Before the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria, palm plantation was a beehive of activities in the country, especially in the southeast. The palm project was a well-thought-out scheme aimed at sustaining the economy of the region. Evidence shows that under the administration of Dr. Michael Okpara of the defunct Eastern region, the region was envisioned in the early 1970’s to be the hub of palm oil production in the country and beyond.
It is therefore antithetical that with the discovery of oil in Nigeria, this scheme was allowed to die. Various palm plantations in the region have become abandoned, thus creating a lacuna that is too difficult to fill. A mind-boggling question seeking answers is: why various leaders in the region, ranging from both civilian and military governors or administrators (whatever they may be called); local government chairmen, traditional institutions and even individuals chose not to encourage this sector.
The assertion that the discovery of oil in the country is a blessing in disguise is true in this scenario, otherwise how would one explain the fact that not even one leader in the region could make a paradigm shift from the current trajectory of dependence on the federal allocations alone. It is against this backdrop that the turnaround of events following the fall in the global oil price is a welcome development. What looked like a national tsunami has turned out to be a good one because all and sundry in the old southeast region and the nation at large have now woken up to the economic realities of the nation.
Also, the staunch stance of President Muhammadu Buhari on home-grown economy, no matter its challenges, is another good thing that has happened to this country. This has led to a revival of other sectors of the nation’s economy, especially in the agricultural sector. Today, many Nigerians have come to realise that the country is blessed with natural endowment, which is hidden in the massive landmass of the country.
Enugu state, for instance, has almost 6, 600 hectares of palm plantations, located at Aguabosi Ugwuoba in Oji River; Ibite Olo in Ezeagu, and Akiyi Umulokpa in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Areas. Before the sector ran into a cul-de-sac, these palm plantations provided raw materials for the vegetable firm at Nachi, and other agro-processing companies.
A visit to these hitherto thriving plantations shows that they have become shadows of themselves. The exploiting tools, such as tractors, installed gadgets, among others, have been consumed by fire while some of the palms that still produce are at the mercies of animals and locals who harvest them without accounting anything to the state government.
The truth is that Enugu state would have many positives accruing to it if it revives these plantations. Palm trees are nature’s gift to mankind as virtually every aspect of a palm tree has a positive impact on mankind. Ranging from palm kernels, leaves, to the stems, the state’s internally-generated revenue would be boosted if this sector returns to life. This also calls on local government authorities and individuals to venture into palm plantations to boost standards of living and create jobs.
The importance of this sector could be viewed with a recent statement by the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, that Nigerian imported palm oil from Indonesia to the tune of over N16bn in 2018 alone.