Kashim Shettima is putting Borno State on the path of industrialisation, writes Kingsley N. Stanley 

About six years ago, then Central Bank Governor and now Emir of Kano, His Royal Majesty, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had stated that the security challenges of the nation cannot be tackled in the most perfect way without tackling the economic problems which has left many poor. The emir who spoke at the flag off of the Financial Inclusion Strategy Pilot Implementation which held in Maiduguri, said the present security challenges faced by the country could be traced back to the nation’s checkered economic crisis.

He said any attempt to solve one without the other will be a wasted effort as it was the responsibility of all to bring available resources to the table in order to tackle the problem of insecurity in the entire country.

 To state that insurgency has been a huge threat to the economy of northeastern Nigeria, especially Borno State, is to state the obvious. For well over 10 years, insecurity and the quest for reestablishing peace in Borno State have topped discussions.

Indeed, but for the resilience of Governor Kashim Shettima and the highly spirited people of Borno State, perseverance would long have given way to defeat and fear. This is so as a visit to Borno State depicts how courageous leaders pull through in time of despair and eventually succeed in inspiring hope and triumph amongst their subjects.

Aligning with the advice of Sanusi, Kashim Shettima has been investing massively in infrastructure in Borno State and today can boast of some of the best schools, hospitals and road networks. The huge water, affordable housing, agricultural and manpower investments that the Borno State government has splashed across the state lay credence to the fact that insurgency might have threatened the state’s quest for massive development, but it will continue to play second fiddle to the vision, foresight and dreams of the Shettima administration.

Perhaps nothing best explains his commitment towards eradicating poverty and powering the Borno economy than the multimillion dollar investment in the Borno Industrial Park located at Njimtilo, just few kilometres on entry to Maiduguri from the Damaturu end.

The industrial haven, suffice to say, is the first of its kind in northern Nigeria and perhaps the model most states of the federation  need to adopt if truly the much-touted diversification and non-reliance on oil revenue is to be achieved.

Call it a holistic industrial revolution dream; it is the epicentre of Borno’s push for economic self-reliance and projection. With no less than 10 factories situated in the industrial park, the expansive land radiates an economic transformation that Borno State would come to be known for in no distant time.

Amongst several industries located in the park are a solar panel production and plastic plant, a tomatoes processing plant, onions dehydration plant, water line plant and a corn chips plant. Other plants include an audacious garri processing plant, a pilot juice plant and an experimental laboratory farm house. It is indeed a complete industrial park with adequate security and power supply all provided for by the Kashim Shettima administration with a public- private partnership in mind. The value chain of this bold scheme cannot be quantified in terms of output, employment and revenue.

For instance, the solar panel plant which is almost set for production is about the biggest in the country with the capacity of producing 40megawatts of energy annually on just a shift and if operated on triple shifts basis daily will produce 120megawatts, by far the largest in the country. This is even as no less than 100 persons are expected to be employed in the plant alone.

Of interest too is the tomatoes processing plant which also produces mango, carrot, gwags, water melon juices all year round as it adapts to the all-year varying periods of maturity for the different plants. About 200 workers will be employed on the 3,000msq facility with a targeted 150 tonnes yearly output.

While the onions dehydration plant is the first of its kind in the country as it also dehydrates crops like ginger for marketing needs, the water line plant aside bottled water, also produces ketchup and others.

The drive by the Shettima administration is to further establish a cassava processing plant to ensure that the hitherto neglected crop in the state is harnessed to its full potentiality. Given the cheapness of cassava in the state, there can be no clear way of encouraging farmers than this deliberate strive by the Borno State governor.

To add the importance of the juice plant, the industrial site also has its own pilot juice plant, so created as laboratory for tasting the viability of the juices being produced there. A farm centre necessitates this, giving its capacity to produce over three million seedlings of different crops per season with the advantage of an automated weather control facility inbuilt at the facility.

Given the words of Emir Sanusi who stated that “viable economy comes first before security, we do not believe all the problem of Borno is economic but we believe strongly that if we tackle this problem we would have gone a long way to tackle the socio-political problem of the state, especially the issue of insecurity in the state,” it is pertinent to laud the Borno governor’s courage to embark on such project.

That a state that has been threatened by insurgency has taken this lead and emphatically made a huge mark in this regard is not only surprising, but further says a lot about how a leader’s commitment, foresight and vision can make the needed difference. This initiative must thus be commended.

It is now rife for the private sector to move in and take advantage of huge economic and revenue potential the Industrial Park seeks to provide. And with the gradual returning of peace in the northeast region, it is time for a collective change in narrative.

As stated by the governor, “it is time we took our destiny into our own hands and begin to harness our resources and manpower. The value chain of our products must be maximised as we begin to look away from oil revenue and deliberately shift from raw materials providing state to indeed a production state for the overall benefit of our state, its people and country at large “.

This commendable step by Shettima must be seen for its pure merit and tapped from by the other leaders in the north and indeed across the country. As noble as it is, the bid to diversify and move the nation from a consuming to a producing society must just be practical.

 Kingsley wrote from Maiduguri