By Nathaniel Baba

etsu agaie

Emir (Etsu) Agaie, Alh. Muhammadu Yusuf Nuhu

The Emir (Estu) Agaie, Alh.Muhammadu Yusuf Nuhu, a former commissioner for information in Niger State and a retired banker, in an exclusive interview with Newsline on Sunday’s crew at his palace, penultimate Wednesday, provided aggregate dreams of the people of the emirate over the completion and commissioning of the Baro Port, and other sundry issues.

Newsline on Sunday: HRH sir, we have paid a visit to the Baro Port to see for ourselves the level of work done there, and to find out the opinions and aspirations of the benefiting communities over the laudable project. The same reasons informed our visit to your palace sir.

 

HRH: I am happy that you visited the area (Baro) to see the port project. When completed, it will boost the economic benefits of the area, including Agaie, Niger State, and Nigeria.  (It is), an inland port that will be of great importance to the entire people of Northern Nigeria.

Baro used to be boisterous in the past, when ships will come and (the cargoes) offloaded from Baro and transported to hinterland, to Kano and so on. The port was used to transport groundnuts, cotton and some other (sundry) goods from the north.  (Then), Agaie was busy stopping point, busy and engaging. Since the closure of the port, Baro had become like a ghost town, until recently when the government decided to dredge the river and reconstruct the port; everybody was happy, and expectations are very, very high.  I believe it is so with the government of Niger State, the entire people in the state and the north.

Newsline on Sunday: To an uninformed visitor to the port, it looks as if the work is completed, perhaps only waiting for finishing touches, before the commissioning.  What is your own opinion sir?

HRH: I have visited the port myself, I think, a month or two ago. I was led round the place by one of the engineers, I met there (a Chinese). I was told that the port was almost completed. All that remains was the commissioning of the port.  I did not meet those responsible for the dredging, so I cannot, for certain, say about the position of the dredging.  But, I believe the last administration was serious about the dredging, and they (contractors) were really seen working hard.

 

Newsline on Sunday: What did you think are the prospects and benefits of the project to Baro and your emirate?

HRH: If the dredging is completed, and the port also completed, we believe the economic activities that used to be in Baro will come back.  Like, I told you, Baro Port is what we hungrily look forward to come to fruition.

Newsline on Sunday: However, the access road, from Agaie to Baro seems non-existent, even though we arw aware that contract for the road work has been awarded. Are you not worried about that, sir?

HRH:          The construction of the road, Agaie-Katcha-Baro, has been awarded, and the flag off (for the work) done.  Since then we have been highly elated because we were told the contract for the construction has 12 months completion duration. After the flag off, the contractor mobilized to site, and commenced work in earnest by grading the road some kilometres, from Agaie towards Katcha, and the work was going on fine, but suddenly the contractors were nowhere to be found, shortly after the change in federal administration.

Newsline on Sunday: What happened thereafter; are you aware of the reason the contractor left, HRH?

HRH:          I think, may be due to lack of funds, because the contract for the project is in the budget, 2015 fiscal year. Hopefully, as soon as the budget funds are released, we expect the contractor back in earnest, fully, to complete the work. That road is very important to the port and even the purpose of dredging the river. Because, that is the only access road for the haulage of goods, from Port at Baro to the hinterland, and from Baro to ports in Lagos, Port-Harcourt, and vice versa. This was the same road used in the ancient time, but then it was well-maintained by government, and through employed labourers. 

Newsline on Sunday: Also, very important, Baro is home to a number of invaluable relics, the colonial buildings and the railway line and bay, therefore, it is a tourist haven with great economic potentials. Any future plans for that.

HRH: Baro is truly a tourist centre, because the colonialists (i.e. Lord Lugard) lived there and many of their heritage and relics are visibly in existence there; the railway and the rail station, warehouses, etc used then by companies, including UAC and John Holt. It will be a matter of moment when the port is (was) completed and commissioned, to see the lost glory of Baro being revived, with economic activities returned for the benefit of the people or the nation.

Newsline on Sunday: Another important endowment of Baro is its rich, upstream and downstream vast land; what is your thinking about harnessing this nature’s gift to your emirate.

HRH: The people are not only farmers, but also expert fishermen and even some practice hunting. We kept appealing to the people in the area to sustain their occupation and protect their heritage, the invaluable gift of nature, the vast fertile land. The land is so fertile that it has started attracting some interesting individuals and companies. Some companies came from Kano, that are interested in establishing rice plantations and mills; they have visited Logoma communities on survey. The village has a large expanse of wetland and is fertile. We are waiting and the people are ready to receive them (investors).The only thing is to talk, to reach proper, mutual, benefiting agreement (between the land owners and the companies) before business commences.

NL: Lastly, sir, are you under intense pressure by land speculators, like I understand, the villagers are?

HRH: Certainly not, but I was told some people had gone to the communities, in Katcha and Baro, trying to secure farm lands.  (However) I was also told the state government has declared that the area was an urban area, meaning whoever desires land there must seek government’s consent and approval. Government has to be in the know before any land deal is sealed with the community.

Newsline on Sunday: Thank you, HRH, for your patience, sir.

HRH: It is my pleasure, welcome.

 

TAURARUWA