By Ali Abare
Ideas rule the world. Forget that one is borrowing the cliche from one’s uncle, His Excellency, Mr. Ayuba Umar, a former governorship aspirant and presently senatorial candidate of an opposition political party. Ayuba Umar was also formerly the MD/CEO of Dadin Kowa Ventures in Jos, whose motto was “Ideas Rule Society.”
Uncle Umar and I came a long way, not minding the fact that, we have become sparring partners because of our divergent political views. I hold him in high esteem and respect, being not only an uncle but also my father-in-law.
I brought him into this discuss because, having known how, on his return from the United States, he started his company and flourished because of his staunch believe in ideas. If anything defines the challenge of developing Nasarawa State, it is that in world history, ideas have made the difference between poverty and prosperity; peace and progress; and triumph versus tribulation.
The Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, is a manifestation of leaders who believe in the power of ideas. Having risen through the ranks and to reach the apex in the organised private sector, Engineer Sule remains an apostle, a repository of ideas, which explains why his administration remains a rare gift to the people of the state.
Engineer Sule came onboard with a vision, to work assiduously towards the actualization of the true potentials of Nasarawa State. It’s a known fact that, Nasarawa State is predominantly agrarian, with arable land dominated by hard working people who take pride in farming activities.
The state has a landmass of 28, 735 square kilometers and a total production capacity of 5.13m metric tons, with major crops including sorghum, cowpea, beniseed and sesame seed. The agricultural potententials of Nasarawa State has attracted investments from leading commercial agricultural firms in the country such as Azman Farms and Flour Mills Nigeria Limited and Dangote Group, with approximately 20, 000, 16, 000 and 20, 000 hectares farm size respectively.
The Engineer Sule administration is committed to building these critical investments to establish the state as an agro-industrial hub, with the location of the proposed Special Agro-industrial Processing Zone (SAPZ), in Gudi Industrial Layout of Akwanga Local Government Area.
Recall that, as part of ongoing reforms in the agricultural sector, the Federal Government has requested the support of the African Development Bank, in promoting its agro-industrial development agenda. The bank, as part of the implementation of its Feed Africa Programme, will be providing financial and technical support to selected states, in phases, through the Federal Government for the development of the SAPZ.
The SAPZ will concentrate on agro-processing activities within areas of high agricultural potential, to boost productivity and integrating production, processing and marketing of priority commodities.
These zones will enable agricultural producers, processors, aggregates and distributors to operate in proximity to one another to cut down transaction costs and share business development services to boost productivity and competitiveness. SAPZ will attract investments from private agro-industrialists/entrepreneurs and help to the economic and social development of rural areas by providing suitable infrastructure (electricity, water, roads, ICT, etc.) to rural areas with strong agricultural potential.
To attain to this objective, the Nasarawa State Government, through the Nasarawa State Investment Development Agency (NASIDA), signed a service contract agreement, with African PPP Advisory Services, for a feasibility study on the SAPZ, based on recommendation of the African Development Bank, being a criteria for the bank to select the state and to support Nasarawa State in developing the project.
The SAPZ, now being developed as phase one of a proposed Gudi Industrial hub, is an integrated development initiative, designed to concentrate agro-processing activities within areas of high agricultural potententials, to boost productivity as well as integrate the production, processing and marketing of selected commodities.
The development of the special agro-industrial processing zone, is a crucial driver for achieving the administration’s industrialization goals, as captured in the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy (NEDS), which has significant potential to increase the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state, create jobs while also expanding the frontiers of the state production possibilities.
Edward Locke and Gary Latham, leaders in goal-setting theory, opine that goals not only affect behavior as well as job performance, but they also help mobilize energy which leads to a higher effort overall. Higher effort leads to an increase in persistent effort. The Engineer Sule administration is notorious for goal setting and working hard to achieve these goals.
For this reason, the administration is leaving no stone unturned in its avowed determination to actualize the vision behind establishing the SAPZ.
This ambitious project estimated to cost N34. 98bn, is expected to be funded through a funding mix of 70 percent debt and 30 percent equity, with a pay back period of 16 years, net present value of roughly N9bn and an internal rate of return of 17.5 percent.
To facilitate the project, the Engineer Sule administration hired a world class consultant to carry out a feasibility study based on four deliverables, each developed by a specific activity. These deliverables include inception report, which comprises of project initiation and buy-in into project objectives and approach; progress report, made up of value chain and socio-economic analysis and assessing the value chain of proposed products and socio-economic characteristics.
Others are draft report that include technical appraisal, scope definition and cost estimating, master plan design, social & environmental safeguard analysis; and final report and draft, which include private sector investment analysis, strategies for private sector participation, SAPZ development and operational plan, as well as business case and financial model.
The scope of the assignment to be undertaken by the consultant include, selection of target crops namely cowpea, maize, rice, sesame and groundnut, assessment of the proposed location, private sector investment analysis and transaction structuring, value chain and socio-economic analysis of the selected crops.
The selected crops were arrived at through the efforts of the Nasarawa State Agriculture Development Programme (NADP), which first identified 30 crops produced in the state but selected 11 crops as priority crops for the SAPZ.
However, the value chain assessment of these crops, identified rice, maize, groundnut, millet, cowpea and sesame for each of the Agriculture Transformation Centres (ATC), with two crops with competitive advantage identified for each of the ATCs to be established in Karu, Kokona, Obi, Lafia, Doma and Nasarawa.
Nasarawa State is ideal for establishing the SAPZ because of its strategic location, being in the North Central, with proximity to the Federal Capital Territory, as well as a critical transit hub between the northern and southern parts of the country.
Each ATC will provide aggregation, sorting, drying, cleaning, packaging and primary storage facilities for agricultural products, agricultural input distribution platform where seeds, fertilizer, herbicides, etc are made readily available to farmers, amongst others.
As already mentioned, the ATC are typically 15-hectares facilities centrally located within major farming clusters to provide services to farmers such as aggregation, sorting, packaging, storage.
These facilities also provide technology, inputs, finance, production and post-harvest support and offtake market through the arrangement of efficient, quality feed stock supply forward linkage to agro-production zone.
The Engineer Sule administration proposed the transaction structure for the SAPZ project to comprise of government and the private sector. While the government enables the project, the private sector drives the project for accelerated implementation.
While the private sector will provide equity, both technical and innovation, the state government provides funding through state treasury and Federal Government sector incentives, engage through the NASIDA, other private investors for funds and partnerships.
The state government will also act as regulator of the SAPZ’s activities and creating enabling environment. Tenants will equally invest in the state by locating their processing plants in the processing zone.
Only recently, the Nasarawa State government engaged stakeholders over the proposed Gudi Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone (SAPZ), as part of activities lined up to actualize the proposed Gudi Industrial Hub Phase 1.
Managing Director of Nasarawa State Investment Development Agency, Ibrahim Abdullahi said the interaction was to ensure all stakeholders relevant to the project are carried along.
The MD said the SAPZ, a project backed by the African Development Bank, aims at encouraging states in Nigeria to develop specific zones that promote agro-processing.
Generally, the SAPZ project will create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths, develop agro-industries, promote export, as well as promote rural development.
The establishment of the SAPZ in Gudi will definitely have ripple effect on the socio-economic development of Nasarawa and it’s for these reasons and more, that the Engineer Sule administration deserves another term in office, in order to be able to actualize this laudable initiative.
Abare is the Special Assistant on Media to the Governor of Nasarawa State.