THAT the country’s economy is currently experiencing a downturn, a situation largely precipitated by a reversal of oil fortunes, is no longer news. No thanks to decades of over-reliance on a monolithic economy and the utter relegation of agriculture, once the country’s cash cow.
Since this reality jolted everybody into retrospection, the federal and state governments have gone back to the drawing board to explore other means of revenue generation aimed at rejigging the floundering economy.
Quite unsurprisingly, agriculture, the stone spurned by the country’s builders has now become the capstone of the building, nay the beautiful bride. At the end of a two-day national economic council retreat held in March, last year, it was agreed that each state should make specific commitments to crops in which it has comparative advantage and request Federal Government’s intervention.
As a firm believer in the ability of the country to scale the pervading economic precipice, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, had since the inception of his jinx-breaking second term taken several remedial steps to regenerate the state’s economy. Such pragmatic steps include the repositioning of the state’s Board of Internal Revenue Service to halt the hemorrhage and loopholes within the system. The move was also intended to expand the state’s tax remittance base by capturing companies currently evading this statutory obligation.
The governor also strengthened the Bureau of Investment Promotion and Public Private Partnership to make business easier for prospective investors coming to the state, apart from mulling over granting of tax holiday to core investors. Other incentives being dangled at investors are easy acquisition of land and procurement of Certificate of Occupancy in record time. The end result of these efforts will begin to manifest in the foreseeable future. And this will add fillip to the governor’s determination to grow the state’s internally generated revenue from the current N1.6bn to about N5bn in the next three years.
In the furtherance of his multi-pronged approach to buoying the earnings of the state, the governor had embarked on foreign trips, not only to woo investors, but to understudy models that have helped other countries to get out of the mire.
For starters, Oyo state is blessed with a vast landmass measuring 27,249 square kilometres and a population of about 10 million people, among which is a working population of 4.3m. The state is also proud to be a reservoir of skilled and unskilled labour ready to feed existing and potential industries. The large concentration of agriculture research institutes in Oyo is also a blessing capable of providing the needed intellectual support for the projects, including the renowned International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA.
Agriculture is the main occupation of the people of Oyo State. The climate in the state favours the sustainable cultivation of crops like maize, yam, cassava, millet, rice, plantains, cocoa, palm produce, cashew, soya beans, leafy vegetables, poultry and aquaculture among others, in commercial quantities. In fact, Oyo is the largest producer of cassava in the country, while the state is located in a strategic business hub that serves as a gateway to the Northern and Southern parts of the country.
It is therefore, not fortuitous that the governor had made the exploitation of the agriculture value chain the fulcrum of his second term economic blueprint. Ajimobi is taking the bull by the horns to liberate the state from economic stagnation triggered by the dwindling revenue allocation from the Federation Account.
Last year’s two-day NEC retreat in Abuja had coincided with the inauguration of a major agriculture initiative by the governor, tagged Agric Oyo, which suggests that the governor had long before the Federal government’s initiative envisioned the agriculture rebirth. The initiative is targeted at creating one million direct jobs across the agriculture value chain.
Before the launching, the governor had met separately with large gatherings of key stakeholders at different fora, including traditional rulers who are believed to be custodians of lands, agric experts and investors to harvest their input, ideas and suggestions.
The launching, which was strategically held at Paago, an agrarian community in Oke Ogun area of the state, attracted investors, outgrowers, beneficiaries, institutional partners, outtakers, traditional rulers, and top officials of the state. At the event, the governor said that the project would reduce overdependence on oil, create wealth, alleviate poverty, encourage productivity, create jobs and bring about the overall socio-economic upliftment of Oyo State. He told the gathering that farming was very profitable and vowed to do everything possible to make it attractive in Oyo State to diversify the state’s economy.
In his avowed commitment to bequeath a lasting legacy in the state and leave it more prosperous than he met it, Ajimobi has not taken his foot off the pedal as he continues to crisscross the globe in search of genuine investors that share his vision for the state.
It is expected that as soon as these efforts begin to crystalise, the state’s economy will be revitalised and the citizens will be better for it. But then, as the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day, indicating that patience and support of the citizens are key factors to the successful implementation of the administration’s grand industrialisation designs for the State.
Mr. Akin Oyedele, is SSA (Media) to Oyo State governor.