Adeniyi Olugbemi, Sokoto
Business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s plan to establish a sugar plantation and a factory in Kebbi State may have hit the rock, as indigenous land owners, who are mostly farmers, have refused to release their farm land.
Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu said this at an interactive session with intellectuals of Kebbi State origin working at Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. The session was held at the university’s auditorium. Also in attendance were members of the Kebbi State Students’ Union, UDUS chapter.
Governor Bagudu said that even at the offer of compensation, the farmers tenaciously held on to their land, saying that Dangote’s investment will not serve their interest.
He said, “Dangote Industries’ application for 54,000 hectares of land to establish a sugar factory pre-dated my administration, but they could only identify about 24,000 hectares suitable for sugar cane cultivation.
“When we came on board, there was pressure on us because all of those 24,000 hectares belong to farmers. And the proposal we met on ground was that those farmers would be paid compensation of about a hundred thousand naira per hectare.”
He said further, “As a government, the whole cabinet looked at the proposal. Our concern is, you are going to pay a farmer hectare of land where he produces his crops. You will be making an income of 700,000 a year where he has been making 100,000 and make him a labourer forever. How as a social policy can you justify this opportunity cost?
“What is the net contribution in output that this investment is going to bring, for instance, if you are replacing your current production of rice by the production of sugar cane?
“Let there be no mistakes about it, we welcome investors and we thank Dangote Industries for identifying Kebbi as one of those states he wants to invest in. But above all, the most important thing is the need to ensure that investments serve and benefit our people.
“We hope to convince Dangote that there are other ways this can be done to have better security for his investment, like agreeing that our farmers become his out-growers and he buys from them for production in his factory.”
On adding value to rice and wheat production, which the state is noted for, Governor Bagudu explained that his administration built two models whereby a farmer, given sufficient inputs without subsidy, would inevitably achieve better outcome than a farmer receiving subsidy but insufficient inputs.
“When we tested this by interacting with farmers, we were surprised by their acceptance of adequate inputs without subsidy versus subsidy without adequate inputs,” he said.
He identified lack of human resources, inadequate infrastructure and apathy to developmental values on the part of youths as problems of education in the state.
Bagudu also used the occasion to outline remarkable achievements his administration had recorded since assumption of office.
The event with over 40 Kebbi State indigenously ranked professors and others in attendance was chaired by Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, Vice-Chancellor, Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, also an indigene of Kebbi State.