Abimbola Akosile and Blessing Abah
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) recently signed with Kebbi State on agricultural commodity value chain was in line with the Federal Government agenda to diversify the economy.
Governor Ambode, who spoke at the Government House in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State during his recent official visit to the State as part of further steps to cement the agricultural partnership, also said the pact would go a long way in ensuring food security and job opportunities for the people.
The governor, in a release issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Habib Aruna, said he was totally committed to the success of the relationship as it would not only boost the economy of the two states but would increase Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said the two states, with the agreement, which is the first state-to-state relations in the country, have shown leadership, and expressed optimism that other states would soon take a cue from the relationship.
Ambode, who was given a heroic reception from Birnin Kebbi International Airport down to the Government House, said the partnership was in continuation of the relationship which had always existed between the two states in term of politics, population and strength.
He said: “This relationship is visionary and it is also a pointer to the fact that the two states have decided to openly support the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The change mantra which President Buhari has been preaching is what this whole relationship is all about that we must look inward. We must start to reintegrate our economy in such a manner that we must not continue to import what we can produce and we must create a value chain where we have comparative advantage to do so.
“Kebbi is one of the major producers of most agricultural products in Nigeria, whereas Lagos State is the major consumer of most of these products and we have the market and the population to take on everything that is being produced and that is why the value chain which we have tried to embellish is very important to the two states. And so we are committed to doing this for Mr. President.
“This visitation is a continuation of where we started from. We want to take the next steps and we know that the next steps are steps in the right direction,” the Governor said.
He added that beyond collaboration on rice production, Lagos State Government has also decided to create value chain on every other agricultural product from Kebbi State first to the people, which would in turn create jobs for the people and make the economy of Nigeria to become more vibrant thereby increasing the nation’s GDP.
On his part, Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu described the MoU as an innovative partnership that would lead the way positively for Nigeria.
He said years of policy distortion had demoralised local producers of rice and other agricultural products from competing with their foreign counterparts, which had in turn affected the economy of Nigeria negatively, but expressed optimism that the partnership between Lagos and Kebbi States would right the wrongs of the past.
He said: “I am glad that we are on track to address such issues and empower our producers to compete globally. Apart from the fact that the collaboration will bring about significant economic growth and create opportunities, it will also bring our people much closer.
“We are particularly happy that the partnership enjoys massive public support. The President, at different occasions, has publicly commended what we are doing and that is enough motivation for us to push forward with the agreement”, Governor Bagudu said.
The MoU principally centres on boosting the production of rice, wheat, groundnut, maize, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, cows, among others.
There is also arrangement with a Mexican firm, San Carlos Group to expand the Rice Mill at Imota in Lagos from production capacity of 2.5 metric tonnes per hour to 22.5 metric tonnes per hour with the active participation of the private sector.
Governor Ambode, as part of the official visit, also paid courtesy visits to the Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Mohammed Iliya Bashar and the Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Meira. He also inspected the Labana Rice Mill in Kebbi which has the production capacity of 16 metric tonnes per hour and the FADAMA Project Site I Argungu.