Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
A renowned political economist, Professor Pat Utomi, has described the recession presently facing Nigeria as a golden opportunity and not a problem, saying it is an opportunity to finally get the Nigerian economy right.
Utomi who spoke during the ground breaking ceremony of Integrated Produce City (IPC), a private initiative championed by him and other investors at Ugbokun community in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State, added that without appearing to scandalise anybody, he actually prays for oil prices to stay down for a long time for Nigerians to come to their senses to know that the country is really rich.
His words: “Let me shock you by saying that the recession we face in Nigeria is a golden opportunity. It is not a problem; it is an opportunity to finally get the Nigerian economy right.
“So without appearing to scandalise anybody, I actually pray for oil prices to stay down and stay down for a long time. Then, we will come to our senses and we will know that Nigeria really is a rich country.
“Right now, we are not behaving as we should be behaving. Competitively-driven industrial policy in select value chains will be helpful in confronting the misery index and bringing hope to millions.”
He said Integrated Produce is unique first, because it aims to confront the biggest monster facing agriculture in Nigeria, which is yield losses – the poor returns that farmers get, as middle men scoop everything up, the profits that slip away in these kinds of disarticulated markets and the poor infrastructure challenge that face people in agriculture.
According to him, “With a well organised trading platform, accessing commodity exchanges, efficiencies increase at a pace that increases global competitiveness on the produce in which our factor endowment are strong.”
On his part, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State who performed the ground breaking ceremony, described the Integrated Produce City (IPC) as a sheer commitment by the investors to combat poverty, noting that it is the first produce city in the heart of Benin kingdom.
“Today we are having the first produce city right in the heart of Benin Kingdom few minutes’ drive from Benin City. I want to appreciate you, your wife, your boss because we know that the neck controls the head.
“This is an event that will kick-start what will add meaning and value to thousands of people both within and outside here. What you have done by this initiative is to demonstrate that there are Nigerians who have those qualities that we celebrate elsewhere. All those who teach can also practicalise what they teach and practically in the country you are one of those teachers.
“This gathering couldn’t have been better not just what we have been telling people in the past three months that our candidate said he would create 200,000 jobs many believe that it is not possible and that brings you to two divides of Nigerians that we have those who believe that our future lies in that lazy tradition of extracting the liquid gold and exporting it with little or no value to it, bring dollar home, quarrel over sharing it, do some symbolic public toilets and buildings, and then privatise the rest and import more,” he said.
Oshiomhole who thanked all the foreign partners to IPC for showing confidence that they can come and invest in the state, also enjoined the host community to regard the project cited in their community as their own and defend it as their own as they stand to benefit more.
In his welcome address, the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Joe Plague, saluted the courage of IPC, saying the project was timely because it is in line with the agricultural policy of the state, more so with the concept of combining farming with industry.
He therefore promised that the state government would do everything possible to ensure the purpose of the project is achieved.
Also in his speech, the representative of Ugbokun community said his people would ever remain grateful for the project because it is going to open the forest that has become a hideout for hoodlums who use it to attack unsuspecting travellers.
He therefore requested that government should establish a police station in the community to help safeguard the investment, while calling on the management of IPC to take care of the interest of the host community.