FG losing money at Azare-Jere irrigation project

The Federal Government is losing its investment at the multibillion naira Azare-Jere (Gurara) irrigation project. The 6,000-hectare project appears to be going down and government’s attempt to concession 1,000 hectares for commercial farming has not fully taken off. The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission has listed the project for public-private-partnership opportunities for the 2016/2017 season.

The concession was for the “operations and maintenance of about 1000Ha irrigation infrastructure for commercial agriculture at Gurara 1 Dam, Azare-Jere, Kaduna State to lease the irrigation facilities built by the Federal Government to private investors for optimal use. SUN 00:00 Previous PauseNext 00:11 / 03:00 Unmute Fullscreen Copy video url Play / Pause Mute / Unmute Report a problem Language Mox Player The cost of the 1000 hectare was put at N2.1billion. The multibillion naira project has not been able to achieve its success and many farmers who initially went to cultivation have abandoned the site because of many issues. One of such issues is theft of some of the components of the motorised centre pivot system. Secondly, the cost of maintaining the soil fertility for good yield is huge because most of the topsoil which contains rich nutrients for plant growth was scraped off, leaving the red soil making many farmers spend more to remain in production. A visit to the site shows how pathetic the project has become.

The road leading to the project site is now in a bad shape while most of the motorised pivots are no longer functional. The security personnel who keep eyes on the facilities are now seriously hungry as they have not been paid for months, and this is taking a toll on their morale. “I have not been paid my January, February and November salaries; I can’t even buy food,” an elderly security man at Road 54 said in a sympathetic mood, adding, “My salary is just N15,000, yet they will owe for months.” Sources at the farm site told the reporter that the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, which owns the project, had ordered farmers to stop cultivation because it planned to hand over the project to a private company that would manage it better. One of the seed-producing companies at the site, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered, has already stopped production due to operational reasons. Other sources said the farmers were unwilling to pay the ministry their dues, a situation that forced the management to shut down water supply; hence some farmers have been affected as their crops wither.

The project (hydro-power plant and pilot irrigation farming) was awarded in 2007 at the cost of N38.5 billion. It was designed to serve both smallholder and large-scale farmers. Two companies handled the construction of the project – SCC Nigeria Limited worked on 4,000 hectares while Salini Nigeria Limited developed the 2,000 hectares. A competent source at the Federal Ministry of Water Resources said that most farmers operating at the site had not been paid their wages, a development that has been making smooth operation difficult. The source also said that part of the irrigation site would be handled by a private investor for optimal performance, adding that the arrangement would soon take off.


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