Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
A recent report said that Nigeria loses N90 billion yearly, and in the next three years will lose not less than N270 billion to deficit and importation of palm oil. According to the report, based on the December 2019 World Bank price index for crude palm oil at $769.93, Nigeria lost N90 billion.
But Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, said his government would bridge the deficit by revamping Adapalm as a major revenue earner for the state. The palm industry in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government was established in 1953 by Dr. Michael Okpara’s Eastern Nigeria Region Government as Ohaji Palm Settlement. It was later acquired by the Agricultural Development Authority Palm, where it derived its name.
Inaugurated in 1984, successive administrations, especially during the military era, had abandoned the place to rot and its facilities cannibalised. Daily Sun was told: “The management headquarters was vandalised; everything there was gone; GM, admin office, account auditors’ office, the police post, workshop, residential quarters for top management staff, electricity regulation, water, all gone.”
A prominent indigene of the area, who wished not to be named revealed that it took strict police security to protect what was left, including the mills, otherwise the story would have been the same.
It was gathered that the short-lived administration of former Governor Emeka Ihedioha injected some life into the state-owned industry; reports showed that the present government has redoubled efforts in reviving the place. The venture has started to produce about 120 tons of crude palm oil (CPO) monthly.
Uzodinma said government was committed to bringing back the company to help the state survive the global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic: “It is one of our greatest hopes of surviving the post-COVID-19 period, immediately after the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, you know that the economy is almost becoming epileptic. We have to look inwards to see how best we can restructure our economy, boost IGR strength and then ensure that our citizenry are also busy.”
He said Adapalm, in its rightful place, would raise the internally generated revenue of the state, and the company on its own as a value chain can produce not only palm oil but also other oil-related products like margarine, shea butter, and palm kennel oil, among others. He stated that government was keen on expanding the company because of the potential 35,000 jobs that could be created, explaining that the state could earn about N3 billion turnover once the firm was fully revived.
The governor promised that the Adapalm plantation and other oil installations in the area would be revamped. He also appealed to youths of Ohaji/Egbema, the host community, to eschew restiveness and vandalism of government property and other oil installations.
The governor appointed an indigene of the area, Goddy Esom Obodo, as acting general manager.
He told our correspondent that the secret of the quick transformation, was that the industry required somebody with vision and mission, which, according to him, was the greatest asset Uzodinma has over his predecessors.
The GM projected that the state would realise at least N15 billion annually, if all the machines were in good condition and operated optimally: “Imo may soon no longer depend on federal allocation. If things go normal, we can make N500 million in a month and about N15 billion in a year. With this, we can take care of so many capital projects and improve the economy of the state.”
Government also commenced discussions with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for a loan of N52 billion to be channelled into the Adapalm plantation, Obodo said.
“With this loan, it can help the government establish more plantations in the three zones of Imo. Also, we can replace these mills with the latest modern mill and increase the capacity of the oil production and you know a ton of red oil internationally is about N350,000 and you now know what it means to have 100 tons of oil by the time you multiply it.
“So far, one sector of the industry, which is the oil mill, is functioning. When in full-scale production, it is expected that eight products would be produced in the value chain. The mere fact that the palm industry, which was producing just five tons of crude palm oil daily before Uzodinma’s administration recorded astronomically increase to 40 tons per day, has proven that he has succeeded where others failed.”
Uzodinma recently told some stakeholders: “We would not allow Adapalm to die. It is our priority and we are hell-bent on rehabilitating, reconstructing and even to recover it from those that have neglected it in the past.
“This industry is very dear to us and that is why we are putting all our resources to make it work again. Soon, we are expecting to employ about 35,000 of our people and that will reduce unemployment greatly in the state.”