Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Kwara State was host to a number of thriving industries in the early 70s. They included Nigeria Sugar Company (NISUCO), Bacita, Jebba Paper Mill, Tate and Lyle Sugar Company, Ilorin and MATCO, matches manufacturing company, Ilorin. But today they have all folded up.
During their hay days, the now moribund companies provided job opportunities for thousands of people and ensured economic buoyance of the state.
Since the “death” of the once thriving industries, the people of the state, especially young graduates and even unskilled youths have had to rely on white collar jobs to eke a living. But, since there are limited vacancies in the state’s civil service, the problem of youth joblessness has become a serious issue.
However, with the coming of the administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, there is perhaps hope of a renewed commitment to the industrialisation of the state. Signs of this are two events that happened separately recently.
The events were the unscheduled visit of Abdulrazaq to Olam Cashew Processing Factory in Ogbondoroko, Asa Local Government Area (Kwara Central) and the economic summit organised by Offa community (Kwara South), attended by the Deputy Governor, Kayode Alabi.
At the separate events, the two leaders re-emphasised the determination of the administration to implementing investors friendly polices to encourage industrialists to invest in the state and thereby providing job opportunities for residents and create wealth.
Abdulrazaq reiterated the commitment of his administration towards creating enabling environment for businesses to thrive. He lauded the economic impact the factory offers, especially in the area of job opportunities for at least 1,500 people. Responding to the complaints of the Association of Cashew Farmers and Dealers, he promised to invite them for an interface at an appropriate time towards addressing their problems.
Plant manager of the factory, Mr. Sajjad Hussein, stated that there are five stages involved in cashew processing and would take up to eight days before the end product is realised.
The governor commissioned the water project provided by the firm for the Ogbondoroko community, as part of its corporate social responsibility.
Similarly, at the Offa Economic Summit, Alabi said government would henceforth extend invitation to groups, organisations and individuals in its budget review exercise. He said government believes in participatory budgeting:
“A conducive environment will be provided through a policy framework that will be congenial to the economic and infrastructural development of Kwara communities.”
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Mr. Tayo Oyelowo, the deputy governor hailed the community for organising the summit:
“This is the first of its kind in the history of the state. This step is worthy of emulation. It is a laudable idea for the entirety of the nation.”
As early as 8 am on Friday, June 14, the first day of the summit, the ODU Hall, venue of the summit billed for 10 am, was already jam-packed as the indigenes and participants including invited dignitaries from far and near had defied the early rainfall to storm the summit venue in their hundreds.
Thought provoking papers were delivered by experts, including Dr. Sarah Alade, a retired Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). She identified digital infrastructure as a critical key toward developing the nation’s economy. She spoke on: ‘‘The Nexus Between Industrial and Infrastructural Facilities in Offa.’’
She said such digital infrastructure, when provided, would not only develop the economy but also stimulate industrial growth: “The future is here and technology is the way to go if we must build competitive economy. There is need for the provision of digital infrastructure. We can increase efficiency of services and transform the economy as new businesses spring up around the digital technology.
“Today innovative technology is being used across Africa to improve living standard and also create new jobs. Smart phones are used to provide advice to farmers on pest control. In Rwanda drones deliver medical supply to hospitals in rural areas where the road network is poor.
‘‘In Nigeria and elsewhere mobile money provides access to financial services to previously excluded individuals. It is therefore important as we deliberate on transforming Offa to an emerging city by taking steps to industrialise. We need to go beyond the traditional physical infrastructure of roads, rails, which, are keys and also invest in digital infrastructure.
“Offa has great industrial prospects if there is focus on natural resources, labour supply, strategic location of the town and presence of railway. The major challenges at the moment are insecurity, inadequate landmass, and inadequate infrastructure – roads, power and potable water supply.”
Former Executive Director, Bank of Industry (BOI), Waheed Olagunju, emphasised that there was enough money to assist small and medium scale industries and enterprises in the nation’s economic system. He spoke on: “Action, Steps in Accessing Credit Facility to Finance Industrial Projects,” saying: “No bank would be ready to give credit facilities to a business or investment that lacked viable and successful potential.”
He recalled that Nigeria used to be one of the leading nations in Africa before the last economic recession, expressing optimism that the country was again on the path to economic prosperity.
Oba Muftau Gbadamosi, Olofa of Offa, represented by Chief Bayo Akinola, Ojomu of Offa, commended the organisers for their foresight and urged them to maintain the tempo. Dr Raji Ahmed, the chairman, Summit Organising Committee, said the summit was to formulate domestic economic policy for, between five and 10 years rolling plan for Offa community.
A 10-man Offa Industrial Development Trust Fund Committee was constituted and chaired by Prof. Mosobolaje Oyawoye.