Nigerian economist and founder of Lagos Business School, Prof. Pat Utomi, on Monday shocked many when he described the present economic recession in the country as a blessing to the country and not a curse.
Utomi who made this declaration at Ugboku, Edo State, at the groundbreaking ceremony of the $100 million Integrated Produce City (IPC), asked Nigerians to see the present economic recession as a golden opportunity to right our economic wrongs.
He said the recession presents an opportunity to finally get the Nigerian economy right, adding that he prayed for oil prices to stay down for a long time for Nigerians to come to their senses to know that the country is really rich.
“Let me shock you by saying that the recession we face in Nigeria is a golden opportunity. It is not a problem; it is an opportunity to finally get the Nigerian economy right.
“So without appearing to scandalize anybody, I actually pray for oil prices to stay down and stay down for a long time. Then, we will come to our senses and we will know that Nigeria really is a rich country.
“Right now, we are not behaving as we should be behaving. Competitively driven industrial policy in select value chains will be helpful in confronting the misery index and bringing hope to millions”, Prof. Utomi said.
He explained that the project Integrated Produce was unique because it aims to confront the biggest monster facing agriculture in Nigeria.
He listed the monster as yielding losses; the poor returns that farmers get, as middle men scoop everything up, the profits that slip away in these kinds of disarticulated markets and the poor infrastructure challenge that face people in agriculture.
Professor Utomi stated that with a well organized trading platform which Integrated Produce City represents, accessing commodity exchanges, efficiency increase at a pace that increases global competitiveness on the produce in which our factor endowment are strong.
The Integrated Produce City (IPC), located at Ugbokun community in Ovia North East local government area of Edo State, is a private initiative of Prof. Utomi in collaboration with other investors.
In his speech, Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who performed the ground-breaking ceremony on behalf of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, described the Integrated Produce City as a sheer commitment by the investors to combat poverty, saying that it is the first produce city in the heart of Benin kingdom.
“Today, we are having the first produce city right in the heart of Benin Kingdom few minutes’ drive from Benin City. I want to appreciate you, your wife, your boss because we know that the neck controls the head.
“This is an event that will kick-start what will add meaning and values to thousands of people both within and outside here. What you have done by this initiative is to demonstrate that there are Nigerians who have those qualities that we celebrate elsewhere. All those who teach can also practicalize what they teach and practically in the country you are one of those teachers.
“This gathering couldn’t have been better not just what we have been telling people in the past three months that our candidate said he would create 200,000 jobs. Many believe that it is not possible and that brings you to two divide of Nigerians that we have; those who believe that our future lies in that lazy tradition of extracting the liquid gold and exporting it with little or no value to it, bring dollar home, quarrel over sharing it do some symbolic public toilets and buildings, and then privatize the rest and export more,” he said.
While thanking all the foreign partners to IPC for showing confidence that they can come and invest in the state, the governor admonished the host community to regard the project and defend it as their own as they stand to benefit more.
Earlier, Edo State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Christopher Okojie, saluted the courage of IPC, saying the project was timely because it is in line with the agricultural policy of the state. He promised that the state government would do everything possible to ensure the purpose of the project was achieved.
Meanwhile, the Ugbokun community has expressed gratitude for the project, saying that it would open the forest that has become a hideout for hoodlums who use it to attack unsuspecting travelers.
The community therefore, tasked the state government to establish a police station in the community to help safeguard the investment, while calling on management of IPC to take care of the interest of the host community.