Governor Mohammed Umar Bago of Niger State has explained why his state cannot remain in the comity of poor states in the country.
Speaking at a dinner for members of the House of Representatives Press Corps held in Minna, he remarked that he has been able to put in place measures aimed at repositioning the state for sustainable growth and development.
The governor, who served as a three-term member of the lower legislative chamber, assured that under his leadership, the resources would be adequately harnessed for the benefit of the citizenry in the state.
He disclosed that the state government will soon sign a memorandum of understanding with a rice mill factory in Kano State for the direct purchase of Paddy Rice produced in the state as part of measures to achieve the goal.
Justifying his position, he noted: “Niger State is the largest in terms of land mass in Nigeria, with about 76, 300 square kilometers of arable land. Niger State also has four Hydropower dams. That is Kianji, Jeba, Shiroro and Zungeru. We have the only white sand beach in West Africa, the Shagunu beach.
“There is also Zuma rock and a lot more that people don’t know. I have come here today to tell you that with this partnership we are establishing, we need to spread the gospel. Let people understand where we stand. What people understand about Niger State is the issue of insecurity and insurgency.
“Yes, we cannot shy away from insecurity, it is a reality, but what percentage of our land is in that mess? Very insignificant. You cannot underscore the fact that lives are being lost, but we are working assiduously to make sure that everybody lives well in Niger State and in Nigeria at large.
“We are very ambitious as a government. We have already purchased about 200 CNG buses to commute for free students going to school and subsidized civil servants in Niger State. 100 of the buses will commute to Abuja and Suleja daily, while 50 will be in Minna and others will be spread between Kontangora and Bida.
“Secondly, we have awarded contracts for the construction of about 566km of the roads and we have started with groundbreaking. It is unprecedented in this state, we are so ambitious and by the grace of God, we will be there.”
On the MOU on rice production, he said despite Niger being rated as a leading producer of paddy rice in the country, the rice mills in the state were nothing to write home about.
He said “I went for Peer review yesterday in Kano because Niger state is the largest producer of paddy rice in Nigeria but our rice mills are nothing to write home about. I heard of the largest rice mill in Africa situated in Kano and I went for Peer review and it is something that is massive.
“So how do we take comparative advantage of that? We will first aggregate this paddy and trade it off to these people instead of them coming here to carry it for almost free and our people are losing.
“We want to empower our local farmers with improved seedlings and inputs so that they can produce more tonnage and also make more money. We are going to have an MOU between Niger State Development Company and Gerawa rice mill for offtake of all rice paddy that we can control so that we are sure that our farmers don’t lose”, he said.
On the two-day Green Economy Summit being hosted by the State government, he said the summit will provide an opportunity for the state to harness its potential.
While saying that Nigeria was yet to explore the full benefits of a green economy, he said
Niger State has the largest congregation of shea trees in the world which has not been explored.
He said: “We are holding the first of its kind green economy summit because we have seen the comparative advantage we have in this state. So much money is out there and the only way we can access carbon credits is when we first aggregate our forests and trade them in exchange for the emission by multi-national companies.
“Niger State has the largest congregation of shea trees in the world It is an endowment by God. These things nobody knows about are there but our women are on the farms, cutting them down to make firewood. We, however, need them to understand that we must protect our forests from deforestation and also promote afforestation.
“We have two major Rivers. One, on the left side, River Niger, and one to the right side, River Kaduna. Niger is the only state with this endowment. You can navigate from Baro until you get to the Atlantic.
“So Niger state is not supposed to be poor. Now we have been given the opportunity to write history but we don’t want to write it alone.”
Chairperson of the House of Representatives Press Corps, Grace Ike who conferred the Governor the award of the most innovative governor on security in the country applauded him for his efforts at improving the economy of the state.