To bolster government’s efforts at diversifying the State’s economy through agriculture, Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has reopened the State College of Agriculture and Natural Resources,
Obaseki, at the Pre-College Opening and Agribusiness Stakeholders engagement at the newly rebuilt Edo State College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Iguoriakhi, Ovia South West Local Government Area of the State, said the institution has been upgraded to compete favourably with the best of specialised agricultural training institutions across the globe.
The governor said the College, with three campuses in Iguoriakhi, Agenebode and Uromi, will groom and harness the knowledge and skills of the state’s teeming youth population to drive the government’s vision to boost food production, grow its economy and ensure the development of the manpower to drive the government’s agriculture-based economy.
Obaseki noted, “You are all aware that agriculture is the backbone of Nigeria’s economy, not oil. It is becoming clear that for us to have food sufficiency, raw materials for our industries must be produced.”
According to him, his government has in the past six years embarked on transformative reforms and programmes to guarantee the enabling environment to attract investments into different sectors of the State’s economy.
Obaseki said, “We are calling on investors who have invested in the State and soliciting their support to move this institution and the State forward in terms of developing the agricultural sector.”
“Our role as government is to enable things to happen. We want to use this opportunity to have on board some of our investors who have worked hard with the State over the last two years to create Africa’s largest oil palm programme, the Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP). The first phase of the programme which is focused on the Orhionmwon axis has been completed.
“We have allocated almost 70,000 hectares of degraded forest land and fresh land to a new set of investors, many of whom have started developing their nurseries but have not signed the final agreement. We will be signing the negotiated agreement of ESOPP and let our critics see what MOU produces for us.
“As a government, we are not farmers and don’t know how to farm. Our role as government is to support and encourage those that know how to farm and want to farm. We did it in Edo as we made land accessible to investors. We worked with the communities to create the enabling environment for our investors in the State.”
Speaking on the need for investors to be involved in the governing of the School, Obaseki said, “As a government, we have built this institution to woo our young ones who want to make a career in agriculture. This school is to train people practically not only to give certificates. We have created this institution to train people that can work for you and not for you to bring people from outside.”
“The fancy building will not give the required manpower with good quality but the participation of investors in the governing process in the school will help develop the required manpower as you define what you need, creating the opportunity for intakes to know what is required to give the best.”
On the development of other campuses for the institution, he said, “We are going to award the contract for the other two campuses and will open the two schools before leaving office in November 2024. I thank our partners for the work and also appreciate the communities for creating the atmosphere for the project to succeed.
“I thank the agricultural investors and appeal to them to be part of the governance board which will have more operators than statutory members to allow us to build a unique school that caters for our needs as a people.”
The governor added, “Our focus is to allow graduates here to get the certificate and also be sure of getting employment to face the future. This will be a busy campus as we will put more infrastructure here. This place is already connected with fibres; there is internet connectivity here. We are working on how to extend IPP to ensure a 24-hour power supply to this location and extend or dualize the road to this place. I appeal to the Edo State House of Assembly to ensure they make money available to accomplish more for the school.
Also, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Steven Idehenre, while commending the governor for the noble feat, said the Institution will serve as a magnet for the most talented students and faculties making a real impact on improving the training of technocrats for agricultural development in Edo State and Nigeria.
“The former College of Agriculture in Iguoriakhi and Agenebode was closed down in 2017 and 2018 due to poor learning facilities. The closure was to allow the government to restructure and reopen three schools under one college.
“The College will house the School of Aquaculture and Marine Studies at Agenebode, the School of Environmental Studies and Wildlife in Uromi and the School of Agricultural Engineering and Technology in Iguoriakhi, while the College at Iguoriakhi will serve as its headquarters.”
He added, “Today, we are proud to say we have some of the most imposing structures and learning facilities on any mono-technic or University campus in Nigeria. Due to the infrastructural facilities, equipment and environment, we are confident that the accreditation team that will be visiting the College in September will approve all courses in the Institution.”
On his part, the consultant on the college revamp, Professor Oluwafemi Balogun, said the reopening of the College will attract more investors and boost agricultural development in the State, noting, “You gave the task team a matching order to develop and build a unique and foremost Agricultural College in Nigeria and here we are today, presenting to you a world-class Agricultural College that can compete with any other in the world. In the next few months, some Universities will be coming here to benefit from the facilities on ground.”
According to him, “The College has acquired teaching and farm equipment for the College worth N625 million. All ICT laboratories in the College are now 24/7 solar-powered, and fishery and research farms fully developed. NBTE accreditation team will be visiting the school to accredit the programmes.
“The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Iguoriakhi is the headquarters of the College, while Agenebode and Uromi will house the other college or campus for the Institution. The College will now have 16 programmes structured into three schools.
“We have added a unique programme that has never been done in any agricultural Institution in Nigeria. It’s a vocational enterprise programme which is open to all categories of people in the society.”
“Administrative work will commence on 1st of August 2023 as all 208 staff of the College will resume while the academic session for 2023/2024 will commence in September 2023,” Prof Balogun added.