OER Farms Limited and University of Ilorin (UNILORIN have signed a 21-year land lease agreement to develop a 10,000-hectare mechanised agricultural project.
OER Farms Limited is a subsidiary of Oriental Energy Resources Limited, one of the nation’s foremost oil exploration companies.
Speaking at the signing of the agreement, Managing Director, OER Farms, Ibrahim Indimi, said the farms when it finally come on stream would be managed in line with best industry practice to increase productivity within the sector.
He noted that the agreement follows a memorandum of understanding signed by both parties on 4th September 2019 and underscores the Federal Government’s progress towards food security nationwide.
He said improved crop varieties with high yielding cash crops such as maize; soya beans and cashew are proposed for this project.
He added that the collaboration would add value to Unilorin’s Faculty of Agriculture by supporting research and exposing students of the institution to best industry practice in agriculture.
“Furthermore, the hands-on farm management experience will encourage graduates to develop entrepreneurial skills, which will further reduce youth unemployment. The project is also expected to positively impact local farmers,” he said.
He noted that Oriental Group has a track record of contributing to sustainable development in Nigeria by promoting equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities.
He revealed that another subsidiary, Oriental Energy Resources Limited (OERL), had earlier supported the University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State by upgrading facilities to enable the university to renew its accreditation of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Departments.
“OERL provided funding for a 5-year supply of contemporary academic books and laboratory consumables among others.
“Similar enhancement of education facilities and learning environment is ongoing at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, where a Centre for Distance Learning is being constructed by the Muhammadu Indimi Foundation,” he said.
Also speaking at the agreement signing ceremony in Maiduguri on Thursday, Founder of Oriental Group, the parent company of the agribusiness firm, Dr Muhammadu Indimi, remarked that the initiative, which is a vision of close to half a decade, speaks to his commitment to support macroeconomic growth through sustainable development opportunities for all.
He said the project is also designed to develop the capacity of the University of Ilorin in agricultural research, improve farm practice, develop young agripreneurs who will give farming a different perspective, promote local Inclusion and enhance economic viability in catchment areas.
“The average yield for a crop like maize by Nigerian farmers is about four tonnes per hectare, while yields are up to eight tonnes per hectare in the world’s most agriculturally advanced nations. We are curious about that gap and our aim is to close it by exposing local farmers and students to best industry practices as well as providing much-needed support over the next 21 years.
“Nigeria can achieve better results and own a robust, thriving agriculture sector with vast export value. We are happy to play our modest role in joining President Muhammadu Buhari on the national food security journey.”
Also speaking after the Agreement signing ceremony, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Sulyman Age Abdulkareem, thanked God for linking the University with the Oriental Group Founder.
“My vision when I was being interviewed for the position of the Vice-Chancellor was to find investors who can make use of the mass of land the University is endowed with but which has been lying fallow for years,” Prof. Abdulkareem said.
The Vice-Chancellor thanked God and the Chairman of the University’s Governing Council, Dr. Abdullah Jibril Oyekan, who located the Oriental Group Chairman for the actualization of his vision.
Prof. Abdulkareem then appealed for the fast-tracking of the execution of the project to enable him and the Council Chairman see the fruit of the venture “before our tenures end in two-and-a-half years and one-and-a-half years respectively”.
On his part, the Council Chairman, Dr. Oyekan thanked Dr. Indimi for accepting to associate with the University.
Pointing out that “the association we are cementing today is divine”, Dr. Oyekan recalled that when he became the Chairman of the University’s Council, he was worried about how he could make impact by getting investors that could assist the University’s growth.
The Council Chairman said, “I was watching television one day, when I saw Alhaji Indimi, an old time friend, with whom I had lost contact for many years”, adding that, “hearing on the news that he had just donated more than 200 units of houses to IDP encouraged me to locate him for the help that is materialising today.”
OER Farms Limited said the next phase of the project development would commence in the first quarter of 2020, with site detailing, soil and hydrology tests as well as obtaining a ten-year historical meteorological data. The information will determine crop options and farming techniques.
It also said it is the goal of both parties that the project will be of value to all beneficiaries, contribute to significant transformation of Nigeria’s agricultural sector, improve crop yield, reduce crop vulnerability as well as increase local and export market potentials.