By Norbert Chiazor
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa came to power on May 29th,2015 with a development template codified as SMART Agenda.
A five-point policy thrust that connotes Strategic Wealth creation projects and provision of jobs for all Deltans, Meaningful peace building platforms aimed at political and social harmony, Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialization, Relevant Health and Education policies and a Transformed environment through urban renewal.
The goal of this profound agenda is to enthrone a STRONGER DELTA with a people-centred vision of prosperity for all Deltans.
One of the most ambitious of these broad-based objectives is an Agro-industrial park project, designed as the hub of economic development and accelerated industrialization in Delta state.
The Agro-industrial park is hence the key instrument for the fruition of the development objectives of Okowa’s Smart Agenda.
Located at Aboh-Ogwashi, a scenic suburban settlement, in Aniocha South local government area, about 20 minutes drive from Asaba, Delta state capital, it is a perfect setting for agricultural revolution with her sprawling landscape, rooted in the richest of tropical African rainforest belt.
Embedded at the confluence of two all-season rivers – River Ubu and Iyi-Ada, both flowing as a tributary into River Niger, the agro-industrial park cover a total land area of 220 hectares.
The ultimate aim is to fast track and transform the agricultural value chain towards achieving economic diversification, food sufficiency, job and wealth creation and sustainable growth for the well being of the present and future generations of Deltans.
The Aboh Ogwashi agro-industrial park is beyond rhetorics. It is not a white elephant project by any imagination. The facility is viable and profitable with impressive equity – Delta State Government 40%, MGA Agricultural Resources Ltd. 30% and Norsworthy Investments Ltd. 30%.
At the height of operation, it will take about 30 agro-processing factories and agribusiness enterprises, with unprecedented socio-economic impact, creating over 4000 direct and indirect jobs, within the park. This is in addition to tens of thousands of jobs, envisaged to be generated throughout the state, as a result of the activities of the Agro-Industrial park.
Governor Okowa, sure-footed in foresight has empowered an 11 member implementation committee to develop the Agro-industrial park, with the state’s chief Job and Wealth Creation officer, Professor Eric Eboh as chairman.
Professor Eboh is an Agricultural Economist and Development Policy Expert with a robust national and international portfolio. He is joined by a team of cabinet members from the ministries of Agriculture and natural resources, Finance, Housing, Lands and survey. Other members of the implementation team are drawn from the ministries of Justice, Trade and Investment as well as the Chief Economic Adviser, Director-General, Delta State Investment and development Agency, Managing Director, Contemporary Design Associates
and Assistant Director, Delta State Job and Wealth creation bureau who serves as Secretary.
The committee a carefully selected think -tank will operate the agro-industrial park through public-private partnership (PPP), promoting investor confidence and business competitiveness. This will enable the park as a safe operating space to leverage the twin impact of agricultural development and industrial infrastructure, in line with global best practices.
In the words of Professor Eboh, the park is “conceived as a multipurpose and multiproduct epicentre of agro-processing, agro-industrial and agribusiness activities in the state” designed to serve as “infrastructure, logistics and services haven”.
Against this backdrop, the Delta State Government has been implementing measures to establish the Agro-Industrial Park since 2015.
There was a study visit to Israel for the assessment of comparative agro-industrial models and first-hand evaluation of activities of prospective technical partners.
After satisfactory checks, the State Executive Council gave approval for the establishment of the multi-purpose Park on 14th November 2017, culminating in the ratification by the Delta House of Assembly.
In the following years, national and international negotiations with investors on the PPP as well sourcing and mobilization of funds were painstakingly undertaken.
This eventually paved the way for Commencement of Construction Works by the Contractor, Sequoia Solutions and Innovations Ltd beginning from 26th October 2020. It is projected to be completed in May 2022.
By design, the park will be endowed with clustered infrastructure, facilities pertaining to power, water (irrigation, industrial and domestic), security, research and training, quality assurance, sewage systems and waste management. Others are marketing and commerce, packaging, product warehousing, handling and storage, equipment maintenance, administration, conferences/meetings, residential and hospitality outlets.
The agro-industrial operators at the park include Rice mills manufacturers, Cassava chips, flour, starch and garri producers.Banana/plantain flour makers, palm oil-based products and wood makers. Other activities are Milk processing, Slaughterhouses for beef, broilers, pork and related livestock products, Dried and pickled fruits and vegetables. Part of the Park has also been mapped out for Irrigated high technology farming.
It is open to interested investors. The availability of adequate, reliable and sustained infrastructure and services removes the most critical constraint to the start-up, profitability, viability and competitiveness of agroindustries in the state.
Therefore, the agro-industrial park provides an investor-friendly business environment suitable for the development of the agricultural value chain.
Businesses in the park will benefit from dedicated common infrastructure including an internal network of roads, power, water, storage, packaging utilities, waste treatment, transportation, communication, export-import services, training and management, research and security services.
The multi-faceted amenities and services will guarantee smooth and uninterrupted operations, ease of logistics as well as protection from occupational risks and uncertainties. Moreover, co-locating agroindustries will enjoy inter-firm cooperation and collaboration, mutual learning and multilateral sharing of experiences.
The diverse gains of the Agro-industrial park are unassailable. They can not be overstated. Delta and indeed Nigeria would gain bountifully as it is a plausible elixir for poverty reduction and catalyst for economic development and wealth creation among the people.
Governor Okowa deserves commendation for the enduring vision of Delta Agro-industrial park.
A legacy project that would boost popular prestige and place Delta on the threshold of the agricultural revolution, rapid industrialization and sustainable development.
CHIAZOR is a Media Aide to Governor Okowa.