By RUTH TENE, Abuja and ABEBAYO WAHEED, Ibadan
Forty thousand millionaires have been created from the ranks of ordinary people in Kebbi State through agriculture since the coming of the present administration two years ago. This was disclosed by Audu Ogbe, the minister of agriculture in an exclusive interview with our correspondent. He also disclosed that 68 per cent of those who went for the hajj this year in the state paid their way themselves and didn’t depend on the state government as obtained in the past.
The minister described the Kebbi State example as a great success story and an example of how agriculture can transform the lives of the people.
He commended the governor of Kebbi, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu for his extraordinary and focused leadership in the field of agriculture and urged other governors to study and implement the Kebbi model in their states. The minister further noted that Kebbi farmers now farm rice, wheat, sorghum and millet all through the year. “Yes, they now farm all year round,” he said. Ogbe further observed that Kebbi farmers also farm and sell a huge number of rams throughout the country
Meanwhile the Bank of Agriculture, BOA through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Scheme for rice farmers has disclosed that the country has been able to save over $600million dollars (N216bn) from the importation of rice alone from Thailand and other countries since the nation’s domestic mass production flooded the markets under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
The figure represents a fraction of a staggering $22billion (N7.92tr) spent on importation of foods into the country annually prior to the advent of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The executive director, Risk Management and Finance, Bank of Agriculture, Prince Niyi Akenzua, disclosed this when he led a delegation of top officials of the bank on a courtesy call to Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, in his office, in Ibadan, on Thursday.
Akenzua said it was worthy of commendation that the country had committed itself to diversifying from oil economy, with emphasis on revitalization of agriculture.
The governor promised to lead by example by also venturing into commercial agriculture, urging the BOA team to advise him on how he could go about obtaining a loan for the purpose.
Akenzua revealed he had embarked on advocacy visit around the country to enlist the support and involvement of state governments in the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which, he said, has freed the country from reliance on importation of rice.
Akenzua said, “We enjoin Oyo State to participate in the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, as we have rejigged the programme to expand the scope of beneficiaries. The pilot scheme was so successful that $600m was saved from rice importation due to massive rice production in the country.
“One or two rice millers in Thailand have closed down because Nigeria, which has always been their major importer, has stopped importing their rice.
“We used to spend $22billion importing food into Nigeria and with our consciousness that every square meter in the country is arable land, we felt that it was not sustainable. Of course, the crash in crude oil price has forced us back to agriculture.”
Akenzua said that the state could choose a particular crop it wished to produce under the programme, with a promise to either co-fund or completely fund the production of such crop.
In his response, the governor commended the minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, for what he called the positive changes he had brought into the agriculture sector since taking over the ministry.
The governor stated that the fundamental problem besetting the country was attitudinal, stressing that the country was not bereft of knowledge, policies and programmes capable of boosting its economy.
According to him, the state was in good stead to be a major agricultural hub, judging by the concentration of reputable research institutions in the state, its vast arable land, as well as location between Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of the country, and the North among other comparative advantages.
He advised the new management of BoA to do all that was humanly possible to sustain the momentum in its renewed drive to revitalize the agriculture sector.
Ajimobi said “You need to change the attitude of our people so they would know that there is money in agriculture. We are in this sorry state today because of bureaucracy and lack of sustenance of past agric policies. What has happened to Operation Feed the Nation?
“The new management of BOA has started well. I hope you will maintain the zeal with which you have started. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the talk. In the past, some people will just give loans to themselves, which they knew they would not recover and this had crippled the bank.
“Oyo State is ready to take advantage of all opportunities available in agriculture to promote the standard of living of our people. We believe that with the natural endowment in our state we should be the food basket a Nigeria.