By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
The federal government through the ministry of agricultural and rural development has expressed the desire to ensure Nigeria establishes 15 specialised universities of Agriculture in the next few years.
This, according to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Alhaji Bukar Hassan “is aimed at bridging the gap of having the current 3 Universities meeting the agricultural needs of the huge Nigerian population.”
Alhaji Bukar stated this in his opening remarks when the Ministers of the Ministry, Chief Audu Ogbeh and his counterpart Minister of state, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri met with members of the three governing boards of the federal Universities of Agriculture in Abuja, yesterday.
The permanent secretary who said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss on issues and challenges faced by the institution added that ‘‘the meeting is to ensure that in the next few years we would have 10-15 universities of agriculture, because there is no doubt that 3 universities with a population of 200m is quite inadequate, particularly considering the drive of government to reposition agriculture in his country.’’
In his address, the Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh said the reason for the return of the three Universities of Agriculture to the Ministry was not informed by their desire for empire building, but rather a rational, just and timely action, necessitated by the new economic realities we are in to ensure that our institutions are better focused and more efficiently and economically managed.”
He said: “The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has already set in motion a machinery to remodel the three universities under our joint care with a view to transforming them into centres of excellence of global reckoning.’’
In this connection, we shall ensure that the institutional structures already enshrined in the Federal Universities of Agriculture Act cap F22 CFN 2010 for their effective management are put in place without delay. The Federal Ministry of Education is our invaluable partner and ally. We shall continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Ministry of Education to ensure quality assurance and the entrenchment of good governance principles in these institutions.
We shall partner with other relevant institutions of Government, the private sector and interested external agents/parties so that collectively our modest efforts to ensure a quick turnaround in these citadels of learning will bear fruits of joy and fulfillment to us all.
The Minister added that “the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (ERGP) of this Administration has further imposed on us a philosophy of diversification, economic integration, food security and job creation, amongst others.
“It has imposed on us the responsibility of waste curtailment, optimization of opportunities and a commitment to provide innovative services of unique value to the Nigerian people for the satisfaction of their multi-faceted expectations. At the centre of it all, however, is agriculture, hence the essence of getting it right in the agricultural sector through the infusion of new policy dynamics policy change and institutional strengthening.”
Stating the new agenda, the minister enjoined the governing boards to be more innovative and enterprising. “In the new dispensation, every undergraduate must- and I repeat- must own a farm on campus from 200 level to graduation. Adding that “Graduation should be based 60% on practice and 40% theory”
Ogbeh recalled that the three federal Universities of Agriculture were established to advance the cause of agricultural transformation and modernization in Nigeria for the development of core competencies in agricultural education, research and training amongst others. It is, therefore, expected that the admission policy of these universities will largely be reflective of this overarching goal.
Responding, Representatives of the 3 federal universities while assuring they would return to the drawing boards to ensure the revival of agriculture tasked the federal government to create ready markets for farmers, create special intervention funds for the institutions, ensure extension services become integral aspects of the institutions as well as ensure special attention is giving to funding and training of their staff.