Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku is exactly five years today on the saddle of leadership in Taraba State. What then are his achievements so far? They are indeed numerous and can only be digested separately for the purpose of clarity.
Some of these numerous achievements include the resuscitation of the state’s moribund companies, roads construction, especially the ongoing dualization of the road linking the two city gates in Jalingo with a fly-over at the ever busy road-block area of the state capital, the Marraba-Baissa-Abong-Kan Iyaka road; the commissioned Magami road network in Jalingo, Takum township roads, Takum-Katsina Ala road as well as the ongoing Yorro-Kpantisawa road, Wukari-Tsokundi road, among many others; provision of pipe born water to over 300 communities, construction of the Taraba Vegetable Company (Green House) which has considerably increased the internally generated revenue of the state as well as host of other projects.
The administration also renovated and upgraded three general hospitals in the state, employed over 3000 teachers which impacted positively on the the state’s WAEC performance giving the state 85.74% success in 2019, renovated existing classroom blocks and constructed new ones across the state with new sets of furniture and other instructional materials. These five years also witnessed the digitization of the state television, provided job opportunities for teeming youths through empowerment programmes where they were trained and provided starter packs. Others were trained at the prestigious Peter Akinola Foundation and the pet project of the governor’s wife, Hope Afresh Foundation. Many rural communities in the state today enjoy electricity courtesy of injection substations contructed by Ishaku with quite a number connected to the national grid.
This piece, however, dwells only on one of the resuscitated state owned companies, the Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited, makers of Highland tea.
Located at Kakara in Sardauna Local Government Area of Taraba state atop a plateau, the tea estate just as the area bears unique features. It stands at 1,850 meters above sea level, having amazing climate of tropical weather interspersed hugely with temperate all year round. It also experiences heavy and prolonged rains more than any part of Taraba State each year. It is presumably the hub of tourism in Nigeria.
The tea factory there is one of its kind in Nigeria. But after operating for decades, it ran into operational problems. The Taraba state government decided to take over and save it.The workers were being owed many months’ salary arrears, and everybody involved in the chain of tea production from growers to factory hands had lost hope in the organization and considered it dead, not to be resuscitated. This scenario called for investing millions of naira, which the government proceeded to do.
In his policy of carrying a surgical operation on the industrial needs and potentials of the State, Governor Darius Ishaku included the Mambila Beverages Limited, makers of Highland tea, for revamping. He considered the even spread of industries across the state to cushion the effect of acute unemployment, a situation that had torn the state apart by youth restiveness and communal clashes. Today, the revamping of that project has made life and the economy of the Mambila people and by extension, Taraba State and Nigeria at large, worthwhile. The people are truly happy, many thanks to the Ishaku administration. The new initiative is remarkable and has given the people a sense of belonging.
It therefore took the bold initiative of Governor Ishaku when he assumed office to get the situation on a sound pedestal by replacing all the antiquated equipment. The process required pumping in huge sums of money. It was an extraordinary show of genuine interest to develop Taraba State. He considered the company as a top priority project.
An omnibus structure in place to oversee industries in the state is the Taraba Investment and Properties Company Limited (TRIP). Unfortunately, TRIP lacked both the financial muscle and the right staff with the right spirit to function effectively. However, these seeming difficulties did not deter Governor Ishaku. Things must not remain the same, as he was keen on getting the organization on stream. TRIP, as the aegis had not only the Mambila Beverages to revive, but also other companies including the Viva Feed mill Limited, Taraba Microfinance Bank, TRIP Poly Products Limited, Taraba Savings and Loans Limited and Taraba Oil Mills Limited among others.
To ensure that it was not a pipedream, Governor Ishaku took the pains to recruit serious, intelligent and committed young men to turn around the fortunes of the companies. This necessitated the hiring of the present Managing Director, Mr. Iliya Ezekiel to steer the affairs of the investment House. Today, many of the companies under TRIP have been revived and are posting impressive results.
So the level of genuine commitment on the part of the Ishaku administration can be seen in the procurement of modern tea processing machines such as the cut, tear and curl (CTC), the fluid bed dryer, Tea wrapping machines as well as Tea bagging machines, which are critical modern tea production equipment anywhere in the world.
This dramatic turnaround was necessitated by the rumour that government could not manage the tea estate and plans were afoot to sell it to foreign investors, including a company from neighbouring Cameroun, which had also been in the bidding process. Nevertheless, the governor stood his grounds and he prevailed.
Moreover, having brought the Tunga Dam project with its attendant’s benefits to the tea factory and the neighbouring communities, Governor Ishaku is working towards constructing the Tunga II Dam project to generate more electricity and water for the tea estate and adjoining villages.
It is to the credit of Governor Ishaku that he increased the amount paid to out-growers from N24 per kg to N30 per kg. It was compelled by good conscience to do this. In addition, he extended the same gesture to the labourers plucking tea for the Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited. For instance, they were being paid N12 per kg, but he increased it to N16 per kg.
Recently, there were talks by union bodies negotiating with management on wide ranging issues bordering on the need for price increases among other things which the government believes must be based on mutual understanding and valid agreements.
Also, the administration has given employment to the teeming unemployed youths in the area and even beyond, which efforts have also increased revenue generation for the state and have improved the living conditions of those employed in the industry as well as dwellers in the vicinity. Presently, the company has employed 3,000 direct and indirect staff.
These benefits made the communities to extend their appreciations to Governor Darius Ishaku in more varied ways. During his recent visit to the area, the people of Nguroje came out in their numbers to receive Ishaku. The governor was presented with a well-fed horse as a token of appreciation for what he has been doing to the communities.
Interestingly, the Mambila Beverages Nigeria Limited faces huge demands for its products within the country and across the borders. The quality of the tea and the green tea, a recent addition, testifies to its global demand, appeal and competitiveness to consumers in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. This is so because like the green tea, its multiple health benefits are legendary. Therefore, there is a surfeit of market for it. Daily, trucks of Highland tea head towards Chad, Niger, Libya and other African countries. This therefore attests to the fact that the plucking system being adopted by the company management is of satisfactory standard. The company is however, working assiduously towards enhancing a few logistics.
Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku’s administration is people oriented as its Rescue mission chant is not a ruse. It is based on holistic, well-articulated development agenda for the state with the people being great beneficiaries. No state becomes great when the people are impoverished. The dividends of democracy, which the Ishaku administration has provided in terms of infrastructure, institutions and the establishment of industries have direct impact on the people. The government will not waver, but carry this policy to the end of the second term. The people of Taraba are very much aware of the performance indicators of Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku.
Mijinyawa is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Taraba State.