By Clifford Ndujihe
Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, spoke to some journalists in Lagos, last week, on what his government is doing to uplift the state in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure development and power among others. He also disclosed how states are short-changed of earnings from mineral exploitation and his plans to make Nasarawa one of the top 10 states in Nigeria.
On how have he is executing the industrialisation projects he embarked on
When I came in I met a lot of ongoing industrialisation projects and we have been able to embark on some. Immediately I came in I met the chairman of Azman Rice Mills and Farms Limited, who congratulated me and said that it would be good for them to come to Nasarawa State to set up a business in support of my administration.
I told him that agriculture would be an ideal business. He said that he is into agriculture and that he would like to go into rice farming.
I told him to come to Nasarawa State and we would give him land. He came, we started discussing to identify the area that would be good for the farming.
We identified an area, did the soil test, water level and the rest. Today, they are ready to mobilise equipment to site. They have paid compensation to the people for the 14,000 hectares of land and the project is about to take off. This is a green one we just signed on.
We met some ongoing projects like Dangote Sugar Refinery occupying about 600,000 hectares of land that have already been cleared and roughly 150,000 hectares of land have already been planted with sugar-cane.
Since we came in, we went to work with the Dangote project. Today, they are employing people massively in the farm. They have mobilised lots of equipment to site and they are getting ready to construct a factory in the farm.
We also met Olams Rice production that has been working. Olam covers about 3,800 hectares of land of rice production and employs about 2,500 people. We are working with them.
They are now working on 10,000 hectares of land that they have cleared and they are in the process of planting and are planning to employ more people.
Also, there is a company in Keffi, which is into agri-produce processing. I commissioned the project and today the company is processing corn and has employed more people.
We are working with Flour Mills of Nigeria. They are already in, and are going to take about 20,000 hectares of land for cassava production. They have gone to the site, acquired equipment, and employed some people. They are getting ready right now to do their final survey so that they can identify area of construction, for planting and so on.
In a nutshell, those are the major projects that we have worked on and we are still attracting some other companies. On the government side, we have worked very hard and we are very lucky to have been selected as one of the few states in the federation that will benefit from the National Livestock Transformation Exercise.
The National Economic Council has already approved it and we are now working for it to release the fund so that we can proceed with the project.
A number of sites have been identified in Awe, Nasarawa Local Government Area and there are additional sites both in Lafia and Karu local government areas that we are looking into.
These are huge sites with one not less than 7,000 hectares of land that is going to address our own security problem in the state.
All the cattle will now be provided with grazing areas which will be provided with water, grass, schools, security posts, clinics and we can now gather the Fulani and herders in those particular areas into one place and there will no longer be open grazing.
By the time you do that, that site will also have abattoirs. It will be a place to buy meat, milk, butter and there will be processing activities there. Those are the kind of things we are going to do in the three sites.
Also, we are working with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and Nigeria Incentive Based Risk and Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL, to empower the youths. We are working on the N1.5 billion loan that is going to come from CBN at a single interest rate. Land had already been identified and it’s going to be purely for the youths. The area will be carved out for each of the youths and they will carry out farming activities that they can sell to off-takers like rice, cassava or sugar-cane and so on.
How is your government tackling the power challenge in the state?
Power is one of the areas this government has worked very well. There is a major 330MVA substation that we met. Now, we are working with the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC).
The project itself is almost 95 per cent completed. Once it is completed it will have six lines. Two of the lines will be dedicated to Lafia while the remaining five will be spread but what we are doing right now is line-in-line-out.
The main project itself has been completed. Once that’s done, there will be regular power supply to the state but some of these projects that I have mentioned do not require additional grid.
Take the sugar project of Dangote for instance, that project once completed is going to generate about 98MW of power and they don’t need the 98MW, what they will do is to use about half of that and the remaining half will be sent to the national grid or another line constructed for the people around the area but the people around the area and what they can’t take has to go to the national grid. For the community around the place, may be 1MW will be all right for them.
Is the state in partnership with the Rural Electrification Agency, REA?
Yes, we have registered with the agency as one of the states that are interested in the power projects. However, we are also doing two kilometres solar power for all the 13 local government areas in the state and we have already completed that.
So in every local government area, you have a two-kilometre power. The project was flagged off in Obi, Nasarawa, Eggon and Awe local government areas of the state.
We are using new technology that does not require battery, just a pole alone and single unit. In the past, what we saw was that once the batteries were stolen the power became redundant.
With the new technology there is no need for battery. Though in some local government areas you cannot get two kilometres, so what we have done is to involve some other communities in the scheme.
What is the state of the airport left by your predecessor?
We are intensifying efforts towards completing the Lafia Cargo Airport project. What we have done is to expand and extend the runaway to meet international standard and accommodate influx of investors, goods and passengers as well as facilitate the landing and take-off of large planes.
The airport when fully completed will be one of the best in Nigeria in terms of equipment and facilities.
Nasarawa is blessed with solid minerals, how has your government been exploiting these for the benefit of the state?
We are already exploiting them but not only for revenue purpose. There are some mining companies in the state that have not paid taxes and tenement rates to the state for many years.
In fact, the biggest solid minerals conference that took place in Cape Town recently, I was the only governor that attended it from Nigeria, just to show the state’s commitment to the sector.
The Minister of Solid Minerals, many miners from Nigeria, and financiers around the world were also there. Secondly, we took the case of solid minerals to NEC. You see, solid minerals belong to the Federal Government but the land belongs to the state.
What the companies have done in order to explore, as a matter of fact, what the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals requires is consent letter.
The companies go and collect the letter from community. They divide the community, give this one N500,000, another N2 million and collect consent letter, take it to the ministry to collect their mining licence, and come to the state and start mining.
The state was not even aware of what was happening. So, we took the matter to the NEC and our chairman, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who understands all these legal issues, said that what was happening was not right.
He then set up a committee of which I am a member, to review how licences will be given. We are on that but one of the things we have achieved is that no licence will be given until the original land owners give consent. The one that had been given in the past is null and void.
By extension, no licence will be given now until the state government is in the picture. Also, we have been going round the mining sites across the state. I have a strong Commissioner for Environment who has been going there and as a result some of the miners are paying their rates to the state.
Some companies once they hear that the commissioner is coming to the office, they would rush to pay.
However, that is not the end of it to me. I am not just looking at revenue alone, I am trying to see the entire business plans, how much corporate social responsibility you are doing for the communities like reclaiming the land, building a school, clinic, awarding scholarships, and boreholes provision for the communities.
This is because you are already contaminating their land. What are you doing to protect the land or the people against diseases in 15, 20 years from now? Those are things I really want to know rather than just taking the tenement rate.
What other areas are you looking at for internal revenue generation?
From Masaka to Karu, somebody is generating money from all the businesses in the area and putting it in his pocket. In most of the markets, you can generate between N15 million and 20 million per day but some people are just raking that and putting it into their pockets.
So, the first thing we did on assumption was to ensure that we consolidate all our revenue sources. We appointed a commissioner whose main focus is on revenue. We set up a committee, chaired by the commissioner and the main aim is to generate revenue for the state. We went around and identified major companies that are not paying tenement rate, we found out why they are not paying, some of them don’t have C of O, we went ahead to process that for them.
So, today we have moved five steps above in our revenue generation. Our revenue generation has gone almost twice of what we were generating before now.
That’s not my target. My target is to see the state among first 10 in the country. Then I will be comfortable and know we are generating revenue.
We used to be number 33, 34 or so in the ranking but now we are 27, 28. As I said, in two, three years, our target is to be among the top 10 states and the moment we begin to generate N3 billion to N4 billion, we will be among the top 10. That is actually the direction we are going.
Besides the collection we are doing, we are blocking all the leakages. We are now constructing other structures that can aid revenue generation.
If you go from Masaka to the border, you will notice that we have 26 motor parks, remember we are generating revenue from those parks but we don’t know where it goes, so we now have a park, about seven hectares, that have been cleared which we are constructing.
By December it will be ready, a terminal that will accommodate 900 vehicles. So, all those motor parks will be relocated to the new site.
That way, government will be in position to collect the revenue. We are going to engage the service of a real businessman who will run the park for the government on contract basis that will be able to generate at least N70 million per month.