A dinner for N100 billion, By Babayola M. Toungo

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babayolatoungo@yahoo.co.uk

I attended an Investors’ Forum/ Dinner in Lagos on Friday October 8th 2021, hosted by the Adamawa State Government, Arewa Research and Development Project, the Advisory Partners to the Adamawa State Government and FBN Quest, an issuing House owned by the First Bank of Nigeria.  The dinner was primarily held to present Adamawa to potential investors and the financial sector players in Lagos.  It was a sumptuous affair – I mean the presentation by the state, its Advisors and FBNQuest, not the dinner menu.  This is not to say the buffet menu wasn’t rich or mouth-watering and adequate.  The statistics and the trove of information on the potentials of Adamawa State was mind boggling to the un-initiated.  Adamawa is an investors delight.

The governor’s thinking “outside the box” is what has brought an idea planted in September 2019 that has germinated and culminated with the presentation made to the financial sector players in Lagos.  The governor told the ‘story’ of Adamawa to those who don’t know, and to even those who know but know so little.  He told the story of a state that is agrarian in nature, with a lot of potentials in untapped mineral resources and mired in poverty due to the lack of vision and commitment from past leadership to recognise the imperative of investing in agricultural production and processing.  His excellency told the guests the story of a state that needs little from investors to unlock the huge economic vault, perpetually under lock and key because of the failure of governments over the past to invest in agribusiness with its multiplier effects on the general economic prosperity of the citizens of the state.  It was a moving story that leaves one wondering why and how we missed the opportunity of fixing the poverty-stricken condition of our people.  It was a story of want amidst plenty; of missed opportunities and carelessness.

Then the agribusiness programme – the Adamawa State Agribusiness Support (ADAS) Programme was unveiled.  It is a blueprint developed by the Adamawa State government and the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), meant to fix the agricultural value chain from the farm gate to the dining table.  It is a roadmap to improving the economic activities of both the people and the state by improving the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).  In telling the story of the state, his excellency unveiled his vision and plans for the economic transformation of the state using agribusiness as its feedstock.

National growth LS

The programme is called the Adamawa Agribusiness Support Programme whose main thrust is to take full advantage of the state’s agricultural potentials using the private sector in perpetuating institutional and market reforms by designing and managing enablers that may attract investments into the sector.  The governor’s vision entails looking at agriculture from the demand side rather than from the supply side, which has been the case in the past.  This approach will help in developing human capital in the agribusiness sector, diversify the economy, develop its abundant arable land and the hitherto abundant livestock sector of agriculture.  The Programme is to also help promote smallholder commercialisation by fostering productive business linkages between smallholder farmers and selected Agribusiness firms.

The investing guests at the dinner were presented with a state that has the capacity to aggregate about 220 million bags of grains,29.77 million number of different species of livestock and 16,700 metric tons of fish over a period of ten years.  This is also expected to stir the previously comatose economic activities in the state that is perpetually dependent on the payment of civil servants’ salaries for any semblance of economic activities.  The major fallout from this is that the state’s IGR will grow to about N36 billion from this sector alone.  The IGR of the state is expected to grow by about 550% over a period of ten years from an economic activity expected to yield about N6.10 trillion over the same period.  This could easily be realised by leveraging on the resources from financial institutions, private investors and development partners.  Can you beat that?

These figures were what was sumptuous to me at the dinner, not the sizzling plates or chilled drinks.  I had to look around to make sure it is my Adamawa that was the subject of this incredible presentation.  I could see the Bankers and Capital Market operators drooling for a chance to be part of this economic Eldorado.  It was an exciting evening and dreamy one for me.  While seated physically in the Hall, my mind had travelled to the future imagining my state littered with agro-processing industries across the state thereby addressing the perennial unemployment problem of our youth and the able bodied.  I can see the multiplier effect of fixing the Agric value chains in processing, transportation, distribution, and marketing.  I can visualise Adamawa without the menace of the Shila boys, whose stock-in-trade is armed robbery and political thuggery during campaign seasons.  I saw a state that is the destination of agribusiness investment in Nigeria, which will directly lead to access to high quality, affordable healthcare delivery and education.  I was jolted back to the present by my table partner who drew my attention to a presentation being made by the Managing Director of FBNQuest.

All these lofty plans will be realisable with an injection of a “paltry” N100 billion in four years.  At the mention of ‘N100 billion’ I nearly jumped out of my seat.  What grounded me was that in the next breath the MD informed the guests that this is doable, and they are ready to stake their necks to raise the funds from the Capital Market based on the presentation made to them through the issue of an Agric Bond – the first in the whole country.  It was a satisfactory end to an inspiring story.  The story of Adamawa as told by his excellency was truly inspiring and motivating.  The reforms that the governor has implemented and is implementing to make the state investor friendly.   Smelling the aura of opportunities, the banks are queuing up to be counted among investors in Adamawa.

Adamawa is waking up thanks to the vision and foresights of the governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri.  Let’s all hope that citizens will also wake up to embrace this once in a lifetime chance as the anticipated economic transformation may, in all likelihood, be the panacea to the fierce political battles that fought every four years for the control of government.  Most will be so contented that they will avoid politics like the plague.

Let’s all queue up behind the governor to give the state a leg-up.

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