Livestock Project In Enugu Remains Moribund 42 Years After Establishment

Federal Livestock located at Okpuje in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State is a multi-million naira piggery initiative. It was established by the Shagari administration for mass production of pigs for local and export values. About forty-two years down the line, the state-of-the-art facilities have become moribund, with one staff member, and no government-owned pigs. Ben Aroh examines the factors against the scheme and the way forward.

The strictly pig farm began operations around 1982 on twenty-six hectares of land donated by Okpuje community in anticipation of development as a result of federal presence. Its establishment was not followed with action as pigs were only supplied to the farm in the early 1990s.
The customised building complexes at the site, numbering over ten, were for rearing, veterinary services, meat processing, quality control, storage and packaging, among others. A water borehole with an overhead tank, electricity facilities, security and staff quarters at different levels of collapsing as well as track roads are visible. The entire hectares were fenced, though the barbed wires and the walls are gradually caving in. The premises are covered by weeds, with some cassava plantations by private individuals dotted here and there.

Moribund processing unit of the Livestock

Natives lament abandonment of the project

Chief Raphael Ayogu is a retired secondary school principal and native of Okpuje. He said, “Since the inception of the project, our community did not gain anything from it. It was meant to rear pigs only and then marketed to the world. The community ought to benefit from the scheme in many ways. But it has not been functioning. The project started with one Mr Agonsi from Imo State as the head. He was sent by the federal government. From the inception, the project did not impact positively on the natives.

“The natives could not get permanent jobs with the livestock. Very few made it to become casual workers. In fact, no Okpuje man benefitted as permanent staff. The few that currently work there are engaged for tips. The large expanse of land where the farm is located was given to FG free of charge. When the issue of compensation came up, our community told the government to pay for only economic trees. This is because of the Land Use Decree. We are annoyed with the turnaround of events.”

Mr Anthony Ugwuoke is a leader in the community. He said, “I urged the government to make the project functional like its counterpart at Ibadan. That agency has no staff members. Those found there are on a temporary basis. In fact, it is only one Thomas that I know that is working there on a casual basis. There is a director there. We the natives of Amaho village of Okpuje donated the land. Our people have been appealing to concerned authorities to revive the livestock but to no avail.”

A dilapidated office at the project site

Amaechi Obochi is an Abuja-based engineer. He said some stakeholders of the community had been writing to the concerned units at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Abuja, but the outcomes have been demoralizing.

Quoting him, “Some years ago, I wrote severally to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on the need to revive the Federal Livestock, Okpuje, but the requests never saw the light of the day. I made serious visits to the ministry, yet nothing came out of it. The then director, Mr Chinyere Oguejiofor, on his part, wrote severally to Abuja, but nothing happened. Oguejiofor did everything possible to keep the place going, but the Nigeria factor never allowed it. He even tried to make the casual workers become permanent staff, but it never materialized. He is now at his hometown, Amawbia, in Anambra State.”

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Onowu Fredrick Ogbanya is the traditional prime minister of Okpuje community. He said, “We donated those hectares of land to the federal government to establish the livestock farm and also to attract development to our community. It operated for about four years, and became dilapidated. Then, pigs were reared, and we purchased them and also the manure for crop production. Suddenly, it began to collapse, making our dream an impossibility.

“The intention for the donation of the land also included to make the place a platform for our people to gain knowledge of livestock management. Our people never really benefitted from the project because many were not employed, but we were hopeful that with time, all things would harmonise. I recall that one Agonsi was the first project manager of that site.”

Chief Ugwuoke’s community donated the land for the project

FG pays us whatever we deserve – staffer

Mr Ikechukwu Omeje is the only employee of the federal government working at the farm. He acknowledged being the only worker, adding however that there are some ad-hoc staff members within. On whether FG pays him as well as the retirees of the farm duly, he said, “This is a federal establishment. Whatever is due to workers of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture across the federation is also extended to the workers here. There is no discrimination.” He however directed our reporter to the Abuja office of the ministry for more clarifications, claiming that there is a communication procedure in the civil service.

FG abandoned this farm – ex-causal worker

Jeremiah Ozioko told our reporter that he once served as a casual worker at the farm. According to him, “One of the challenges is that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has refused to sponsor the operations of the scheme. The project started around 1982, but pigs were only mobilized to the farm in the early 1990s. The pigs in the collapsing buildings are mainly privately owned. The place is lonely. At times, Fulani herders graze there. It has security challenges. The place was fenced with barbed wires before, but they are already worn out. There are currently many unhindered routes to access the farm. The few occupants of the quarters stay at their own risk.”

Cassava plantation taking over the premises

Enugu gov’t should revive the livestock – agric economist

Cajethan Mbah is an agricultural economist at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He called on the Enugu State government to acquire the farm to create wealth and jobs in accordance with its original concept.

In his words, “The state should partner the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. They should renovate the dilapidated buildings and also construct another borehole with overhead tanks, and then reticulate water to all the buildings. Power supply is also vital. Then they should stock the farm with other animals aside pigs. It is a massive place to restrict it to piggery. The state can key into snail, poultry, goat and even crop production. The place was once booming, with about thirty staffers. The Obasanjo regime caused the dearth of workers when he retrenched junior workers. I doubt if any federal ministry still has messengers and security employees. They are contracted.

“The lack of workers is because of retirement. There is no new recruitment. Then insecurity does not allow people from other nationalities to accept to be relocated to Okpuje. Everybody wants to remain at their locales for safety. At the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja, there are many workers that are idle, but they won’t like going to hinterlands when they enjoy a conducive atmosphere at the headquarters.”

An abandoned building for pig rearing

Abuja keeps mum

Efforts to hear from the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Abuja did not yield any results as the phone number on the ministry’s website was no connecting. But an insider, on condition of anonymity, attributed the neglect to religion.

She said, “Another problem is religious. Pigs have challenges in the bible. Muslims forbid pigs. For the fact that a majority of ministers of agriculture since the inception of that livestock have been Muslims, funding the operations of that farm has been retarded. Those Muslim ministers are unwilling to invest in piggery based on their faith. There have been many correspondences towards reviving the livestock at Okpuje. It is only Chief Audu Ogbeh that was the minister of agriculture who was not a Muslim. Muslims are unwilling to approve funds to rehabilitate the farm because it is meant for pigs.”

Abandoned veterinary unit

Enugu State government ready to revive the livestock farm – Commissioner Uburu

Hon Patrick Uburu is the commissioner for agriculture in Enugu State. He expressed the readiness of the state to revive the farm. In his words, “Despite that it is federal, it also belongs to the state. We shall get a system to run it in the interest of the state and Nigeria at large. My mandate is to reactivate everything that is dormant. Our own is to ensure that everything is maximally operational. We want to know the potentials of that place, and then how to harness them. I will write His Excellency, and we ascertain those with the capacity to harness what we have there for the good of all.”

This story was published with the support from the Civil Media Lab

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