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Home Entrepreneurship Turning Lagos-Kano-Jibiya (LAKAJI) Rail Route Into Viable Agricultural Hub
Turning Lagos-Kano-Jibiya (LAKAJI) Rail Route Into Viable Agricultural Hub

Turning Lagos-Kano-Jibiya (LAKAJI) Rail Route Into Viable Agricultural Hub

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The Lagos-Kano-Jibiya (LAKAJI) corridor is a 1,225-kilometre route that runs from Lagos through Kano,  ending in Jibiya at the border with Niger Republic. It is a major conduit for food supply from the North to the South. But farmers are finding it difficult to transport food across the region. It has become imperative to tackle the problem as Nigeria is set to play a major role in addressing Africa’s food security issues.  DANIEL ESSIET reports.

The Lagos-Kano-JIbiya (LAKAJI) corridor is a 1,225-kilometre transport route.  It is a broad swathe of territory beginning from the Lagos port and terminating at the Republic of Niger border of Jibiya in Katsina State.

The area  covers Jigawa,Katsina, Kano, Kaduna, Kwara, Niger, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Kogi, Kaduna, Kano and Katsina states as well as the Jibiya route. It has  arable land, special economic zones designed to promote agribusiness, major water retention and irrigation schemes and large grain storage facilities.

Offering rice, sugar cane, maize, cassava, poultry, fish, cattle and dairy, cocoa, cashews, sustainable seafood, sesame seed and  shea and shea butter and lots more, the region is one of those untapped agricultural destinations. Production and processing centres along the corridor also benefit from proximity to dense urban population centers that provide end markets for domestic goods.

So far, the corridor is said to be Nigeria’s busiest transport corridor facilitating the movement of 30 million tonnes of goods per year valued at more than $6 billion and accounting for 36 per cent of the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP).This is because  it is  a major conduit for food supplies from the North to the South. It is also a vital channel for food supplies to neighbouring countries in Niger, Chad, Cameroon ,Benin.  Experts agreed the area has the potential to stimulate investment in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, linking the largest consumer market in West Africa (Lagos) with some of the highest potential agricultural zones in the region. Leveraging on the potential of the region, according to them,  offers untold benefits for the nation and, ultimately, the continent.  Interestingly, the fundamentals are all in place for the area to act as an agriculture hub.

Speaking on this, the National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu urged the Federal Government to pay more attention to the LAKAJI corridor to ease trade. This, he said would be possible through the provision of basic infrastructure that will ease production and transportation of agricultural produce. Tinubu, who spoke at the just  concluded  Katsina State Economic and Investment Summit, said LAKAJI is an acronym for Lagos–Kano-Jibia corridor.

Represented by a former Lagos State Commissioner of Finance and Executive Director at First Bank, Mr. Tokunbo Abiru, Tinubu said a strategic approach must be adopted where the upper north has the capacity for agricultural production that should be based on strength.

He maintained that the LAKAJI corridor, with 10 states on its routes, needs concerted efforts based on individual strength, where those who have the capacity to produce can complement storage capacity to add value to the system, especially in the case of the movement of goods to Lagos where consumption is high.

The former governor expressed concern over challenges confronting the LAKAJI corridor, saying storage and other production processes to the end consumers calls for improvement.

To stakeholders, the  corridor ’s huge agricultural potential holds the promise, but is hampered by lack of infrastructure. Among the factors limiting the realisation of the corridor’s potential are major infrastructure deficiencies, particularly the poor condition of secondary roads. This has led to  congestion and delays at ports and checkpoints. A   study  conducted by the  United States  Agency for International Development’s Nigeria Expanded Trade and Transport (NEXTT) project, CARANA Corporation and its implementing partners on movement of  goods along the LAKAJI Corridor confirmed  the  situation.

The CARANA team found that the main drivers of the inflated time and cost of transport along the corridor were delays and inefficiencies.  Their concern was also  lack of a clear vision of corridor development and a range of enabling environmental constraints, such as limited access to finance, they said have stifled both private and public investment.

Confirming this also, the Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Kebbi , Alhaji Sahabi Augie said the state of the roads along the axis is challenging.

He    complained that   poor transportation infrastructure has led to increased food waste and higher prices for consumers.

He noted that improvement of the corridor would greatly boost transportation of farm produce, adding  that the government needed to improve roads in selected areas across the country in order to boost agricultural marketing and household incomes.

This, according to him, would open up commercial opportunities and services that make farming a more profitable livelihood for rural inhabitants and an important means of addressing food insecurity.

As the Corridor winds its way north, it crosses eight States – Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Niger, Kaduna, Kano and Katsina, and road conditions vary in each section. This reflects systemic issues in the national logistics system that need to be resolved by long-term investment in new infrastructure.

Attempts to overcome these myriad of obstacles, the Agriculture Team Lead, Feed Nigeria Live, Mr Dayo Ogundijo, noted ,requires focus on the creation of local transportation and distribution corridor across the region.

With the construction of rural feeder roads, Ogundijo said farmers would be able to access markets to sell their produce hence improved livelihoods and incomes.

While feeder roads are critical factors to raising agriculture production, Ogundijo wants the government to expand railways connection across the corridor to enhance all season connectivity to agricultural market centres.

Several stakeholders within the region have tried to raise agricultural productivity and attract investments to create an efficient and well-functioning agricultural chain.

For  instance, to  start new agribusiness investment, CARANA Corporation and its implementing partners conducted an initial assessment of the corridor designed to review the agricultural logistics services, infrastructure inefficiencies, and investment needs along the corridor, as well as develop an investment blueprint, or profiles of high-priority, investable opportunities that are commercially viable along the corridor to improve the flow of goods.

The LAKAJI Agricultural Growth Corridor Assessment identified a set of promising opportunities for investment in improved infrastructure and services for agriculture along the corridor.

Particular attention was paid to the location of complementary initiatives, including those financed by donors and by state and Federal Ministries of Agriculture, such as the Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZs).

The report identified an initial set of 33 commercially viable and relevant agribusiness investment opportunities throughout the eight states visited, separated by state and the following investment categories: inputs, production, processing, manufacturing, warehousing and infrastructure, and information communication technologies (ICT).

Value chains identified in the investments include: cotton, sesame, soybean, maize, rice, sorghum, inputs (seeds and fertilizer), transport and logistics (cold storage facilities, trucks and tractor manufacturing), vegetable oil, vegetables (tomato, cucumber, peppers, onions), shea, cashew, honey, spices, fruits (TBD), cassava, cocoa, fish, poultry, and ICT infrastructure.

To promote investment across the region, the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) has revealed plans to set up a special development fund called the Investment Facilitation Funds (IFF). The proposed fund, when launched, will be accessible for preparatory stages of investment for business expansion or green field projects across the entire nation.    The Coordinator of Invest in LAKAJI Corridor with the NIPC, Mallam Aminu Takuma made this known at Investment Facilitation Workshop for Northern LAKAJI Corridor States which was organised by NIPC and United States Agency for International Development (USAID/Nigeria), in Kaduna State.

(Culled From The Nation)

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