Experts and stakeholders in the financial system have said the delay in getting approval from the Federal Executive Council is stalling the implementation of the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones programme.
According to the expert, the Nigerian economy may suffer from the looming food crisis if there is no major increase in agricultural production, especially in the areas the SAPZ programme has identified as growth potential.
The programme has been described it is a mega cluster-based infrastructure project, meant to bring together farmers, processors and retailers to connect agricultural production to the market.
Analysts said the special agro-industrial processing zones would revolutionise agriculture and boost food production in the country.
African Development Bank’s Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones, birthed by the President of the bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, who is a former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, had raised the hope for an agro-industrial revolution.
The bank identified sites for the SAPZs across the six geopolitical zones to ensure that they were spread across the country.
Following this, the first phase of the project was to be implemented in seven states including Cross River, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Oyo and the Federal Capital Territory.
The programme had reached a stage where activities involving critical high-level engagements with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning had been achieved.
Already, AfDB and its development partners had mobilised $520m to co-finance the first phase of the project.
However, the signing of loan agreement with AfDB, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and Islamic Development Bank and the Subsidiary Loan Agreement with the SAPZ States, under the active supervision of the Federal Ministry of Finance, is still pending due to a lack of approval from FEC.
Industry officials close to the development said the Finance ministry was not making enough efforts to prepare the memo for the proposed loan agreement with the donor banks for FEC for ratification.
Consequently, the inability of the Finance minister to obtain FEC approval has hampered the plan to launch the project, which was expected to attract the presidents of AfDB, IsDB, and IFAD.