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    A Catalyst for A’Ibom Agricultural Revolution

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    Just four months into his four-year tenure, Governor Umo Eno has demonstrated willingness to walk the talk on his promise to transform the agricultural landscape in Akwa Ibom State. The objective is to raise agriculture from the subsistence level it has been for decades to a huge industry that would position the state to be able to feed its people and become a net exporter of food. The governor said this much about his readiness to work at the recent celebration of the 36th anniversary of the creation of the state. “A little over 100 days since I was sworn in as your Governor, I can say that we have hit the ground running and God has been an ever-present guide as we work to translate our vision into practical, measurable and impactful forms,” Eno said in a statewide broadcast to mark the anniversary.

    It is not by coincidence that agriculture forms the first leg of his A.R.I.S.E agenda – agricultural revolution, rural development, infrastructure maintenance/advancement, security management and educational advancement.

    A man who has spent his entire adult life investing for results, Eno has identified agriculture as one of the key areas for early investment by his administration to allow for bountiful harvests at the expected time. In August, less than three months after he assumed office, the decades-long hospitality operator invited Songhai Farms Investment Nigeria, an internationally renowned agricultural firm to come and help lift the agriculture leg of his development agenda out of the paper on which it is designed to turn it into reality.

    The government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Benin Republic-based firm to begin the process of food production that would be technologically driven, with the establishment of model farms in the state. The initiative, which is designed to be a long term partnership, would not only boost food production, but would also generate employment, enhance youth development and promote tourism in the state.

    The governor’s statement at the MoU signing ceremony clearly underscores a well-thought-out agricultural project that is on the way to becoming a reality based on strong conviction of success. “I am an entrepreneur,” Eno had said at the epochal event. “I don’t go into businesses that I don’t understand the bottom line. What we want is what you have captured here. Be our development partner. Develop our youths, train them and use them. The things they can do, let them do it.”

    A good programme with potential for success comes with timelines for measuring progress. “Transfer the technology and let’s see it in the next one year and then we can upscale,” Eno told the Songhai partners. He thanked them for agreeing to partner the state government on the programme and expressed optimism about its success because of his government’s commitment to achieving food security and improving the standard of living of the people of the state.

    Eno has shown with the partnership agreement with Songhai on a project that is going to be the first of its kind in Nigeria that it is time to give life to election promises. His utterances and actions since assuming office indicate he is conscious of the fact that the stopwatch for his four-year tenure started running on May 29, 2023. And the people are counting.

    “We have a four-year tenure,” he said. “So by the third year, I should begin to wind down this administration by the grace of God. I should have a clear path that as an investor, I am beginning to get back the money. I want to be able to savour the benefits of this project in the life of this administration.” And since one of the objectives of the project is youth empowerment, he added, “At that time, I must have prepared a group of young people that are also prepared to sustain this so we can upscale easily. These are the things I am looking at as the benefits of this model that we want to create.”

    The agricultural revolution the governor has ignited in Akwa Ibom is aimed at creating an environment that would enable farmers to embrace agriculture as a business that could be more profitable than any other, such that would attract people who would otherwise not have been keen on going into the sector. This would involve creating a value chain that would remove a good percentage of unemployed youths, men and women, from the labour market, including the underemployed and make them business owners. It is a value chain that includes farmers, transporters, traders, suppliers in the hospitality industry, exporters, etc.

    “Farmers will be made stakeholders in the economic renaissance project,” Eno promises, in the A.R.I.S.E. agenda. “It is worth emphasizing that there is a lot of money to be made in agriculture. Ours must go beyond the rudimentary stage of just making garri, starch, flour and others. Farmers need to be assisted.”

    The assistance is going to come in various ways. One of them is increased access to agricultural credit facilities through the Ibom FADAMA Microfinance Bank and other agricultural credit institutions. The government would also provide support through extension services and capacity building using the Akwa Ibom Agricultural Development Programme (AKADEP) that has remained moribund for many years, which the current administration has promised to resuscitate.

    The government’s plan to revive AKADEP and facilitate access to agricultural credit facilities is something farmers in the state are eagerly waiting for. Edet Udosen, a small-scale fish farmer in Esit Eket Local Government Area is optimistic of growing his business beyond the level it has been since he established it in February, 2021. He laments the difficulty of obtaining credit from banks who ask for security he cannot provide.

    “This business is lucrative, but it’s capital intensive,” he said. “Inability to access loan facilities from banks has made it difficult for me to grow the business beyond the level I set it up more than two years ago.”

    He believes that accessibility to credit facilities by farmers in the state would enable them to adopt mechanized farming and operate on a larger scale like their counterparts in some northern states, for greater farm yield and increased food production. Besides, it would make agriculture attractive enough for more people to see it as a business, especially because of its multi-dimensional nature. “We are talking about a wide range of sub-sectors like crop farming, aquatic farming, livestock, snail farming and many others,” Udosen said. “These sub-sectors can individually provide food and create employment.”

    With the A.R.I.S.E. agenda, Eno is trying to revive what had been a tradition among people in that part of the country before the advent of oil – agriculture – on a scale never before seen in the state. He hopes to fully exploit the state’s agricultural endowments, which include a coastline that stretches 129 kilometers from Oron to Ikot Abasi – the longest in Nigeria – to build a state where food security would be guaranteed for the people of the state and future generations.

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    FAAN: Improvement of Passenger Facilitation, Security Gave Boost to Tourism

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    FAAN: Improvement of Passenger Facilitation, Security Gave Boost to Tourism

    The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said that its improvement of airport facilities, passenger facilitation and security has encouraged tourism in Nigeria.

    The agency said that the drastic action taken by the Managing Director, Mrs. Olubunmi Kuku against touting at the airports has brought sanity and orderliness to the satisfaction of travellers.

    Kuku identified some of these achievements when she spoke at the Wings of Change Focus Africa Conference (WOCFA) overseen by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week; held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    A statement signed by the Director, Public Affairs & Consumer Protection, Obiageli Orah, said FAAN has recently taken steps to make Nigeria’s airports safe and accessible by genuine tourists and travellers and has also made efforts to eliminate touting and other forms of criminal conducts around the airports.

    FAAN boss also spoke on the recent creation of a dedicated Department for Cargo Services in the agency, as stakeholders emphasized the need for improvement of trade facilitation, including air cargo facilities and infrastructure, cargo compliance, closer collaboration amongst African countries and Stakeholders as well as Cargo Specialized Training for stakeholders.

    There was emphasis on digitalization of passenger processing and how the embrace of robotics technology by airports in Africa would help to give customers further experience of speed, efficiency and excellence. The use of technology to drive efficiency has been part of FAAN’s priority agenda under the present dispensation.

    Making his input on the first day of the conference, the Minister of Aviation & Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo, emphasised the need for removal of visa restrictions to enable free movement of people and goods across the continent, stating that to achieve this, there is need to work with Foreign Affairs Ministers across Africa.

    The Minister equally made a case for adequate funding of air transport in Africa.

    Also speaking at the event, IATA,s Regional Vice President, Africa & Middle East, Kamil Alawadhi called for pursuit of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which constitutes part of FAAN’s recent programmes.

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    Ekiti is safe for tourists’ traffic-Ojo-Lanre

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    Ekiti is safe for tourists’ traffic-Ojo-Lanre

    Following the Ekiti State renewed effort to attract tourist’s influx to the numerous wonder sites scattered around the state and especially the flag destination, Ikogosi Warm and Cold Springs Resort, the Director-General of Ekiti State Bureau of Tourism Development, Ambassador Wale Ojo-Lanre, has said that the state is safe with the level of security architecture put in by the government.

    Ojo-Lanre disclosed this to tourism writers, on ground to see the new face of Ikogosi Warm and Cold Spring Resort and noted that Ikogosi, which is the new pride of the state, is perfectly safe and welcoming to tourists.

    Clearing the air on anxieties of insecurity in the state, Ojo-Lanre said the recounted bouts happened on the suburbs of Ekiti, maintaining that the tourism zones like Ikogosi community and its environ are safe.

    He said there were cautious efforts by the state government to secure tourists. “I don’t want to expose our security strategy, but I can tell you that we are the only state that has a homeland security as a parastatal under my agency. We know what is going on. When the road is not safe, tourism is in danger,” he stated.

    Meanwhile the Ekiti State government is fine-tuning plans to develop a tourism master plan, a working blueprint to practically explore and develop products and services to create and drive the economy of the state.

    Ojo-Lanre explained that for any serious state to enhance its tourism potentialities to the expected capacity, it must first develop a tourism master plan.

    “A tourism development master plan is a necessity for any state that wants to develop and the state governor, Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, emphasised that the first thing we have to do is to develop a tourism master plan for Ekiti and we started.

    “We have started drafting our tourism policy and we have identified the consultants to work on our tourism master plan. It would be delivered between August and October this year,” Ojo-Lanre added.

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    Eliminate insurgents at Kainji Park

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    Eliminate insurgents at Kainji Park

    KAINJI National Park, an expansive natural reserve in Niger State covering an area of about 5,341 square kilometres, and known for its biodiversity and rich cultural heritage, has unfortunately garnered attention for a much more sinister reason. A recent report revealed that the park has become a haven for terrorists. This alarming development calls for urgent and decisive action to reclaim the park and ensure the safety of the wildlife and the surrounding communities.

    The Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think-tank, in a new report, said there is ample evidence Islamic terrorists from the Sahel have crossed into Nigeria through the Benin Republic border. The jihadis believed to be of the ISWAP sect, were said to have settled in Kebbi State and the KNP, turning the facility into their base.

    In reaction, the Director, Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba said the military was conducting operations in terrorist enclaves in the North-Central, which includes the KNP. A targeted military assault to root out the terrorists should not be delayed.

    The presence of terrorists in Kainji is a stark reminder of the broader security challenges that Nigeria faces. These groups exploit the remote and dense forest areas as strategic hideouts, using the park as a base for planning and executing attacks.

    The insurgents are engaged in poaching, logging, and mining, weakening the park’s protection, and further endangering the flora and fauna. The local communities have deserted their homes for IDP camps while several kidnapped persons are being held captive by the criminals.

    The park, part of Nigeria’s first and largest protected area, is home to wildlife, including elephants, lions, and numerous bird species. The park encompasses Kainji Lake, a critical resource. The terrorists’ invasion poses significant national security implications for Nigeria.

    Kainji Dam, which plays a crucial role in Nigeria’s hydroelectric power generation and irrigation systems, is located near the KNP. The dam’s presence within the park means that any security threats to the park, such as terrorist occupation, directly impact the safety and functionality of this critical infrastructure.

    Any attack on the dam or other facilities could disrupt electricity generation, affecting millions of Nigerians and causing significant economic and social upheaval.

    The seizure of the park by the insurgents has severe humanitarian implications. Local communities, who depend on the park for their livelihoods through fishing, farming, and tourism, live in fear. The terrorists’ activities disrupt economic activities, displace families, and create an environment of instability.

    Nigeria has suffered huge losses to Boko Haram and ISWAP rebels since 2009 when the militants started fighting the state. Human losses and displacements, especially in the North-East epicentre, are horrendous.

    To reclaim the park from the insurgents, an immediate and well-coordinated military action is essential. This intervention should be precise to avoid collateral damage to the park’s ecosystem and local communities. Empowering local security forces with training and resources can help maintain security once the initial military operations are completed. Establishing a permanent security presence in and around the park will prevent the terrorists from reoccupying it.

    Leveraging international support and expertise in counterterrorism and conservation can enhance Nigeria’s efforts. Partnerships with global conservation organisations can also help restore and protect the park’s biodiversity post-conflict. Implementing advanced monitoring and surveillance technologies, such as drones and satellite imagery, can provide real-time information on illegal activities and movement within the park, enabling quicker and more effective responses.

    Restoring the park to its rightful status as a sanctuary for wildlife and a resource for sustainable development is not only a national imperative but a global one. The world is watching, and President Bola Tinubu must rise to this challenge, demonstrating resilience and determination in adversity.

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