Advertisement

Travelogue: Beyond the ‘Ortomnomic’ in Benue

BY IBRAHEEM ABDULLATEEF

Earlier this week, a story broke out on Twitter on the perennial waste of food and fruits in Benue State. Initially, I thought this was a hoax. Faith would however lead me to find out for myself the most shocking news.

I had been in the state for about a week before the news. So, I have made enough acquaintances in Makurdi to help me through communities in Ushongo, Vandeikya, Konshisha, and Gwei East local government areas. And as I began to engage locals and eventually learned, there are far more villages across 19 more LGAs of the state united by the waste of fruits and food. My interaction with locals revealed that the people and state are aware of their potential and challenges, but solutions and consequently development, remain elusive. How do people suffer amid plenty?

Benue, the acclaimed Food Basket of The Nation, has an under-tapped export potential that will conveniently transform the state and Nigeria into an export global power. It could commercialise farming, industrialise food and fruits, and earn a huge foreign direct investment to strengthen its economy, create jobs, and improve the general standard of living.

Advertisement

For example, India produces about 15 million tons of mango yearly (over 40% of global production), exporting about 60k tons to over 40 countries including the US. According to Statista, mangoes contributed about 439 billion Indian rupees to their economy in the fiscal year 2019. Whereas the government of Benue is lagging, Ghana produces 23,000 tonnes of mangoes yearly exports over 40% in various forms. It is second only to Burkina Faso in West Africa.

If properly harnessed, Benue state fruits and food would fetch the Nigerian economy not less than 100 million dollars yearly. It would only need to address the issue of insecurity, high taxation, corruption, and clumsy hospitality to attract investors and buyers from far and wide. This should actually not be a matter of choice, it should be the only resolution of the state immediately.

The current status as a ‘civil service state’ is repulsive and disrespectful to the abundant land and resources Benue is blessed with. I cannot simply fathom why it has to rely on federal allocations, a situation locals are wont to understand as Ortomnomics, which does not even pay salaries sufficiently not to talk of financing infrastructure projects.

ADVERTISEMENT

As a matter of urgency, there is a need to deepen the linkage to the processing and distribution of agricultural produce which is a key constraint against both small-holder or large-scale farming. This will facilitate connection across the food system and agricultural value chain from production, processing, distribution, and rights to consumption. It is essential to free up the business environment to attract the private sector, capital, and expertise.

There is no excuse for the Benue State Government not running a mango juice extraction industry itself. Perhaps if it were more driven, it could broker vital alliances with the Central Bank of Nigeria and Bank of Industry to make it the State the Agro- the allied hub of Nigeria and West Africa. A similar example is the efforts Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is making in Ondo State to process cocoa with the public-private sector partnership.

At a time Nigeria relies heavily on loans to continue bearing its name as a country, billions of naira worth of revenue are wasting in Benue and an urgent partnership is needed between the federal and state governments to turn this around. The time starts now!

Ibraheem Abdullateef is a Nigerian youth leader and social entrepreneur. He tweets at @_ibraheemlateef

Advertisement


Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.
Add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected from copying.