Decades ago, Christopher Okigbo, one of Nigeria’s greatest literary voices, dissected the futility of bad governance, wondering how many million promises could ever fill a basket. Today, more than four decades later, Okigbo’s words ring true with the suffusion of promise-and-fail politicians harassing the political space. Which is why, when the nation spots a departure, it should embrace it wholeheartedly, giving applause to whom it is due and asking for more. Let’s track just one example: in line with its promise made, promise kept character, the Ogun State government, last week, indicated that that the agro-allied cargo airport being constructed by his administration in Ilisan Remo will be ready for use by November. This is a project begun only in March of last year. And then the main the gist: the project is set to provide at least 25,000 jobs. Said Governor Dapo Abiodun: “The agro cargo airport will have positive effects on hotels and warehouses being constructed in the area. The Nigeria Customs and the Nigerian Air Force are coming there.” As he noted last year, “we have a firm belief in inclusive agricultural opportunities that will not cut off smallholder farmers, youths and women.”
If the airport is going to give exporters the leeway to export cocoa, kolanut, rubber, tobacco, cassava, yam, maize, sweet potato, oil palm, timbre and cashew, among others, while bypassing the bottlenecks of the Murtala Muhammad International Airport in Lagos, why not? If industries will spring up as soon as it commences operations, why not? An airport strategically located to reach commodities across Ogun and parts of the South-West sounds like a great idea. In any case, Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, stands to benefit from the airport since it has only passenger airports. A visit to the site will indeed show that a lot of rigorous thinking went into conceptualizing the project, which has the imprimatur of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). If this project complements the status of the Gateway State as Nigeria’s foremost industrial hub while optimising the logistics and distribution value chain, improving competitiveness and enabling the state to take full advantage of AfCTA for economic growth and development, then so be it.
Located within an aerotropolis with a land allocation of c.5, 000 hectares comprising facilities for commerce, industry, cargo handling and logistics, the airport is projected to consolidate Ogun State’s competitive advantage in food production and agro-allied and manufacturing industries. Tellingly, in November last year, fully apprised of the potentially immense benefits of the project, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), the International Freight and Cargo Advocacy Centre (CIFAC), urged the Federal Government to lend financially support to the project. As it noted, the perennial lack of storage facilities for farm produce and the challenges arising from aviation bottlenecks had been the bane of exportation by farmers in Nigeria. The completion of the international airport, it said, would tremendously boost the exportation of agricultural and allied products by commercial farmers as well as the importation of farm inputs, while it would further encourage the proliferation of agro-allied cottage industries in the country, thereby boosting its Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and other economic indices within a short time frame.
That sounds so splendid. Hear CIFAC: “The strategic location of the airport on the Sagamu-Epe-Lekki bypass road will not only enhance easier, faster and cheaper access to it by motorists from all parts of Ogun, Oyo, Lagos and other states in the South-West given the opportunity to avoid the incessant traffic on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, but will also boost international trade in the West African sub-region along the Lagos-Cotonou (Benin-Republic) trade corridor and this comes with huge promises in strengthening regional economy and international cooperation among countries in the West African sub-region.”
One vital point that this project conveys very admirably is the value of project continuity in governance. The project was actually conceived in 2007 during the Gbenga Daniel administration and had all necessary approvals, including the Environmental Impact Assessment from the aviation regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). But it was jettisoned by the Ibikunle Amosun administration. Happily, all of that changed with the inauguration of the Iperu-born prince at Oke Mosan. He set to work very quickly and designated the cargo airport as a heteropolis (complete airport city) with a special agro-processing zone replete with factories where raw materials could be turned into final products for export. In its bid document for the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) special agro-processing zone, it chose the area to co-locate the special agro-processing zone. Instructively, the AFROEXIM Bank has begun the construction of the first African International Testing Centre in Sagamu; that is, a centre where items for export would be evaluated and approved for export. Talk of strategic thinking.
It really can be no wonder that for two times in a row, Governor Abiodun has won the Governor of The Year Award in Agriculture, wowing the Nigeria Agricultural Award (NAA) panel of assessors with such programmes as the linkage of 800 participants to inputs and credit to the tune of N360 million under the Ogun State Government/Federal Government/IFAD Assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), with 394 maize farmers, 54 rice farmers and 21 poultry farmers benefitting from the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) through the CBN; his14 solar-powered water schemes in select LGs, and the establishment of a rice processing centre in Eggua.
There’s indeed an endless list of schemes, including the CBN Cassava 5-Star Programme, Cocoa Development Initiative and Oil Palm Expansion Programme, FG/Ogun/IFAD Assisted Value Chain Development Programme for over 3,000 farmers in 11 local government areas. There is the World Bank COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Project; World Bank-Assisted Agro-Processing, Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement (APPEALS) Project; EU/GIZ/Federal Government/Lagos State/Ogun State Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP) for 3,000 farmers including youths, in tomato and chilli pepper value chains; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)’s technological innovations and support to farming and related activities, including technical backstopping, demonstration farms and enterprise development in Ogun State. Then you have the Ogun State Economic Transformation Programme (OGSTEP) targeted at empowering over 40,000 farmers, coupled with the linkage of farmers with tractors, planting material palliatives. An Ogun-Kebbi Joint Commision on Rice Production has emerged under Abiodun’s visionary leadership. And among others, the government kicked off the establishment of an integrated farm estate, gari packaging plant and a 200-trainee soil-testing programme, and signed a good number of MoUs with national and international development partners such as IITA, HarvestPlus and a host of other private sector partners on private sector-led initiatives, thus boosting investor confidence.
It’s clear that the agric airport will begin operations in November, bringing Ogun to the next level in its business development and economic expansion activities. Over 70 per cent of the runway and administrative offices has been completed. Promise made, promise kept.
Bakare contributes this piece through [email protected]