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‘LNRBDA constructs dams to provide food security in Nigeria’ – MD

LNRBDA constructs dams to provide food security in Nigeria’ – MD

The managing director of Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA), Dr. Adeniyi Saheed Aremu, in this interview revealed how the Authority has been in the forefront of providing food and water through a meticulous implementation of its statutory mandates.

Can we get to know you?

I am Dr. Adeniyi Saheed Aremu, the Managing Director of Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA).

What are your Areas of Coverage?

Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority (LNRBDA) is one of the 12 River Basin Development Authorities in Nigeria. LNRBDA covers the entire geographical spread of Kwara State and two-thirds of Kogi State; that is Kogi Central and Kogi West Senatorial districts. The Authority has a total of five Area offices domiciled in Ilorin, Shonga, Omu-Aran, Ejiba and Lokoja.

Sir, in order to avoid misconception, kindly enumerate the functions of the RBDAs

The functions of RBDAs as enshrined in the Act that established the RBDAs include:

(a) To undertake comprehensive development of both surface and underground water resources for multipurpose use with particular emphasis on the provision of irrigation infrastructure and the control of floods and erosion and for water- shed management;

(b) To construct, operate and maintain dams, dykes, polders, wells, boreholes, irrigation and drainage systems, and other works necessary for the achievement of the Authority’s functions and hand over all lands to be cultivated under the irrigation scheme to the farmers;

(c) To supply water from the Authority’s completed storage schemes to all users for a fee to be determined by the Authority;

(d) To construct, operate and maintain infrastructural services such as roads and bridges linking project sites: provided that such infrastructural services are included and form an integral part of the list of approved projects;

(e) To develop and keep up-to-date, a comprehensive water resources master plan identifying all water resources requirements in the Authority’s area of operation, through adequate collection and collation of water resources, water use, socio-economic and environmental data of the River Basin.

(f) The Authority also executes other projects as contained in the yearly budget of the Authority as approved by Mr. President.

Food security is one of the major challenges facing Nigerians. What roles have your Authority played in terms of ensuring food sufficiency in the nation?

In order to ensure all year food production, the Authority constructed a number of Dams to provide water for irrigation during the dry season and between 2017 and 2021, 15 new irrigation schemes were established both in Kogi and Kwara States while the existing schemes were rehabilitated. In line with the Authority’s mandate and as contained in Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (ERGP) of Mr. President, the Authority has opened up over 1800 irrigable lands within its area of coverage for different agricultural purposes.

The Authority has been able to deliver one of its key services by the development of irrigated agriculture through the acquisition of more arable land and subsequent release to individuals, groups and corporate farmers. For instance, 500 hectares of farmland was purchased from customary land owners along Malete – Alapa road through the Kwara State Government for farming activities. The project when fully implemented is expected to open up the area for accelerated development, provide jobs and boost food sufficiency in Kwara State.  Equally, the Authority signed MOU with Kogi State Government and released over 5,000 hectares of its farmland to the State Government. Specifically at Ejiba Area Office in Kogi State, the partnership with the State Government yielded about 7,170 tons  of paddy rice from several farmers. The Authority has extended various gestures to her rice farmers in various parts of Kwara State with positive results as Kwara State Rice Farmers Association assumed the second largest producer of rice in the just concluded Rice Pyramid in Abuja.

Transportation of food has been one of the factors responsible for food shortage in the country, hence, the Authority constructed a number of access roads in both urban and rural settlements. Some of these roads in the rural areas link the farm sites to the towns to help farmers convey their produce to the nearest markets to prevent post-harvest losses thereby improving the livelihood of the farmers and ensuring food sufficiency.

The Authority in 2017 also established a greenhouse for production of assorted vegetables under a controlled environment. A herd of cattle is being raised for fattening and dairies.

As contained in your mandate, how has LNRBDA fared in ensuring access to clean and safe water

In line with the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 6) and the Authority’s mandate of providing access to clean and safe water, over 700 different kinds of boreholes have been drilled to date, while some were rehabilitated. Also, a total of 35 Mini Water Works have been constructed across the five senatorial districts covered by the Authority between 2017 and 2021. The Authority also rehabilitated and upgraded some water works.

One of the policy thrusts of the Hon. Minister of Water Resources Engr. Suleiman Adamu is to Revitalize the RBDAs. How far has LNRBDA gone?

When the Management came on Board in 2017, the Authority did Needs Assessment as a strategy to kick start the revitalization drive. In restoring the mandate, the Authority built institutional capacity, maximized operation and input, and created job opportunities through irrigation farming and aquaculture.

In terms of institutional capacity, the Authority has given the headquarters and residential estate a face lift. The Engineering complex, main store, mechanical workshop were extensively renovated and given a new outlook. The old conventional library was also upgraded to e-library and books which cut across all fields of human endeavors were purchased. Also free access to internet service was provided for the staff within the Authority’s Headquarters. Recreational facilities were equally rehabilitated for staff welfare.

The Management of LNRBDA understands the importance of capacity building in ensuring better service delivery by members of staff and other keys stakeholders of the Authority. More than 300 members of staff have been trained between 2017 and 2021 across various Departments, Units and cadres. Also, stakeholders in the Water Users Association were trained in line with the current trends of irrigation management, climate change and water-shed management.

As part of the Authority’s drive to automate some of its activities for better effectiveness, it has procured a drone for farmland mapping, land acquisition survey and survey of project design and construction. The Authority also purchased an unmanned Surface Vessel (Apache 5) for underwater survey, monitoring, data collation and analysis. Also, the Authority purchased an industrial drilling rig and Back Hoe Mini Excavator with a view to boost its revenue generation.  Farminputs such as: pesticides, herbicides, improved seeds, MPK fertilizer, and acquisition of new tractors (including their implements) were handed over to all Area Offices to ease and stimulate increased farming activities.

Nigeria has a large number of unemployed youth and vast agricultural land is faced with unavailability staple crops, hence, the Honourable Minister directed the RBDAs to embark on training of youth in various aspects of agriculture. Over sixty (60) youth have been trained in agribusiness, value addition, and livestock production. Starter packs were also given to them to be gainfully employed. These exclude yearly training of selected participants on agribusiness.

How has LNRBDA fared in terms of Agriculture extension and modern farming practices?

The Authority has made concerted efforts towards achieving integrated farming system, especially incorporating the Songhai Model. The Authority, in the 2019 Fiscal Year, awarded the contract for the establishment of Songhai Model Farm Centre in the Authority. The Integrated farm incorporates the principle of Circular Economy whereby raising livestock, fish production and crops as well as on-sites processing are fused together in a natural environment. The project has provided direct job for twenty people and indirect for many retailers and wholesalers.

Your Area Offices are considered the major hubs of operation, in what ways have you made efforts to improve on what you met when took over leadership?

As part of efforts to have evenly distribution of resources to the grassroot, another area office was created in Omu-Aran, Kwara South senatorial district. One of the major innovations was to create individual budget heads dedicated to each of these area offices as against a single budget line for all the area offices. We have procured at least 2 new tractors with full implements for each of the Area Offices to boost their internally generated revenue drive of the Federal Government. We have spent over N500m on all the area offices since I took over as Managing Director.

Construction of rice mill building with installation of milling machine in some area offices, clearing of over 1800Ha of land in all the area offices, rehabilitation of residential building in some area offices were carried out, construction of perimeter fencing in some area offices were done, and development of Aquaculture and maintenance of existing canals to boost irrigation farming in commercial quantities.


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