Valedictory Lecture by Dr Omorefe Asemota; Executie Director/Chief Executive Officer, NIFOR.
NIFOR’s second (2nd) valedictory lecture was presented by the outgoing Executive
Director/Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Omorefe Asemota on the 28th of June, 2017 titled ‘PLANT
PHYSIOLOGY/BIOTECHNOLOGY: From small beginnings to Unlocking the true
potential of Palms and Shea for Nigeria.’ The occasion was chaired by
Prof. E. U. Emovon (CON). The event had in attendance the former
Deputy Governor of Edo State; Hon. Pius Odubu, the Vice Chancellor of Ambrose Ali University; Professor I. A. Onimawo, the Ag. Executive Secretary of ARCN; Professor A. A. VOH Jr, JP, FCVSN, CFIARN, FARWA. Participants at the event were drawn from the Academia, Agribusinesses and the Political class.
The occasion was to highlight the achievements of the Institute under the leadership of the Executive Director for 5years (2012-2017). The Institute experienced scientific advancement in the areas of planting materials improvement by plant breeding and biotechnology, development of best management practices to enhance the output of small and medium scale farmers and Technology and product development. During the period, the technology on packaging of palm wine and palm sap in polyethylene terephthalate bottles and high density polypropylene containers were commercialized. This was to eliminate the health risk arising from beverage glass bottles that are not properly cleaned during packaging. The Institute secured two patents from the Nigerian Patent Registry on the retail and bulk packaging of palm wine and Palm sap in plastic containers. Other products and processes developed to commercial scale included Coconut flour production, Metallic soaps, Banga sauce in flexible Aluminium pouches, e.t.c.
During the tenure of Dr. O. Asemota as Executive Director of NIFOR, biotechnology protocols were used on a commercial scale to develop Date Palm planting materials especially for the Sahel and Sudan Savanah regions of Nigeria where the palms are required to mitigate desertification and provide livelihoods for Nigerians in those ecologies. Efforts were also made to domesticate Shea tree and seedlings were produced through grafting at the NIFOR Substation, Bida. This effort has opened new vista of research necessary for mass cultivation of this crop.
At the inception of his administration, efforts were made to address the high incidence of genetic contamination in NIFOR oil palm planting materials and stakeholders were glad to note that planting materials released to farmers from year 2013 were not contaminated and therefore the population were 100% Tenera materials. NIFOR therefore met all the requirements of the Federal and State Governments for high quality planting materials. NIFOR was also consulted to provide high quality Coconut seedlings for the Akwa Ibom State Coconut programme. The Institute provided materials and personnel for the realization of this programme. It is worthy of note that NIFOR has developed the dwarf green Coconut that is high yielding and disease resistant. Each tree if well fertilized can produce 130-150 nuts per year.
Despite very poor funding during the period, the perennial water shortage problem was solved by the improvement in water supply infrastructure. Also, power supply to the Institute was improved to about 23hours daily.
It was clear to all present that the business and policy environment in Nigeria was particularly difficult during the tenure of Dr O. Asemota and that the achievements of the Institute under his leadership speaks volume of his skills, management prowess and resource efficiency.
Dr O. Asemota, on completion of his tenure returns to his research into plant molecular biology at the Institute.