The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) last week had said it would soon establish an agricultural processing mill in each of the senatorial districts of Rivers State.
The Managing Director of the Commission, Mr Nsima Ekere, who announced this at Uyo while addressing women under the aegis of South-South Women Forum, said the agricultural processing mills would include palm oil, garri and flour.
The ovation and applause that graced the address of Mr Ekere were not merely indications of an expected gesture towards every public presentation, especially coming from a notable public individual like the NDDC boss, it was rather an expression of joy for an expectation well over-due.
Nigerians as a whole and people of the South South geopolitical region of the country in particular, have long expected a more proactive dimension to the much trumpeted diversification agenda of the federal government which tends to favour agriculture the more. Such proactive measure, no doubt, would be result-oriented given the fact that agriculture remains the main occupation of the majority of nigerian populace. It is, therefore, expected that every innovation introduced into the sector would translate to an improvement in the life of the people.
Besides, from the third national development plan till date, the dream of attaining the required nutritional growth for the Nigerian populace has remained a far cry as general agricultural outputs still fall below the minimum nutritional requirement.
The reason is that, with the current economic status of the people, accelerated agricultural growth which is envisaged as essential for future nutritional growth can only be achieved through the intervention of government and established stakeholders in agriculture. By exploiting its potential in providing foundation for economic growth and development as has been observed in several countries around the world, Nigerian government and stakeholders can empower local farmers to utilize vast arable land.
A drastic reform in the sector that will usher in better prospects is all that is needed to attract the youths into the system and it is this generation of workers that has the requisite muscles to take agriculture in Nigeria to the next level where the desired inclusive growth will unfold.
Here in Rivers State, where farmers still grapple with traditional means of farming which leaves little or nothing for them at the end of the day, nothing short of government’s presence in their farming experience can suffice. This is why the choice of the state by the Niger Delta Development Company to benefit from the phase-one agricultural program of the commission is considered a welcome development.
However, it is one thing to propose a thing, yet another to actualize such proposal. While the State bask in the euphoria of being chosen to enjoy such an important government project, it is expected that such an initiative be made real in no distant time.
A similar proposal was made by NDDC last year to revive its rice processing plants with a combined capacity of 210 metric tonnes per day at Elele-Alimini.
The expression of displeasure by the NDDC boss over the non-utilisation of the rice mill which he said was completed since 2008, an action he described as “unconscionable”, was expected to have stimulated a quicker action in getting the plant running and stop the huge waste of government’s resources. Besides, it is indeed meaningless to harp on ban on rice importation without activating facilities that can actually help reduce and redirect our attention from foreign rice.
The resuscitation of the two rice mills would have really encouraged the local communities to grow more rice and expand the agricultural value chain, in addition to providing more employment opportunities for the workforce of the area.
In the same vein, the current initiative of establishing agricultural mills to tackle our palm, garri and flour needs, if executed, will not only boost employment among the teeming unemployed youth of the state, but will make real the diversification agenda of the Federal Government while giving the region a new face of development.