Friday Sermon: Harvest of Shame 2

By Babatunde Jose

Thanks to corruption, poor management, sponsored sabotage and fake news / barriers created by competitors/importers afraid of competition, professional litigants, many Nigeria’s industrial initiatives have either collapsed or were abandoned. – Frederick Owonka

There is no doubt, things could move in the right direction with dedicated leadership that provides enabling environment for entrepreneurship to strive: A  leadership with clear vision and national mission capable of acting as the vanguard of the people’s yearning for self sustained development and offering hope for a  farewell to poverty and want. Unfortunately, that has not been the case with us. Nigerians are fond of saying that God is a Nigerian because He made our land so beautiful and endowed this nation with unimaginable provisions to the envy of other nations; to even the score however, God populated the land with a race of evil men, corruption, ethnic jingoists, religious fanatics, and worst of all a visionless leadership incapable of harnessing all the good things God hath given us. Today, unbelievable and unthinkable things happen in this clime; for the past 25 years, a major exporter of oil, continues to  import refined petroleum and diesel; a country with one of the largest gas reserves in the world, importing domestic cooking gas and gas cylinders. In the process, aggravating and exacerbating our ‘harvest of shame’.

In 2018, Nigeria made $41.8 Million from rubber export; however, European companies process this rubber and make twice that amount. Last year a Nigerian farm invested a huge amount of funds into rubber processing and it is hoped that many others would do the same to wipe away our shame. Rubber processing firms abound in Delta State and in the past their owners reaped bountiful harvests with which their children and wards were educated in UK and America. Where are these firms today? What became of the rubber plantation the Western Region government set up in Remo between Ikenne and Ayepe sixty years ago?  The fact remains that the total land space available for rubber plantation that attracted Firestone to Liberia is small compared to what we have here; if only we have the will.

The same could be said of the land space for the cultivation of cocoa and other products. Nigeria was once a major producer of cotton; a fact which dictated the proliferation of textiles mills in the country which today have become moribund. There was a time Afprint in Isolo was reputed to be the biggest textile factory in West Africa; today its frontage is a glorified car showroom. Western Textiles on Gbagada Expressway used to be a major player in the textile industry, but today it is home of car importers. Our investors are preoccupied with chasing the dollar! I should know because I used to print some of their ‘annual reports’.

Nigeria  is  home to the largest natural gas reserves in Africa and the ninth largest in the world; according to the National Bureau of Statistics 47 per cent (146.14 million liters’) of the LPG supply in the country in the first quarter of this year was imported while 53 per cent (164.71 million liters’) was produced locally.

But there is hope; Matrix Energy has invested in Nigeria’s cooking gas plant and has begun operations to cut down imports.

It is shameful that with just N7Billion a Modular refinery can be built that would produce 271 million Liters annually, thereby cutting our fuel imports. One Abdulrazak Isa did just that and is today moving towards completion of his refinery capable of meeting the needs of Imo and Anambra States.

Triton Fish/Chicken farm in Oyo State is a project financed by Heritage Bank backed by the CBN, since the ban on importation of frozen chicken; this company has been exporting to Poland, Romania, Egypt, Liberia and Ivory Coast. We need more of these ventures to turn our economy around.

Nigeria possesses the second largest Bitumen deposit in the world, yet we spend billions annually importing bitumen/asphalt for road construction. South Korea with less Bitumen deposit than Ondo State makes $3Billion from it annually: Another harvest of Shame.

It is on record that the Federal Government rolled out loans in Kebbi State that empowered 78,000 poor rice farmers in late 2015; today about half of them are said to have become prosperous as an hectare of land gives 90 bags of rice, most of which they sell to Lagos State as Lake Rice. Why, we ask can this not be replicated in Sokoto, Gombe and other states in the north or in Ogun, Osun and Ekiti States? Rather, our people are still fixated on smuggling rice though our wayward neighbor. When will this stop?

Another example of our harvest of shame is the N9.2B we sunk into the importation of 750,000 gas cylinders from a company in South Africa in 2014. Yet, with just a fraction of that money, Nigeria Gas Cylinders located in Ibadan could have been revived to go back into production.

Recently Mahindra Limited in Kaduna set up a Tractor Assembly Plant to produce tractors; with an outlay of $200M. However, what happened to the tractor plant in Bauchi? In 2005 BPE sold Steyr under the privatization craze of the time to Kaura Motors for $700Million. Whatever became of this factory that was set up by the Federal Government is today open to conjecture. Another Harvest of Shame!

Ayo Akindiji, an Engineer was the last farm manager of Oodua farms cattle ranch (formerly western livestock’s) at Akunu Akoko and Auga. The land is still there: Facilities abandoned. The existence of the ranches was confirmed by the Ondo State Governor during the week. According to him, the farms can accommodate 5000 cattle.  Also in Oyo state, we have over 16,000 hectares of land for cattle ranch solely owned by Oodua Investment. Part of it was seeded for Ikere gorge (2000 hectares). These farms ARE TODAY MORIBUND. If only Oodua Investments can resuscitate them it would go a long way in wiping away our shame. The Southwest governments, owners of Oodua Investments can give them to genuine investors for resuscitation. These farms are also found in Imeko Ogun State, Oke-Ako via Ayedun Ekiti.

A report published by Food Business Africa on Jan. 9 bemoaned the amount spent by Nigeria on imports of grains in 2018. “The country spent $1.1 billion to import 5.5 million tonnes of wheat in the period as production remained static at 60,000 tonnes, which constituted 99% of wheat consumed.” “Rice imports amounted to 3 million tonnes, equivalent to 44% of rice consumed in the country valued at $1.2 billion, while domestic production rose to 4.78 million tonnes in 2018.” This shows that we are winning the ‘rice war’.

Allah said in the Quran: O mankind! Do your duty to your Lord, and fear (the coming of) a Day when no father can avail aught for his son, nor a son avail aught for his father. Verily,

the promise of Allah is true: Let not then this present life deceive you, nor let the Chief Deceiver deceive you about Allah. (Quran 31:33)

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend


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