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WITH a resolve to diversify the economy from oil and gas dependence, President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, launched the long-awaited Special Agro-Processing Zones Programme, SAPZ, in seven States and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

Buhari who was represented by Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo described the SAPZ as a game-changer, as it would give a boost to food production, wealth creation, employment generation, and export. He acknowledged Nigeria’s large arable land, and relatively cheap labor should be able to feed itself, and he pointed out some challenges facing agriculture recently including inflation, high food prices, high input prices, insecurity, Russia-Ukraine War, drought, and flooding caused by the climate change.

The Nigeria Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) program is a government-enabled and private sector-led initiative that will mobilize private sector investment to develop value chains for selected strategic crops and livestock in the participating States.

Nigeria will implement the first phase of the SAPZ program with co-financing from the African Development Bank, AfDB, International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, and Islamic Development Bank, IsDB.

The total amount mobilized for Phase 1 is $538.05 million, of which the African Development Bank is providing $210 million; the IFAD together with the Green Climate Fund, $160 million; IsDB $150.52 million, while the Federal Government of Nigeria is $2.01 million, and $16.01 million from the seven participating States.

The participating States under Phase 1 include Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Oyo, Ogun, Imo, Cross Rivers, and Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

The essence of the launch of SAPZ is to formally announce the Nigeria SAPZ to key stakeholders; national, and international partners, co-financiers, development partners, the private sector, farmers groups, national networks, diaspora population, and other actors.

To attract private sector investment into the zones; To raise public awareness of the SAPZ program; To demonstrate political support at the highest levels of Federal and State governments in Nigeria, and the leadership of key partners.

And to enhance understanding of the roles of key actors involved in the implementation process.

He said: “A nation such as ours with the large track of arable land and relatively cheap labor should be able to feed itself processed food and produced for domestic use, and also for export, creating millions of good paying jobs. But that is not the case. What we have today aside from the few large commercial farms is mainly aggregations of subsistence farmers who do what they can without support from a clear and dedicated plan for the industrialization of agriculture.

“So the well thought out answer to our predicament is the Special Agro-Processing Zones Programme, SAPZ, program. The Programme was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council.

“It is a major crosscutting value chain investment effort driven by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural in alignment with the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy of the Federal Government to incentivize agro-industrialization private sector development.”

Meanwhile, the President explained that specifically, the SAPZ is designed to develop multiple clusters of agricultural transformation centers, and added that they would have functional infrastructure including road networks, power, water, communication facilities, and others to attract private investments.

According to him, the SAPZ program is a five-year program being implemented Hy the Federal Government of Nigeria in partnership with the African Development Bank, AfDB, International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, Islamic Development Bank, State Governments, and private investors.

However, he pointed out that the Programme is designed to bring about import substitution to reduce food import bills, boost revenue from agriculture exports, create wealth for rural farming communities, create new sustainable jobs for women and young people, stem rural-urban migration, and revive public and private sector funded assets, improve the business environment, and others.

He also expressed optimism that the Programme would solve food problems and feed the continent’s largest population, as it has become a strategic and integral part of the agricultural policies of the government.

Also disclosed that the second phase will bring on board 18 States, which the SAPZ would benefit from technology and innovation, where the Programme is poised to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, ACTA, which would make Nigeria “the bread basket and agribusiness hub in Africa.”

He added that the Programme would be a catalyst for the National Livestock Transformation Programme, and others.

He further stated that “We must incentivize agriculture through greater investments and enabling environment for private sector participation, and to advance our agro-industrialization.”

Earlier, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, in a remark said, “The SAPZ is the flagship for Nigeria’s agriculture, which entails the development and operation of agro-industrial processing clusters in areas of high food production across the country, to engender the competitiveness in agro-industrial production and processing that is critical to further unlock the potentials of Nigeria’s agriculture, to improve food and nutrition security, to reduce post-harvest losses, create jobs for women and youth, as well as create wealth for the rural community.”

Abubakar added that the SAPZ is to transform the agricultural sector into an advantageous one in Africa.

According to him its successful implementation would create up to 550,000 additional new jobs in production, processing, and other associated activities and contribute up to about $10 million to Nigeria’s economy annually through additional cultivation of up to about 950,000 hectares of land.

“This will add to agricultural output of up to 12.7 million metric tons per annum, as well as value-added processing of up to 6.2 million metric tons per annum”, he said.

Meanwhile, the Vice President, of IFAD, Katherine Meighan, commiserated with Nigeria on the devastating impact of flood across 33 States,

She said, “I would like to begin by expressing my deep compassion and solidarity with each of you and the people of Nigeria. In the wake of the recent devastating floods.


“These floods have wiped out livelihoods and they’ve wiped out lives. These floods show the increasing importance in today’s complex world of finding solutions for investment in climate adaptation so that we can protect against such devastating impacts of potential future floods, or future extreme weather events.

IFAD has been a strong partner with Nigeria for our entire history, since our founding in 1977.

“With the SAPZ project, we will have reached $700 million in direct investment with Nigeria and with cofinancing $1.2 billion with our partners in Nigeria.

“We are focused on building rural resilience building rural communities where people can grow, produce small-scale agriculture and improve those outputs along the value chain to have rural, sustainable, vibrant communities.

“We know that food is not just the future of food is the present. Investing in food is investing in our present and our future.

“And I think that the current global food crisis has made this apparent to every person in every nation today. IFAD has in response to the recent floods and recognition of our long-standing partnership with the government of Nigeria scaled up our support to dry season farming to help the people of Nigeria produce additional food in the historic dry season where less food has been traditionally produced.

“I am also delighted to announce today a special new significant contribution by ephod for Nigeria in response to the flooding. This is a grant funding of almost $5 million to be invested in climate resilient agriculture.”On the launch of the SAPZ, she (Meighan) said, “IFAD is honored to be a partner with the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as the African Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank in this Programme.

“We are proud that our investment will contribute directly to the incomes of 100,000 small farmers and food producers in Nigeria we believe that there is importance to have a strong focus on youth and women, smallholder farmers and producers in particular, while also bringing in the private sector and others in the four P model which we use the ‘Public Private Producer Partnership’ to make sure that these investments are sustainable and long-standing.

“The SAPZ project is a game changer. We believe that investment in food and food production is imperative for today and investments in food and food production are imperative for our future.

“We are honored to work with the Republic of Nigeria to support this game-changing project. I wish everyone involved in the project all success.”

Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of governors from participating States, the Governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade, lamented how machines brought into the country by a Dutch firm for land clearing and preparation have been held down at the Lagos port for over six months, and the Nigerian Customs Service is bent on collecting revenue from the company, hence hampering food production process.

Ayade also charged the Ministers of Agric, Finance, and Trade to ensure the sustainability of the Programme with passion for it not to die and added that the incoming Government should take the SAPZ program seriously and not look elsewhere.

He also disclosed that agro firms established by his administration in Cross River State are lying fallow due to a lack of paddy, and other raw materials to enable the production of food but expressed optimism that with the SAPZ program such challenges would be addressed soon.

He said the dangerous insecurity is the insecurity of hunger and not banditry, hence the time is now to seriously focus on food production to avoid food crisis and cannibalism consuming the country.