IN its bid to improve rural agriculture and end agro produce perishing on highways, the Federal Government has embarked on rehabilitation of critical roads across the country to ease transportation of agricultural products.
The roads under rehabilitation would link Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Gombe, Borno, Adamawa, Taraba States to the Eastern part of the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh while accompanying the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the roads were critical to transporting agro produce which he said would end perishing of crops on the roads.
Recall that one of the major problems facing farmers is lack of access roads to carry their harvests from the farm to the market, which has led to their crops perishing on the roads before getting to the market due to delays.
According to Chief Ogbeh: “The biggest means of transportation in Nigeria today is road transport, the rail system is just be rehabilitated which will take a long way. The road is the only means of transportation of both human being and goods in Nigeria. Industrial goods and agricultural goods are produced in the rural areas and go to different part depends on economic endowments.
“When farmers grow crops in the North which are needed in the South, some grow in the South needed in the North, the fastest and easier ways of moving these goods is by road, that is why we have to open the road because it also helps in uniting the country. People unite because they can reach each other, drive home. People live in the different part which they go home often and during the festivity. If the roads are not there they cannot reach each other.
“Uniting the country is one of the major reasons and the moving of goods, the improvement of commerce, wealth and wellbeing is the advantage of the road.
“Like the Agatu area we went today when the road is finished, there is so much Fadama by the riverside, rice, beans, sorghum will increase and some of these can actually be putting in bagging by the River Benue for reserve and move to the south, Abuja or Kano.
“The Oweto bridge is very strategic for commerce, human traffic, unification of Nigeria and industrial goods because things happen from the agriculture to industry from industry to manufacturing and so on.”
Furthermore, the Minister revealed that the government was also planning to install refrigerator depot on roads powered by solar to be used to preserve tomato and other perishables.
“The issues of perishables on the road will be ended and we also do more things. We will soon be installing refrigerators depot where you can preserve tomato and other perishables. We are to set them up and use solar energy to power those cold rooms. So when the truck moves them, they have no reason to delay, they can get to the market in good sharp at the good price and farmers will be happy.
“In the last 34 months, Nigeria has saved 21 billion dollars from the importation of food and this is the figure from the Central Bank of Nigeria. We are moving on and a day will come that we will say nearly 30 billion dollars and our target is to bring it to the lowest so that Naira can appreciate and instead of shipping money to other countries and we will now be the one exporting rice to them,” Chief Ogbeh said.
Earlier, Mr Celestine Shausu, the Federal Controller of Works, Benue State, said that Federal Government has three projects in the zone, one of which is the rehabilitation of Otukpo road.
Shausu said: “The rehabilitation is in two phases. The phase one starts from Otukpo to Ugbokolo, which is 40km and already substantially completed.
“The second phase is 36km from Ugbokolo to Enugu State border. Though we have just started work but we have already covered 3km fully and contractors are still working.”
He added that the second project is the dualisation of Otukpo township road, which is in the two components as well.
“The second component is the rehabilitation from the General Hospital to Aliade. So far, the contractor has rehabilitated 7km,” he said
Addressing journalists during the inspection, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said that the government was willing to confront the nation’s problems, including food and employment.
“Our contractors involved so many people. This means many people will benefit from the project and that is how the economy works.
“From construction, we also have to eat and Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has been doing his best to ensure that we stopped importing what we can produce.
“Every time we import what we can produce locally, we are taking money out of this economy,” he said.
Fashola noted that Nigeria used to import about 5 million dollar worth of rice, which took money away from farmers, but President Muhammadu Buhari has returned that business back home and to farmers.
“From Benue, Sokoto, Kebbi, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Abia, among others. All the roads we are building are connected to the farms in these states.
“From Agro to market and to industry that is what is going to happen. So, the work is on the farms and the work will also be in the factory and industry.
“You can see what Vice President is doing with economic management team; lending money to small businesses, so we are on the way. The road to prosperity has already been built.
“This Otukpo road to Enugu is a road to prosperity and the jobs we desire and it will all happen,’’ Fashola said.