Most Nigerians of the present era seem to know nothing other than a crude oil economy with Nigeria fetching almost two million barrels per day, plus plenty gas and petrochemicals. Yet, those who have inner details say the resurging oil palm economy is going to be far bigger than crude oil and the body coordinating it would be richer than the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The NNPC is where every graduate wants to end up, a development that would announce him/her to have arrived. This is because, millions of naira would start rolling in, big cars and houses would be his portion. Wealth from opportunities would follow.
Oil palm is not new in the economy. It was a big deal in the early part of the 20th century in Nigeria but the hydrocarbon industry swept it off. By that time, Malaysia had borrowed some to go home and try. Today, that country is rolling in wealth because of the huge income and endless resources spilling from oil palm. Nigeria is biting its fingers as crude oil recedes and “fuelless cars” beam their beastly lights on.
Now, the body of palm oil producers in Nigeria now being expanded and structured to play international roles can grow bigger and richer than the NNPC, so predicted the president of the Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), Joe Onyiuke. He said the resources possible in oil palm economy can create a pool of funds bigger than whatever the NNPC can do.
Onyiuke, a lawyer, made the revelation in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when he addressed OPGAM members on the need to move the oil palm economy to a global level with the sole aim of ending the importation of the produce. The president revealed the strategy, saying the first phase is to mobilise and register all farmers around Nigeria and build a strong and well-structured national cooperative body that would have millions of members in clusters of 80km radius each.
The body would own the latest technology in milling known as automated mills that can handle every aspect of milling and deliver world-class quality palm oil and other products. He said members would own shares in the organisation which they can transfer to their children and grandchildren. He further revealed that importers are now rushing to buy up locally produced stocks because of the absence of foreign exchange (forex) to finance new imports.
He said palm oil producers would stop begging for funds and loans every year. “We can build up funds and create wealth. We must structure the organisation like in Malaysia. He also declared the preparedness of the oil palm growers to play big in Africa as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) regime dawns on Africa. “Our farmers will create power base in their plantations and make them their offices. All television programmes will be recorded right on our farms. They interview us in the farms and see things live.
“International non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will work with us to help us form the right type of cooperative structure of global standards. The job at hand is to register all farmers.” Amidst cheers and applause, Onyiuke said palm oil cannot go out of fashion (use). “We must trust each other and build each other.”
He commended the office of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor especially the special adviser to the Governor, Anthony Ifechukwu, for showing huge passion for oil palm. He equally cited a World Bank report that indicated that without adding value, farmers remain poor. “OPGAN thus wants to break the circle of poverty by adding value.”
He said the association has become bankable with computerised offices and revenue yielding projects. “The state offices are to reach the farmers in each state. We intend to create a national movement of real and bankable farmers who can have a say and negotiate with partners.”