Nupe kingdom has the potential to feed the West African sub-region if the federal government created the enabling environment for agriculture to thrive in the country, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi stated yesterday.
Speaking at a special lecture to mark the Nupe Day celebrations, the CBN chief said that Nupe land with its strategic location and comparative advantage in rice production, sorghum, maize and fish could “provide adequate food for Nigeria and the whole of West Africa”.
In the lecture entitled “Exploring Central Bank of Nigeria’s special intervention in agriculture for the transformation of Nupe land” presented at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) University, Lapai, Sanusi said if the N365 billion spent on rice importation was invested in the production of the staple in Nupe kingdom alone, Nigeria would be self-sufficient in rice production.
The CBN governor represented by the Director, Development Finance Mr. Paul Nduka identified gross under-funding and low budgeting as the bane of agricultural development in Nigeria and charged the private sector and other players in the agricultural value chain to stake more resources in the industry.
Contrary to the Moputo Declaration in Angola, the budgetary allocation to agriculture in Nigeria in 2013 was barely 3 per cent of the entire budget, he noted on the occasion where he was represented by the apex bank’s director of development financing, Paul Nduka.
Sanusi explained that there were a lot of packages initiated by the CBN to encourage agriculture but wondered why budgetary allocation to agriculture was still low. He stated: “Gross under-funding had also been the bane of the agricultural sector and posed a major challenge. The allocation to the sector of less than 4 per cent of the federal budget since 2006 is contrary to the 2003 African Union (AU) Maputo Declaration that directed member countries to increase investment in the agricultural sector to at least 10 per cent of the national budget.”
According to Sanusi, the absence of basic infrastructure has contributed to the poor conditions of living in the rural areas and invariably impeded investment in agriculture.
He recalled that in the 1980s rice from Nupe land was very popular in Nigeria and called for investments in the value chain of rice production in the area.
The CBN governor said that to successfully exploit the opportunities provided by the agriculture development package, small-scale farmers should be encouraged to form cooperative societies. He also advised the elite to establish trust funds where funds could be drawn for the development of agriculture.
Sanusi further said that, “The Nupe land is well blessed and strategically positioned in the country. It is the recognised hub of rice and shea nut production in Nigeria. Other produce that Nupe land has comparative advantage includes sorghum, maize and fish. There are national gaps in the production of these commodities. For instance, Nigeria at present spends about N365billion on rice importation annually, despite the fact that Nigeria is the 20th producing country in rice paddy.
“In the eighties the popular rice brands in Nigeria were Ofada, Bida and Uncle Ben Rice. Nigerians then preferred to eat Ofada and Bida rice than Uncle Ben Rice. For instance, if the n365billion paid for rice importation is spent on Bida rice, the effect on the economy of Nupe land is best imagined. The Nupe people are traditionally farmers and were known to be highly enterprising and supportive to their kinsmen.
“To fully exploit the opportunities of the CBN’s intervention in the agricultural sector, may I humbly suggest the following:
“The small-scale farmers should organise themselves into cooperative societies and access loans from deposit money banks and microfinance banks to enable them benefit from the Interest Drawback programme;
“The ever-supportive elite of Nupe land could partner with banks of their choice and establish Trust Funds where the amount pledged could be tripled or quadrupled in terms of loans by banks for the benefit of small-scale farmers in the area – the Trust Fund Model;
“The large-scale farms could be access funds under the CACs or NIRSAL and deploy the resources to assist the peasant farmers through contract farming arrangements;
“Farmers can also come together as groups to serve as contract farmers for processors;
“Youths should also take up agriculture as a business so as to provide self-reliance and curb youth restiveness, and the Nupes should be receptive to investors by providing agricultural land,” he said.
The CBN chief also said that for the transformation of agriculture in Nupe land, government should provide farmers with hybrid seeds, extension services, strengthen cooperative system, and develop rural infrastructure such as roads, storage facilities, irrigation system and processing plants.
Etsu Nupe Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar stressed the need for unity of purpose in the kingdom for the development of the agricultural potential. Recalling his experience as a farmer, he said that interest was drawn above the loan he took for agricultural purposes.
Armed with the information on various programmes of the CBN on agriculture, he and his subjects were well informed to take the opportunity to boost agriculture in the area, he said.
Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, who was represented by the commissioner of livestock and fishery, Dr Yahaya Vatsa, said his administration would continue to invest in agriculture in Nupe land. He commended the Etsu Nupe for his effort to bring all Nupe together.