Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, was moved to tears on Monday when he visited Ikere Gorge Dam in Iseyin, Oke-Ogun area of Oyo state.
He disclosed this on Tuesday at a town hall meeting with farmers, youths, women and other Agric stakeholders in the state. The meeting which held at the House of Chiefs, Parliament Building, Secretariat, Ibadan, also had in attendance, the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi, and top government functionaries as well as officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Ogbeh said he was heartbroken at the sorry state he met the dam which has the capacity to provide irrigation services to 2.8million hectares of arable land. He expressed sadness the dam and its facilities were lying fallow since completion 35 years ago.
He recalled that as Minister of Communication, he was at Ikere Gorge Dam in 1982 when the Federal Government brought turbines to complete the project. He regretted that 35 years on, the turbines were yet to be installed.
His words: “I remember that we visited the dam in 1982 and brought the required turbines to complete the project. I almost wept yesterday (Monday) when I visited the dam in Iseyin and met the turbines lying fallow at the dam without being fixed.
“It is very sad that the dam has been idle since 1982. This is how we have been wasting our various resources that landed us in the present economic woes.”
The dam, the minister noted, could generate seven megawatts of electricity, irrigate the arable land in the state, and serve multipurpose functions such as fishery, irrigation, water supply to communities.
According to him, the Dam, with a capacity to provide irrigation services to 2.8million hectares of arable lands, is one of the 22 dams that are in Oyo State, which is the second highest in Nigeria after Kano that has 23 dams.
Ikere Gorge Dam, which took off in 1977, has the potentials for irrigation farming, generation of electricity and tourism. The dam was planned to generate 3,750 megawatts of hydroelectricity for dam and rural electrification programme and to irrigate up to 1,200 hectares of farmland.
As gathered, the original impetus for the dam was the drought of 1973/74, which caused the military regime of Murtala Mohammed/Olusegun Obasanjo in 1975 to take steps to prepare the nation for future disasters by establishing of 12 River Basin Development Authorities scattered throughout the country. The Ikere Gorge Dam project took off in 1977.
The Minister, who decried the increasing rate of decay in most agricultural facilities and institutes across the country had earlier visited various agricultural facilities in the state including the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.
Speaking with stakeholders on his findings at some of the areas visited, the minister said the level of decay and neglect of some agricultural facilities have not helped the development of the agriculture sector.
In his remarks, Governor Ajimobi appealed to the stakeholders to change their mindsets that are inimical to the growth of agriculture in the country in order to promote the survival of the country,