, has 137 hectares of farmland, of which only 37 hectares is currently cultivated, can accommodate 1400 trainees in the hostel at a time.
The centre is currently operated as a private company, the Delta state government support the centre by sending trainees to the centre who pay training fees which forms part of the revenue used in running the centre.
Okpidi further said that the Agro products produced at the centre were basically for training purposes, adding that “we have not gone into large scale production”.
“We want to step up production, but we need fund to acquire machines, pay staff, security. So this place is not just for training alone, but for commercial.
We have 42 fish ponds, the Delta State government gave us 467,000 juvenile.
Furthermore, Okpidi said “We have 2 tons per day feed mill, the machine used in producing the feeds were fabricated in the center.
“We want joint venture with the Federal government, this place is solely owned by the state government, we are looking for core investors to come in and do Public Private Partnership (PPP).
An investor Issac Oghogho, said about $40 million would be required to revamp the Songhai Delta and turn it into a large scale Agro production and processing centre.
He said his company would acquire the centre, introduce current technologies, train farmers and make the state, farmers, and cooperatives shareholders of the centre .
According to him “we will bring in vegetables, we will grow fish under the water and vegetables on top at the same time, that is our first focus.
“Our second focus is training of farmers, we equip them after the training, some of the trainees who want to become entrepreneurs will use the technology and training we gave them, we will also assist them with funds for them to also be suppliers to our processing plants.
“Any place we set up a farm, we set up what is called Special Purpose Vehicle Company that will have share owning structure such that the community will be shareholders, the farmers under a cooperative will be shareholders and the cooperatives itself will be shareholder.
“We are talking of $40 million, we are setting up various processing industries like cassava to starch industry, cassava chips industry, tomato paste industry, rice milling. “Everything they are doing in Songhai today, we won’t change it, we want to revamp for the purpose of making profit.
“We want to work with the state government on Songhai, all the objectives of which Songhai was set up, we are going to meet up, we are going to use the instrumentality of agriculture in terms of cassava, rice processing, spices production, tomatoes and aquaculture”.
Talking about job creation, Oghogho said “for cassava alone we are targeting 2000 farmers, for tomato, we are targeting 750 farmers. We plan exporting cassava chips to China, there is huge demand for starch in Nigeria”
Another Moribund agricultural facility in Delta state is the 50 tons per day Uzere Cassava Processing Factory which was incorporated in 2009.
According to the Project Consultant of Uzere Cassava Processing Factory, Engineer Adolphus Ojobor, the machines came in 2010, it worked for two years before they broke down, then in 2014 it restarted after 1 year it had challenges and production was discontinued.
“It is a 50 tons per day Cassava processing, but mainly industrial starch and Garri for pharmaceuticals, laundry, it is an integrated cassava processing plant, it washes the cassava peels, then the starch is extracted the water is removed and the starch is dried, the local government was in control of the plant before then the Delta State government bought it over”.
Explaining further, the Delta state Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Barrister Mary Iyasere said the Cassava Processing Factory was acquired from the local government by the state government of which 20 per cent of the investment belongs to the local government.
She said: “The government of Delta state bought this place although, 20 per cent of the investment belongs to the local government, government thought it would be able to run the plant , a manager was employed to run it as a private sector investment, money was disbursed for running the plant but the project was discontinued because of mismanagement.