Ondo: The hidden wealth of a nation
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the hills spread across the towns showing magnificent view of the horizon, sitting among the dense forested planes that characterise south western Nigeria. What and where are we talking about? It is the Sunshine state, Ondo. The domain of intellectuals that harbours human capital and natural resources- the habitat home of the rich, wealthy and prominent; the natural environment for animals, plants and other organisms; and a blessed large deposit of natural resources of oil, rubber, rock, tourism among others. The state is predominantly occupied by the Yorubas who speak various dialects of the language such as the Akoko, Akure, Apoi, Idanre, Ijaw, Ikale, Ilaje, Ondo and the Owo. Ondo State, which is indeed a miniature of the Nigerian nation, is blessed with resourceful, industrious and hospitable people.
Her crop of educated elite has led to its being classified as one of the most educationally advanced states in Nigeria. With a population estimated to be 3,441,024 based on preliminary 2016 census figure; comprising 1,761,263 males and 1,679,761 females. The state’s economy is basically agrarian with 65 per cent of the state’s labour force in the agriculture sub-sector –like farming, fishing and trading. From commercial city of Lagos, its geographical location serves as gate way of economic movement and activities to the northern part of the country including the federal capital territory by Akoko-Ikenne-Lokoja road that links to the North which also situated many stop-overs, hotels and brothels for travelers and commuters. The same also can be said of Benin-Ore road-the busiest after Lagos-Ibadan express road- to the Eastern and Southern-riverine states. And presently, the administration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has commissioned the construction of a 50km road project from Araromi area in Ilaje Local Government, Ondo State to Akodo in Ibeju-Lekki Local Government in Lagos State that would open up the villages that could benefit from coast line huge development spinning off from Lekki Free Trade Zone.
The life patterns of the people represent an embodiment of culture, ranging from the local foodstuff to the way of dressing, dancing, wood crafts, such as, carved house posts and decorated doors. The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual of the people achievement speak volumes. Antiquities and artifacts are also preserved in palaces of traditional rulers some of which have been declared as National Monuments at Owo which houses the wood and ivory carvings, brass and bronze works, excavated at Egbaren Estate, Owo in 1971. The state has a land mass of about 14,788.723 square kilometres (km2) and it geographically lies entirely in the tropical belt. The tropical climate of the state is broadly of two seasons which are the rainy season between April and October and dry season between November and March. A temperature throughout the year ranges between 21 °C to 29 °C and humidity is relatively high. The annual rainfall varies from 2,000mm in the southern areas to 1,150mm in the northern areas. The state enjoys luxuriant vegetation with high forest zone (rain forest) in the south and sub-savannah forest in the northern fringe.
Ondo State is richly blessed with varied and favourable ecological and climatic conditions with vegetation ranging from mangrove swamps to southern coastal riverine areas through the rainforest of the midlands to derived savannah in the northern part of the state suitable for cattle grazing. Idanre Hill(s) listed in UNESCO world heritage sites, is one of the most awesome and beautiful natural landscapes in Ondo State and Nigeria. Located in Idanre Town, about 24 kilometres from Akure, the state capital, the flora, fauna and the topography of the place is a great virtue of mankind creating excitement to fun lovers of nature witnessing spectacular view of the town. Igbokoda Water Front, Iponle-Iloro Waterfalls, Oko Marie Hills at Oka-Akoko, Ebomi Lake at Epinmi-Akoko are other interesting place to visit in the state. By and large, the Ondo people relatively peaceful environment when compared to other Niger-Delta states. In this fourth republican government, the state has gone through smooth transitional transient of power from one party to another without rancor or breakdown of law and other showing how civil and enlightened the people of the state are. This alone has pushed the state be one of the highest rates on investment returns in Nigeria by providing enabling environment for investors knowing-fully well that security is one of the catalysts of development.
This fact makes her a most viable investment destination for agro allied industries. There is cultivation of high varieties of arable and fruit crops such as cassava, rice, maize, sugar cane, cashew, maize, mangoes and tomatoes, cocoa, oil-palm produce and rubber. The state is also the largest producer of cocoa in Nigeria, responsible for about 40 per cent of the country’s production. The state possesses a wide ocean fronts and the longest untapped coast line in Nigeria about 180km, bigger and larger than that of Lagos that can gross in millions of revenue for private investors and government like it does in Lagos. The wide variety of fish deposits account for the core of economic activity in the riverine area of the state. The presence of a large deposit of stockfish offers remarkable opportunities for potential investors. Ondo state contributes 12 percent of the entire oil production and has one of the largest gas reserves in Nigeria. Bitumen deposit in the state is the largest in Africa and 2nd largest in the world with over 42 billion reserves and probably of the highest quality.
Taking a break from this path, now, a number of big oil companies accept that in future they will probably invest less in oil and more in natural gas, as well as in renewable energy and batteries. The world economy is shifting away from oil production as predicted by Rabah Arezki, head of commodities at the IMF, that oil may “at the onset of the biggest disruption in oil markets ever.” Ending the oil era and putting more effort to fossil fuels, because oil is an exhaustible resource, new sectors need to be developed so they can take over as the oil and gas industry dwindles. While some countries have ample reserves, hydrocarbon resources in a number of Arab countries could be depleted in the foreseeable future. However, even non-oil activities in many oil-exporting Arab countries are to some extent dependent on funding from oil revenues. The same cannot be said of ours. Nigerian oil reserved has been depleted on white elephant projects creating a lot of confusion. It is time to look away from oil and follow the trend of diversification.
The Ondo State newly revitalised airport aside the daily Lagos to Akure Air Peace passenger flight, has the potential of being a major cargo hub in West Africa with key partnership in sub sector include- passenger terminal completion and equipment installation, runway rehabilitation and expansion, airport facilities development, construction of cargo terminal, bond warehousing and refrigerated spaces for perishable goods and maintenance hangers for planes. Also, immense potential to be a maritime hub in West Africa, advantages to investors include: two Free Trade Zones both of which have made accommodations for ports in their master plan; over 100km of coast line with natural depths of 14m – 18m allowing for the construction of deep sea ports capable of handling the largest class of container vessels thereby saving costs for Ship-to-Ship activities -less than 40km via the coast and inland waterways to Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest market. The facilities on the state’s coastline are closest to three major oil fields in the country; ABO, BONGA and ERHA.
It is an incontrovertible fact that crude oil has contributed substantially to Nigeria’s revenue, ever since its discovery in 1956 while admitting a paradigm shift away from oil, the federal government has shown commitment to diversify the economy of the nation to other sectors of the economy. It will be highly beneficial for foreign and private investors to look inward and see the potential of the Sunshine State.
Adeleye sent this piece from Lagos.
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