By Yusuf Idris Gusau
Away from the daily singsong over bandit activities which has beclouded every stray of light from Zamfara for over a decade, came the message of hope at the Nigeria Business and Investment Forum of the Dubai Expo 2020, which held in the United Arab Emirate’s most burgeoning country, on December 4th, 2021.
And the bearer of such a cheering news is no other person but the Shattiman Sokoto himself, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, the Executive Governor of Zamfara State.
The Dubai Expo is one of the world’s most significant trades and investments exhibitions. The event slated for 2020 was rescheduled to December 4, 2021 due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Recognizing the importance of the exhibition to showcase Nigeria’s trade and investment opportunities, the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment hosted a trade and investment forum, as one of the side events of the exhibition with the theme, “Unveiling Investment Opportunities in Nigeria”.
It was an opportunity for leaders to showcase investment opportunities in their states and countries to the world’s business community and Zamfara’s Bello Mohammed Matawalle gave an account of himself and the state to the admiration of the attendees.
It was an eye opener for investors across the world who hitherto believe that before the unfortunate incursion of banditry into the state, Zamfara was noted for its agriculture potentials which earned it the nickname of “Farming is our Pride”.
Matawalle acknowledged this much in his address at the event when he told the audience that Zamfara alone can feed half of Nigeria’s population and has been the leading producer of agriculture products in Nigeria’s Northwest.
He told the participant that out of the total area of 3,247,366 hectares covered by the State, 2,673,492 hectares are arable land cultivated mainly by small-scale farmers. Major crops grown in the State include food crops such as sorghum, millet, maize and rice, and cash crops like groundnut, cotton, beans, tomatoes, pepper and onions.
Significantly however, it is in sorghum production that Zamfara earned its place as Nigeria’s leading producer and putting the country on the world’s map as of the key exporters. In fact, Nigeria, according to Matawalle, is one of the world’s biggest sorghum producers, accounting for roughly 65-70 percent of overall sorghum production in West Africa. And in Zamfara, large silos of sorghum are constructed in each of the State’s 14 Local Government Areas for storage of the crop.
Matawalle also drew attention to the fact Zamfara among two top producers of groundnuts and
maize as well as the top three producers of cotton. “As a result of our vast agricultural potentials, most of the industries that were operating before the energy crisis and other macro-economic issues that worsened from the 2000s were agro-based,” he noted.
What this means is that with functional agro-based industries and in the country’s quest to seek alternative revenue generation means, Zamfara could rival oil producing states and as one of the highest contributor to the federation account. With such comfortable position, its internal revenue generation (IGR) would have been above the ceiling and source of envy to its peers. The more reson why the federal government must look towards Zamfara in its food sufficiency drive, including its diversification through agriculture polices. In doing so, agro-based industries will spring up, creating more job opportunities which will consequently reduce youth restiveness and prevent their recruitment into violent crimes.
Another agriculture potential apar from crop production, which is consider a money spinner is livestock and poultry subsector. Zamfara, like Matawalle articulated in his message to the Dubai investment forum, is also a leading producer of livestock and poultry. The State’s vast forest reserve which is located between 6°30’ and 7°15’E, and 12°10’ and 13°05’N in the north, provides the enabler for the age-long enterprise to thrive.
The reserve share border with the Niger Republic to the north, Sokoto State to the west and Runka Reserve of Katsina State to the east. Zamfara’s reserve and livestock production has, over several decades, attracted researchers from across the world most of the outcome were published in international schorlarly journals and magazines.
On assuming office and aware of the potentials in the subsector, Matawalle wasted no time in developing a policy framework towards harnessing same. Aside the revenue and job creation possibilities, the governor realised early that the holistic development of the livestock value chain including meat processing, milk production, feeds production which keep herders in one location, will end constant and lingering conflicts between farmers and herders. So before the processes for take off the federal government’s much-talked about National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) as antedote to the farmers/herders clash initiated in 2019, Matawalle has commenced his own RUGA initiative.
Today, Zamfara’s RUGA settlement located on the outskirts of Maradun town, Maradun Local Government Area, has reached 80 per cent completion stage. The settlement, according to the blueprint on the initiative, will be replicated in all the senatorial districts of the state.
The settlement has all the grazing needs of the Fulani pastoralists like schools, clinics, mosques and ranches. It is expected to also provide employment opportunities through meat and milk production with attendant value chain. Already, the federal government is taking interest in the Zamfara’s Ruga initiative, which will expectedly serve as benchmark for such federally funded initiatives in other states.
Beyond agriculture, Zamfara has one of the highest mineral concentrations in Nigeria. These minerals include gold, lead, zinc, copper, iron ore, tin, tantalite, manganese, and gemstones. In fact as Matawalle emphasized in his message at the global event, more than 50% of the 34 minerals catalogued by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel are found within the State.
“The highest percentage of the gold produced by artisan miners in Nigeria is from Zamfara State.
The largest known manganese deposit is located within the State. More than five different locations of high-grade Iron Ore have been identified in the State. The only chromate deposit in Nigeria is found within Zamfara State, in Anka and Talata Mafara Local Governments Areas. Tantalite, Copper, Barite, Wolframite, Cassiterite and many more are available in abundant quantities in the State,” he explained.
This is indicative that Zamfara alone can drive the economy of Nigeria if all its mineral deposits are well harnessed even outside its much celebrated huge gold deposits. But it is in its gold that Zamfara is revered and in it lies its despair.
Matawalle disclosed during the Dubai meet tbat despite the low-level investment into the State’s mining sector, it is estimated that gold mining alone generates $400 million per year. And this is because the gold deposits are mined illegally and it is this illegality that drives rural banditry and violent local conflicts in the State.
Matawalle had repeatedly cried out to the federal government to evolve mechanism towards attracting genuine investors to the industry. Despite the fact that the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 and Minerals and Mining Regulations, 2011 vest control of mineral resources in the federal government, the Zamfara State Government has been ensuring that there is harmony and cordial relations between host communities and mineral exploration companies.
During the December 4 meeting, Matawalle called on investors from Dubai and the rest of the Middle East to come and invest in Zamfara State, where prospects of high dividends are assured. “We have keyed into Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and put in place institutions that will ensure transparency and accountability in both government business and in the private sector,” he noted.
In Matawalle’s resolve therefore, lies the hope that Zamfara will rise from the ashes to become the world’s investment destination with mad rush for its many minerals.