PowerChina and Swiber Africa have set up an agro-industrial park in Abia State to drive industrialisation and boost foreign exchange earnings.

The project, estimated at over $500m, is targeting to create 20,000 jobs directly and hundreds of jobs indirectly.

The project will criss-cross communities in Bende Local Government Area, which include Ugwuoke, Alayi, Abiriba, Ozu Item and Ohafia.

Speaking during the project signing ceremony in Abuja on Monday, the adviser to the contracting parties and Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, described the four industrial parks as a mega project, noting that everything processed at the park would be exported to earn foreign exchange.

“The project entails building an agriculture industrial zone, which includes crop planting and processing plants for rice, cassava, cashew nut and related products. The integral part is that everything is for export.”

He said since the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation no longer contributed to the federation account, efforts should be made to raise revenues and chart a new course for the economy.

“We hope the Federal Government will come to our aid. We need dams; we need the Customs and the government to declare the area as free trade zone area, among others.

“It will create thousands of jobs and income for the government and stakeholders. It will create economic activities that will favour Abia State and Nigeria in general. This is a public-private partnership project and we look forward to the takeoff and completion of the project.”

He said the Abia State government would buy into the initiative, noting that Governor Okezie Ikepazu was already aware of it.

“I am here in an advisory capacity. Any day I leave politics, I’ll go back to this business,” Kalu said.

Also speaking, Chairman of SWIBER Africa, Emeka Eboh, said the four industrial parks would create enormous jobs, noting that it would be mutually beneficial to all parties.

‘This partnership will yield a greater result. This is something we will remember in history as the first in Abia State,” he said.

The Managing Director, PowerChina Nigeria, Diego Tian, said the project would make positive impact on the lives of Nigerians, especially citizens of Abia State.

“This project is to build an agriculture industrial zone, which include crops planting and processing plants for rice, cassava, cashew nut and related products. One or two years later, that will highly boost Nigeria’s self-sufficiency in food security to its citizens.

“Meanwhile there will be at least 20,000 job opportunities to be provided for the local employees,” he added.