Governors in the South-West Zone, under the aegis of Western Nigeria Governors’ Forum, met on Wednesday in Lagos, and resolved to embark on a Rice Accelerated Programme for Integrated Development (Western RAPID) to further consolidate actions on food security and job creation in the region.
The governors agreed to commit portions of land to the Lagos State Government to farm and promote rice cultivation and production in the region.
Their decisions were contained in a communique issued after the quarterly meeting which had the theme – ‘Consolidating the Legacy of Regional Integration’, and read by Oluseye Oyeleye, the newly appointed substantive Director-General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Commission.
The leaders resolved that DAWN Commission, representatives and agriculture commissioners from each state, should hold a technical session with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending and develop a state by state roadmap in four weeks before a Regional Agriculture Summit.
They agreed that the Summit be held in Ibadan in May.
However, during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding MoU on Land Allocation between the western states and Lagos, the Ogun state government said it would not sign until some issues between the two states were resolved.
The state’s Deputy Governor, Yetunde Onanuga, who represented Governor Ibikunle Amosun, said the Lagos State government abandoned the 1000 hectares of land given to it for its rice production project.
Amosun said: “Also the Lagos state government defaulted in the remittances of the taxes of over 23 per cent of its workers who reside in Ogun state.
“The Rice Accelerated Program for Integrated Development is a laudable project that we support in total but we will sign the MoU when these concerns are resolved.”
Reacting, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said the idea behind the MoU on land allocation was to expand the agricultural output of the state’s rice mill.
Ambode said that the state required 32000 hectares for paddy cultivation and in the interest of integration, the project would be beneficial to all the states in the South West.
According to him, Lagos state will be like ‘off-takers’ to the paddies while the other state will use their people and farmers to cultivate the land thereby creating employment and wealth in those states and the region.
He said: “Four other states have actually agreed to sign the MoU. But what happened with Ogun state is that there are some minor issues that were outstanding before.
“They could not sign today, but you can also hear them say they are committed to signing when those issues are resolved. So, four have signed remaining one state.
“The ultimate goal is that all the western states would sign and be able to feed into the rice mill that Lagos state is locating in Imota area of Ikorodu.”
The governors also agreed that Lagos State be formally admitted as a member of the O’dua Investment Group.
A shareholding agreement was also signed between the O’dua Investment Group and the state government.
They also agreed that the states of the region as a bloc would be monitoring the process for the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Concession into a world class infrastructure.
The governors agreed that DAWN Commission should work on reviving Regional Inter-School Football Competition.
They also directed the Commission to conduct a study on the successes in education recorded in Ekiti State for peer learning and adoption among the other states.
The host governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, earlier in his opening remarks, said there was the need for collaboration in tackling social and economic challenges facing the people.
He said that the need to ensure food security in states in the west was critical to Nigeria and across the world.
Ambode said: “The whole essence of food security of Western Nigeria is thus focused on our states maximizing their comparative advantages to guarantee increased food, jobs creation and the welfare of our people.
“I believe strongly that it is in the collective rather than individual action that a greater solution to commonly shared problems can be found.
“Today, we stand on the threshold of history. Our business in government is mainly to provide jobs and security for our people. Our aim is to seek the collective welfare of our people.”
The meeting was attended by Governors Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), Ibikunle Amosun represented by his deputy, Yetunde Onanuga (Ogun), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) and the host, Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos).