By Fatima Mohammed-Lawal, Ilorin.
The University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has inaugurated an integrated commercial poultry farm with a N600 million loan.
The Vice-Chancellor of UNILORIN, Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem, who spoke at the official inauguration of the project at Amoyo community in the Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara, said that the poultry farm was expected to contribute to Nigeria’s food security.
Abdulkareem said that the project would help to bridge the wide gap between demand for poultry products and supply, triggered largely by the ban on importation of poultry products.
The vice-chancellor said that the poultry farm would significantly enhance the university’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), thereby “making money available for critical aspects of the university’s operations, especially in the areas of research and physical development.
“Our research efforts will also be boosted by the farm, as it represents a veritable laboratory for the students and the staff.
“The students are also made to see first-hand the entrepreneurial side of what they are taught in the classroom, while re-orientating them to have a mind-set of creators of employment in the agribusiness sector as agripreneurs; as against that of the white-collar jobs-seeking graduates.
“The journey has been long and hard for us as a university. The university took a N600-million loan from the CBN at a concessionary interest rate of nine per cent and (five per cent in the first one year).
“There will be a repayment period of six years with a moratorium on the repayment of the principal for one year,” he said.
According to him, Zenith Bank PLC is the Participating Financial Institution (PFI) on this project.
“Accessing the loan required the university to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the project. The SPV is UNILORIN Bizface Synergy Ltd., a limited liability company registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
“At the height of construction, the site had over 200 artisans earning their daily sustenance from it.
“Today, the farm has 55 full-time employees and has created space for our students to work on part-time basis as they study,” he said.
Abdulkareem said that the university had also set aside N5 million for an out-grower programme for the students of agriculture, veterinary medicine and allied courses in the Faculty of Education.
He said that to date, the project had been the university’s modest contribution to generating employment and lightening up the local economy.
“This project has reverberating effects. As part of the backward integration, the university is developing a 2,000-hectare land for maize and soya beans cultivation for exclusive use on the poultry farm.
“Another backward integration plan is the establishment of its own hatchery. As a forward integration, we are planning to establish an egg-powder production facility.
“In all that we have done so far and what we plan to do, we have kept faith with our Total Land Use (TLU) policy that has been our abiding principle from day one of my administration,” he said.
The CBN Governor, Dr Godwin Emefiele, said that in spite of the fact that Nigeria was the largest producer of eggs and the second largest producer of chicken meat in Africa, demand gap for eggs and meat stood and outstripped current supply by 1.2 million metric tonnes and 140,000 metric tonnes for meat and eggs respectively.
Emefiele, who was represented by Mr Ayila Yusuf, Director of Development Finance, CBN, said that the demand gap had driven smuggling of unhealthy frozen chicken into the country.
“Over the years, this demand gap has driven the smuggling of unhealthy frozen chicken into the country.
“To close this gap, the Central Bank of Nigeria has introduced various intervention schemes focused on boosting poultry production, creating decent jobs, fostering innovation in the poultry sub-sector.
“One of such schemes is the Tertiary Institutions Poultry Revival Scheme that was conceptualised, specifically for tertiary institutions to design and implement viable poultry projects.
“Presently, over 40 tertiary institutions have expressed interest in the scheme, through different commercial banks, to implement various projects,” he said.
Emefiele said that such deep broad interest by Nigerian tertiary institutions would definitely culminate in the sustainable development of the Nigerian poultry industry.
He urged other tertiary institutions to key into the scheme, in order to realise its broad-based benefits for all.