NIGERIA - The Lagos and Kebbi State Governments wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which they said would culminate in the production of 70 per cent of Nigeria’s rice requirements annually.
The two states governments also explained the genesis of the agreement, ascribing it to the policy thrust of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to diversify the country’s economy and feed its citizens.
The agreement was ratified at the State House, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos wednesday by the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, and his Kebbi State counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, along with representatives of the two governments.
The ratification of the MoU was witnessed by members of the State Executive Council from the two states, representatives of the two Houses of Assembly, leaders of All Progressives Congress (APC), traditional rulers, community leaders among others
The agreement, which principally centres on boosting the production of wheat, ground nut, maize, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, cows among others, was the first state-to-state relations in the country.
Before signing the agreement, Bagudu unequivocally disclosed that the goal of Lagos-Kebbi partnership on food production was “to produce 60 to 70 per cent of Nigeria’s rice needs, and replicate same in other food items.”
He therefore explained that in the world of genetically modified food, the partnership between Lagos and Kebbi States was an additional motivation to provide certainties for the people in terms of food production and sufficiency.
Bagudu noted that both states “have had a long history of trade, and that the signing of the MoU was another way of cementing the relationship with the view to making the people get richer. Lagos is the most entrepreneurial part of Nigeria.
“Lagos, if it were a country itself, is a country that other states will be going to establish a relationship with, and so why not state to state. So, what we are doing is to pioneer a collaboration that will bring other states on board later as we believe that our potentials are enormous, and we must have pacesetters to start that process of joint collaboration for our collective good.”
Giving an insight into the signing of the agreement, Ambode acknowledged that the ceremony was to formalise an agreement between Lagos and Kebbi States “to enter into a partnership for food processing, production and distribution.”
He further explained that both states “are embarking on a joint venture to feed our people, establish commercial enterprises, create employment and wealth distribution for the benefit of both states and the country in general.
“The future of Lagos State is partly tied to deliberate resolution on food security. Likewise, food production and self-sufficiency require our immediate attention at policy and strategic levels to sustain ourselves.”
Also, Ambode pointed out that Lagos State “is the largest consumer of food commodities in the country by virtue of its large population. The state has the market, with the required purchasing power.
The state has an estimated consumption of over 798,000 metric tons of milled rice per year which is equivalent to 15.96 million of 50 kilogramme bags with a value of N135 billion per annum.
“We have the economic prowess to produce rice locally. The era of imported rice is gone. The reality is for all of us to embrace the consumption of local food and commodities. In addition to rice, the state is presently consuming 6,000 herds of cattle daily which may increase to 8,000 in the next five years.
“The bulk of vegetables produced in the country end up in the Lagos markets. The state is one of the largest producers of poultry and thus has a large demand for maize for livestock feed production.
The state also houses most of the industrial users of wheat and sorghum-mostly flour mills, bakeries, breweries and food manufacturers.”
For Kebbi State, Ambode said it “is blessed with a vast arable land suitable for the cultivation of rice, wheat, ground nut, maize, sorghum and sugar cane. It is an agrarian state with over 1.2 million hectares of arable land characterised by very large floodplains, lowland swamps and gentle slopes.
“In the 2014 /2015 wet season, over 600,000 hectares of land was deployed for rice cultivation in the three senatorial areas of the state. The collaboration is in line with the clarion call and policy direction given by President Buhari on the need to feed ourselves.”