Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
- Seeks police security for volatile Ogoni farm area
Niger Delta Basin Development Authority (NDBDA), a river-fed agric initiative aimed at propelling rural communities in the oil region along food crops production, is out with a readiness to flood the markets with assorted foodstuff from its multi-million-naira Songhai Integrated Farm at Kpon community in Khana local government area of Rivers State.
The agency says this would help reduce food crisis in Nigeria, at a time the World Bank has projected that 27 countries, including Nigeria, would experience food crisis in 2020, due to the socio-economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NDBDA’s Songhai large expanse of farmland in Kpon, unfortunately, however, is located in a volatile oil-rich Ogoni area, where years of multifaceted crises have taken a great toll on the residents, installations and farms since 1993 when Ogoni anti-Shell protests began. Since Shell left Ogoni, the area has hardly known calm – moving from state-sponsored internal military oppression to inter-cult and gang expressions.
The farmland is suitable for rice farming, fishery, poultry, piggery, snail farming, cassava, yam, sweet potatoes farming and banana, says Tonye David-West, the managing director of NDBDA.
“It is also interesting to know that the farm settlement is capable of providing sufficient foods for the Niger Delta region. Our eggs, chickens, plantain, banana, fish and different cash/food crops will soon be on sale. We have about 25,000 birds, with thousands of eggs,” he informed.
He announced that there is opportunity to employ thousands of youths through direct and indirect labour; adding that one of the core objectives of the federal government is food security. Currently, the oil-rich region is awash with millions of unemployed youths, who are restive. Latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics
(NBS) say that the oil region states (Imo, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Cross River, among others, are leading with the highest unemployment rates in the country. Imo tops with 75.1 percent of its total employable people unemployed or underemployed; Akwa Ibom comes next with 1.14 million of its people unemployed. Combined, its unemployed and underemployed population gross 66.9 percent. In terms of concentration of unemployed people, Rivers, the nation’s oil hub, which is in the third position with 43.7 percent, however comes first with a whopping 1.7 million people out of jobs in the state.
However, to secure its vast Songhai farmland in Kpon, Ogoni, and allow it realize its objectives of providing abundant food, the NDBDA managing director has entered into a partnership with the Nigeria Police to provide watertight security presence at the farm settlement. He visited the Bori divisional police office with top management staff of NDBDA, where the agreement was signed.
Tonye David-West said partnering with the Police was necessary to provide security to the over 84 hectares of farmland. It is a multi-million-naira federal government-sponsored project, which Suleiman Adamu, the minister of water resources, described as having the propensity to create tens of thousands of jobs, and provide food sufficiency for Nigerians.
“It is only important we partner with you (the Police) to provide the needed security to the facilities we have at the farms. As you know, we are just about to go into full operation after successfully completing the construction of different infrastructural projects at the Songhai integrated farms. Our cardinal objective is hinged on the promise of President Muhammadu Buhari, of providing food security to all Nigerians. We have also set machinery in motion to train the youths of the Niger Delta region on skills acquisition for self-reliance and improve their individual economic base,” the MD told the Police DPO at Bori.
He owned up to the security challenges within the farm community, lauding the security agencies for changing the ugly narrative. He said constant presence of police patrol teams within and around the farm settlements would stave off any form of security threat to the project.
He said it was improper to work in isolation from each other, adding that, as partners, “I want to assure you that we will do the best we can to ensure that your men do not have any problems in helping us to keep watch over the settlement”.
The Bori DPO, Bako Angbashim called on the NDBDA management to consider integrating cow grazing since there is abundant green vegetation in the settlements; that it should also increase rice farming in the Songhai project and educate the local youths on the project, as a way of diverting their minds from crimes. He also asked the NDBDA management to provide pipe-borne water for the local people since their water source is contaminated with oil spill.