The minister of Agriculture and Rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has lamented that the untimely and slow release of the 2016 budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector has caused a severe setback to government’s plan to diversify the economy through the sector.
He added that the cumbersome Procurement Act put in place for the implementation of capital projects has also suffered a setback as the ministry is yet to begin the implementation of any major capital projects.
The Minister disclosed this when he received the senate committee on Agriculture during its oversight statutory function in Abuja on Monday.
According to Ogbeh, “budget has been very slow since it’s approval in May and as such has slowed down a lot of projects that have been lined up to be executed by the ministry. The cash is there but they cannot not be spent until the processes are carried out properly”.
He noted that in enhancing effective agricultural produce, more states have to show interest in the agricultural program, noting that just about 5-6 states are fully involved in the promotion of agriculture.
“Despite the budget, we have challenges such as inadequate budgetary provisions to execute necessary projects and programmes that will stimulate the economy and the national agriculture production, untimely releases of money which might be because of the present economical situation, but in agriculture once you miss a time and a season of course you can’t carry on from there and still meet your target.
“Hopefully with the help of the governors, and senators representing each constituency, more of these states will show interest and help boost agricultural produce in the nation,” he said.
The Minister also lamented that, “many of our universities known for agriculture no longer take it seriously and you find them offering other courses in universities where agriculture is supposed to be paramount and hopefully we hope to bring it back. Every student must have a farm and of which must produce goods and will add up 60% of their result.
“With the result given by the bureau of statistics from the second quarter on agriculture having a 4.5% increase in a country that is entering a -2.5% recession, it is the first time it has happened and it shows that Nigerians are responding more quickly to the call to return to the farms more than they have for any other sector.
He added that this means that, “by the next quarter, we might have reached a 6-7% increase which shows that we are on our way to recovery especially in the food sector.’’