The gigantic Greenhouse situated at the premises of Taraba state University Jalingo, was established by the Darius Ishaku government at the cost of almost N2 billion. It is reputed to be first if its kind in the North-East and sits on a large expanse of land. It was contracted to an Israeli company, who hired staff from within and outside Taraba to produce high grade vegetables like cucumber, pepper and tomatoes.
The produce from the greenhouse are sold to end markets in Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja, Yola as well as Jalingo, under the trade name- Taraba Vegetables Limited
Some Tarabans, have however expressed their concern over the economic viability or necessity of a greenhouse, considering the huge capital outlay of the project. Some believe the money could have been invested in empowering farmers in the State, which has huge potentials in agriculture.
But Gov. Ishaku’s resilience and political will towards ensuring the success of the project, had put the controversy to rest for some time. He ensured the release of funds with timely supervision of the project each time he was available. As a matter of fact, in 2017, the greenhouse was privileged to host the President, represented by then acting President, Yomi Osinbanjo, who came to commission it . The Vice President, during the visit commended the Ishaku government for initiating such a project. “I think that what we have seen in Taraba and the young people working here, it can only tell us one thing, that we haven’t started yet. When the world sees us technology wise, no one will believe that it is the same Nigeria. This country is surely on the path to greatness and I am completely convinced that we will thread that path,’’ Osinbanjo assured.
However, of recent there were concerns about the current state of the farm.
The presence of numerous selling outlets and hawkers within Jalingo, who throng the nooks and crannies of the city selling the produce is evidence to the fact that something is really happening there and the company hasn’t collapsed as erroneously thought. Besides, the daily transportation of the produce by air to various parts of the country which generates income to the State is what most Tarabans have not come to terms with.
Meanwhile, our correspondent was at the greenhouse project to ascertain the true situation at this technological masterpiece. It was however observed that skeletal activities were going on with a few staff around. A tractor was seen hauling vegetables to the main entrance where a few marketers and traders were waiting to receive them for onward transportation to the market.
According to the General Manager, Taraba Vegetables Limited (operators of the Greenhouse) the company was about to innovate by changing from the use of soil to grow crops to the soil-less method where compost manure would be used to grow better crop variety. He assured that once the innovation was completed, the farm would experience boom and activities would pick up to full capacity once again, which would be to the advantage of the State.
He revealed that the Taraba Vegetables Limited employs a total of 871 staff, consisting of 111 direct staff and 760 indirect staff, who are paid from the company’s purse. According to officials of the company, produce from the farm are transported by air to retail outlets in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt before the lockdown, which then generates a lot of revenue for the State and provide direct and indirect employment to Tarabans. They also disclosed that plans were on the way to export the produce abroad when the necessary official procedures were concluded.
He said vegetables produced at the farm were of very high quality of which seeds were imported. He stated that Gov. Ishaku has been highly commended outside of Taraba for the high quality vegetables and the prospects the project has in boosting modern agriculture, capacity building and creating employment for Tarabans.
Interestingly, many Tarabans may not be aware that Taraba Vegetables Limited is a subsidiary of the Taraba Investment and Property Company (TRIP). That guarantees its indigenous status and erases any controversy over its ownership.
The Group Managing Director of the Taraba Investment and Property Company (TRIP), Iliya Ezekiel, (an investment banker and a full-blooded Taraban), stated that Gov Ishaku meant well for the State and that the project was not a waste but a viable project that could bring about economic development to the State.
According to Ezekiel, Taraba Vegetables Ltd. is one of the companies under the Taraba Investment and Properties Ltd and that prior to the coming of Gov Ishaku, all the State owned companies were moribund and non-functional.
An official document he tendered to this writer showed a total of 10 companies which were formerly moribund but now fully revived.
They include: Taraba Investment and Properties Ltd, Mambilla Beverages Nig. Limited , Taraba Vegetables Limited , Taraba Gas Limited , Viva Feed Mill Ltd, TRIP Poly Products Ltd, Taraba Savings and Loans Ltd, Taraba Micro Finance Bank Nig. Ltd, Taraba Oil Mills Ltd and Taraba Hotels Ltd. All the above companies have a combined workforce of 6775 staff consisting of 2975 direct staff and 3822 indirect staff and all these successes were attributed to the transformation brought about by the Darius Ishaku government.
He added that Taraba Vegetables Ltd has the objective of boosting internally generated revenues and that its establishment had put the four factors of production- labour, capital, land and entrepreneurship, to good use.
Against this backdrop, it was not difficult to quantify the level of economic development the State has attained with the revival of these economic ventures. But then it seems that “outsiders” appreciate the works of Gov Ishaku most and the reason is not far-fetched.
For one, there is a big vacuum in the information space; in other words, the people are not well informed of the laudable projects of the governor.