By: Sule Sani, Habu Ardo JP
There is no way the transformational agenda and industrialization history of Taraba State will be written without the name of Darius Dickson Ishaku boldly inscribed in gold. In just four years at the helm of affairs of the state, Governor Ishaku has come to symbolise industry, enterprise, resourcefulness, and ingenuity.
The remarkable transformation of the state from a hitherto civil service state to an emerging industrial hub is a testament to this administration’s resolve and determination to leave a positive footprint in the sands of time.
On assuming office in May 29, 2015, the Governor made a promise to make his administration a gift to the citizens of the state by opening up the state to industrial growth and development, expand the economic activities within the state and create an enabling environment for investors to troop in and discover the hidden potentials the state has to offer to the outside world.
Five years down the line, people have witnessed the manifestation of this promises in different forms. It’s only safe to say that from all indications, the DDI led administration has lived up to and even surpassed all expectations.
Agriculture is a leading sector of the economy of Nigeria and of the different states in the country. Agriculture supports over 75% of the population of Taraba State. In the rural areas, the economy is agro-based. Taraba State is a hub for various agricultural products such as palm oil, cassava, yam, maize, rice, cocoa, and different types of livestock for meat production.
The current administration came into power in a year where a majority of Nigerians experienced food shortages due to a multiplicity of factors ranging from a bad harvest year, Farmers/herders crisis and a dwindling purchasing power occasioned by the depreciating value of the Naira.
Being a proactive government, the DDI administration quickly swung into action and declared a state of emergency in the agricultural sector. It saw the need to boost agricultural output to provide enough food for the teeming population of its citizenry and even for export. This led to an agricultural revolution across the state, a revolution that today has led to a significant improvement in food supply across the state.
Today, the state now boasts of the production of tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, cabbage, hot and sweet pepper, cocoa and other cash crops for export to buyers from Abuja, Lagos and Porthacourt. Also, with the Palm Oil Mills located in Baissa, the state is now poised to revolutionise the production and export of palm oil to other parts of Nigeria and the west Africa coast.
The Highland Tea Company Kakara located at Gembu, Sardauna LGA of the state now export it products to Germany, France and other nations of the world.
To also diversify the economy of the state to wean Nigeria from reliance on oil, the Taraba State government had so far registered twelve thousand 12,000 rice farmers in the state who are producing rice for local consumption and sales to other parts of Nigeria and the West African Coast.
The state is also boosting its comparative advantage in growing cassava with the cultivation of over 5000 hectares of cassava plantation in 6 local government areas out of 16 LGAs.
Governor Ishaku have also put in place seed multiplication scheme providing free cassava stems to farmers in the three senatorial districts of the state, as well as planning to establish three cassava processing plants in the three senatorial districts with the view of improving and adding value to cassava production.
Governor Ishaku had also distributed over twenty million stems of improve cassava variety across the state.
This gesture has helped greatly in boosting cassava farming in the state and also motivated many farmers to join cassava business; in addition, it also fetched Taraba State a letter of commendation from the National body of Cassava Farmers of Nigeria.
The Ishaku’s administration had among other skills trained youths in new methods of planting cocoa and other extension services to cocoa farmers in the state.
It had further established a cocoa grading center in Takum LGA with a view to train farmers and youths on pruning/shade management, under brushing, and tree care by fumigation, to ensure the improvement of cocoa seedlings yield in the state.
The present administration has undertaken the zoning and mapping of the cocoa-producing communities in the state, and sensitization of cocoa farmers in the 5 cocoa producing local government areas in the state.
Other achievements in the agricultural sector includes:
•The re-introduction of the second planting season for enhanced food production and sufficiency
•reviving and upgrading cassava processing plant in the state.
•Reviving the Viva Feedmills Zing
• Extension of technical advisory services to Farmers in the State, as well as the cultivation of hub cassava under the IITA Financing Programme.
Currently, the state can boast of an enhanced food production capacity to feed its people and also for export. With all the investments in agriculture, Taraba is poised to become the food basket of the North-Eastern region and a major food hub in Nigeria, all thanks to the wonderful initiatives and Industrialization drive of the Darius Ishaku’s-led administration.
However, on the education sector, Ishaku’s administration had also recorded numerous successes which include the recruitment of three thousand rescue teachers among others.
Meanwhile in an effort to ensure the provision of potable water supply to the people of the state, the governor recently assented to the state Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Bill as passed by the Taraba state House of Assembly in December last year (2019).
As a result, a leading Non-Governmental Organization on social accountability in Africa, Connected Development (CODE) in a chat with journalists in Jalingo, commended both the legislature and executive arms for the acceleration of passing the bill into law even before the stipulated period.
The commendation was made by the Chief Executive of CODE, Hamzat Lawal, adding that the Taraba state government and House of Assembly has proven itself as the people’s parliament by rebuilding residents’ trust in government institution to deliver on improved public’s services.
Recall that CODE, with the support of the USAID Effective Water Sanitation and Hygiene (E-WASH) Services Program, had engaged with the Taraba policy makers in November, urging that they erase bottlenecks and accelerate the processes for ensuring the WASH bill was signed into Law. The legislators had vowed to present the bill to the Governor before the new year and see through to ensure it was assented, a promise kept.
Lawal added that assenting to the bill shows the readiness of the state to provide access to adequate safe water and basic sanitation that will promote the health, dignity, economic well-being and improved livelihood for residents. “Now that the bill has been passed to law, we hope to see the commitment of relevant agencies such as the state Ministry of Water Resources, and the Taraba Water and Sewerage Corporation (TAWASCO), towards implementation.”
While we commend Governor Darius Ishaka, who once won Water Man of the year, for this great milestone, we urge that he expedites action on his promise of enhanced water rights for all residents. It is important for us to intensify civic advocacy and hold the state government accountable in its responsibility to implement the state WASH policies as stated in the law.
The WASH law positions Taraba State on the path to harnessing investments that will meet the WASH needs of the people. Although, there are thorny issues that the Law seeks to address, the adoption of best practices on potable water and sanitation that meets the needs of Taraba residents tops the list, CODE stated.
CODE’s Lead on the USAID-EWASH project, Ijeoma Oforka, commended the State Community-Based Organisations, State Media Organizations, the WASH Customer Forums and other WASH groups in Taraba State for pressuring the government and holding them accountable for its promise to the people. This shows the power of a collective voice to accelerate social change, she added.
Before the WASH law, the State had been making intentional efforts to address sanitation issues, especially in urban areas. CODE urges Delta and Niger, where the civil society is also advocating for improved urban WASH services, to tow this path to minimise the effect of WASH issues on public health. Delta and Niger States must fast-track actions on implementing policies that will ensure the consistent provision of clean and safe water and improve sanitation facilities for its residents, Oforka added.
CODE had initially begun a countdown on social media to the assent of the bill, now it plans to track the implementation of the WASH Law in Taraba. According to it, the long-term impact of a structured WASH system is the eradication of open defecation, the provision of WASH facilities in schools and strategic public spaces, the reduction of water-borne diseases, among other remarkable effects.