By Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
Taraba State University, in collaboration with the North East Development Commission NEDC and the World Bank, is set to establish an agro industrial park in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital.
Vice Chancellor of the University Professor Sunday Bako, who disclosed this to journalists in Jalingo on Saturday said that the idea is to have a rehabilitation center for inmates as the the park is expected to serve as a training facility for them while they are serving their terms.
He noted that the necessary discussions and understanding with the relevant collaborators are well underway and by the end of the year, activities are expected to kickstart fully.
“I am pleased to inform you that, between now and the end of the year, activities would have started towards the establishment of the Taraba State University agro industrial park here in Jalingo.
“Our sponsors, the NEDC and World Bank have shown great interest in the project and the Nigerian Correctional Center, which will be the major beneficiary is also on the same page with us on this. We are seeking the approval of the State government for the allocation of land which is expected to take up to Seventy Hectres and we are optimistic that His Excellency will graciously oblige as as soon as this comes to him.
“The idea is to have a eco friendly agro park where inmates will spend time learning one form of agricultural trade or practice while they are serving their jail term so that by the time they are leaving the prison, they are leaving as trained as well rehabilitated citizens who can very easily reintegrate into the society productively.
“We notice that rather than serve as correctional centers, prisons most times serve as mere punishment houses and end up producing more hardened criminals and by the time people are released into the society after serving a jail term, they become worse off because they have no skill or anything to fall back to except the criminal acts they learnt from interacting with other criminals in jail.
“And so we are hoping to pioneer a paradigm shift from that practice such that inmates in the state learn agro business such as fish, snail, grass cutter, poultry, and other livestock farming, as well as all kinds of other agricultural ventures.
“The idea is that, by the time they have this knowledge and are leaving the centres, their minds will focus more on starting up their own businesses rather than going back to criminality.
“Right now as we speak, a ton of Hibiscus that we commonly call zobo around here goes for almost Two Million Naira. Very few people are aware of this. There are a whole lot of opportunities in the agric business that we hope to harness and impact. For instance, I doubt if there is any snail farm in the entire Northern states of the country. I don’t know of any grass cutter farm either. Nobody talks about rearing ostriches, despite the fact that they are in exceptionally high demand.
“And so the University feels there is need to set up this massive park that is more than just a farm. It will be a training and research facility. It will be a model park. For instance, we are toying with the idea of cattle ranching in the state. By the time this park is up and running, people will have a first hand practical experience of the benefits of ranching” Professor Bako said.
The Don noted that the project is expected to gulp a whooping 5.7 Bn Naira.