By Eberekpe Ogho
For Dr. Uzor Orji Kalu, diversifying his large business empire and going into farming is a welcome business venture and worthy to be commended, especially now when there is hunger and lamentation everywhere around the country and continent. Knowing who the business mogul is, it should be taken that farming was going to be done in the most mechanised way to profit everybody concerned, especially the last consumers. This will create unimaginable job opportunities across the value chain.
One would have wanted to ask the business mogul where he got the inspiration to go into farming. Could it be from one of the prophecies of Pastor T. B Joshua that Nigerians should brace up for a severe hunger that would rock the country? Or could it be that the two-time former governor of Abia State has got his calculations right that the venture is just apt for the situation in the country to coincide with the many travels of President Muhammadu Buhari abroad to woo investors, notably in the areas of agriculture? Well, no matter what the answers are, the man has decided to go into farming, and this is laudable and he should be commended.
The plan is nevertheless in the pipeline and Nigerians, especially Abians, the native place of Dr. Kalu, should be rest assured that this is one plan that would definitely come into fruition and Abians stand a great deal to benefit.
According to revelation, the plan is to acquire 12, 000 hectares of farmland in Abia State. This is a venture that is valued at over $400 million and once this is done, then the real job commences.
This is not an investment initiative Kalu would be entering alone. His Chinese partners are happy to be part of the venture, as shown when he visited the outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Gu Xiaojie. The envoy had told Nigerians that as soon as the take off of the farm is ascertained, they should be assured of millions of jobs and a boost in export in commercial quantity to every part of the world.
Kalu, on his part, has said that as soon as the ongoing drafting of the project plan for the farm is ready, it would be unveiled to the public. In his words at his visit to Ambassador Xiaojie, Kalu said: “It was good having you here and we hope that other Chinese ambassadors will work very hard like you. I also hope they will build on the relationship you have established with Nigerian government and the people. I believe the Republic of China and the Federal Republic of Nigeria have a lot to learn from each other.
“We believe the recent visit of President Buhari to China will usher in development in the agricultural, business and other sectors of the economy. As you are aware, our company has placed orders for ships worth over two hundred and fifty million dollars from Chinese companies. We are in discussion with a Chinese company. We have 12, 000 hectares of land in Abia State. The drawings are in progress on how to have a modern farm that will have palm oil farm in 5, 000 hectares. We will plant maize in 2, 000 hectares and other vegetables in 1, 000 hectares.
“We are going to have a big poultry and field mills. We are in discussion. Once we are done with the drawings, we will make an application to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Abia State government and the Chinese Nexim Bank. We will also apply to Sign Ocean Company so that we can work together on the equipment and support needed for the take-off of the farm. We are hoping this cooperation will be of great importance to Nigeria and China.
“I do not know the exact net worth of the farm. They are still working t that out. But, it should be in the neighborhood of $4000 million. It is going to be a huge farm for exports.”
Apart from the Chinese government and its formidable ties with the Nigerian government, Dr. Kalu has added that the CBN and the Chinese Nexim Bank, as well as Sign Ocean Company, located in the Southeast country, would be approached to provide financial support for the take-off of the multi-million project.
In his response, Ambassador Xiaojie said China and Nigeria had very close contacts and would continue to maintain them. He said efforts were already in place to commence full implementation of the outcome of President Buhari’s visit to China in April.
The envoy further noted that the visit of President Buhari to China was a landmark achievement in the Nigeria-China diplomatic relationship. He said during his tenure as head of the Chinese embassy to Nigeria, both countries witnessed the forty-fifth celebration of the establishment of diplomatic ties.
China, Ambassador Xiaojie added, would want to build on the existing ties between the two countries, saying that in his two-year stint in the country, he took out time to visit some states, even as he expressed regret that he could not visit all. He expressed confidence in the future of Nigeria, a country he said, had great potentials.
Inasmuch as it is laudable for Dr. Kalu to establish this kind of business, it must, however, be noted that the motive behind it is not purely profit but the underlying contemplation of large percentage of gainful employment opportunities it is going to bring to Nigerians. However, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and his various partners should take into consideration, both the local and international labour laws that govern employment.
This has become relevant because many a times, it has been brought to the notice of government that some foreign investors and their local counterparts disregard most of the labour laws designed to protect workers’ interests while the workers are treated as slaves. This is when Nigerians and indeed all the critical stakeholders will be comprehensively integrated into the arrangement.
• Ogho wrote in from Lagos.