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INTERVIEWS

Agriculture Sector In Nigeria Has Become A Reference For Other Countries In Africa

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In this interview, the Country Director of IMPART AFRICA, Dr. Adams Otakwu gave insights into the revolution of Nigeria’s Agriculture sector since 2015 and the need by President Muhammadu Buhari to sustain this revolution into his second term.

 

What Is The Focus Of Impart Africa?

IMPART AFRICA is an international organization on Good Governance and  Development in Africa, and has been implementing this mandate since it’s establishment in 2009 with emphasis on sustainability. We are currently focused on working with the African Union (Scientific, Technical and Research Commission) in achieving the Science, Technology and Innovations Strategy (STISA) by the year 2024, and AU Agenda 2063. In line with our Sectorial Assessment and Strategy Development Program, we have carried out a critical assessment of the Agriculture Sector in Nigeria.

 

What Can You Say Is The General Outcome Of Your Assessment?

Indeed the growth and development in Nigeria’s Agriculture sector since 2015 is phenomenal, uncommon, exemplary and qualifies to be a reference for other sectors in Africa.

 

But There Have Been Recent Innuendos About The Minister Of Agriculture On His Performance And Comments

Let me first tell you a bit about the personality of the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development,  Chief Audu Ogbeh for the benefit of those who are not well aquatinted with his background. I admit that Chief Audu Ogbeh has been one of the most maligned ministers of the President Muhammadu Buhari era and it is quite difficult not to see why; he is the one on with the onus to lead the Nigerian agricultural revolution and lead the nation into agri-business boom and boost the nation’s ‘treasure chest’ with ‘spoils’ from agric business. He is a humble man from Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue state. And for those who are aware of the attributes of people from this Local Government, you will agree that they are the most humble and simple people in Benue state.

Chief Ogbeh emerged from this background into limelight and national prominence in the second republic when he became Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly and subsequently Federal Minister in the Alhaji Shehu Shagari regime. He distinguished himself amongst his peers to the admiration of President Shagari and many Nigerians. He became the Chairman of the PDP during the President Obasanjo era. Along his political career is his innate passion for Agriculture. He once told me personally that Agriculture is in his blood.

After he left politics in 2009, he took to full-scale farming and made quite a name for himself, causing him to have very few rivals when it was time for the Buhari administration to get itself a minister for agriculture. He may not have the clout of foremost farmers like Obasanjo, Abdullahi Adamu and many other farmers with the Midas touch, but, to be fair, he has come through the last three years as a successful farmer.

He has had his funny moments with the strange comments and analogies and his critics can have a field day with that but, to be candid, while they are having a good laugh at non-necessities, he has put the nation on the global map of agri-business and, even though we have grounds to be covered in Agriculture, yet we have progressively demonstrated verve, looking at the infrastructural arm of the sector, the year-round small, medium and commercial farming, the integrated irrigation and other developments in the Sector.

 

How About Rice Production?

Yes, you can see for yourself that there is a Rice revolution and revival in Nigeria.

As part of its bid to encourage local rice farmers, 50 local rice farmers in Oyo State benefited from over N7 million FADAMA grant to support local rice farmers and force down the price of the commodity. In 2018, the ministry trained over 100 rice farmers in Kebbi, as part of efforts to boost rice production in the country.

Recently, the ministry approved N60 billion in support of its rice subsidy programme aimed at bringing down the price of the commodity across the country.

Also, Ogun State launched a rice plantation at Eggua, in Yewa North Local Government Area of the state for the production of local Mitros (Ofada) rice with the apex bank giving farmer credit at five percent interest rate as part of the Federal government strategy to increase food production and self- sustainability in the country.

 

You Mentioned That Part Of Your Focus In Impart Africa Is To Work With The African Union To Achieve Stisa 2024 And Au Agenda 2063. How Is The Nigerian Agriculture Sector Fitting Into This Engagement?

Indeed the Minister of Agriculture has long keyed into the vision.

As part of the Nigerian Apiculture Platform in partnership with the African Union Inter-Bureau for Animal Resources, the ministry facilitated the 13.1billion Euros honeybee project in 2016. This was a huge plus, seeing that the global market for bee products was impressive. About 200,000 beehives were distributed to farmers to increase the vibrancy of apiculture industry in the country. This and many other innovations have been initiated by the Minister since 2017.

 

Do You Think The Ministry For Agriculture Working With Academy Institutions To Develop Local Capacity And Human Resources?

Yes of course. There have been countless training programs by the Ministry for young farmers as well as Partnership programs with institutions of higher learning for capacity building.

In 2017, the Minister proposed a committee at the Federal Executive Council to remove the three Federal universities at Umudike, Abeokuta and Makurdi from the Federal Ministry of Education to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development because the ministry would love to take more universities under its wings and increase the number of universities of agriculture to 15. This is a sure panacea for effective capacity Development in Nigeria. The outcome of this will be reduction in import. Recall the successful reduction of the country’s importation of five major food commodities – rice, wheat, sugar, tomatoes and milk by saving $800 million at 60 per cent from 2015 to 2018.  According to the ministry, the country only spent $678.6 million at the end of 2017 on the importation of the five commodity.

 

What Is Your Assessment Of The Issue Of Farmers Herder Crisis?

I can say the minister has played a notable role in resolving the bloody clashes between herders and farmers in states like Benue, Taraba, Kaduna and Plateau. You must appreciate the nature and depth of this crisis before now. In 2016, the Minister proposed the bill   to prohibit cattle from roaming in cities and villages. This was the beginning of hard-accomplished but notable success in this regard. He proposed the National Ranching Policy to solve the menace between sedentary farmers and the wandering cattlemen, noting that ranching remains the best solution to end the crises. Even though it’s adoption has been contentious in some states, yet it’s a policy that will make good meaning if well implemented.

 

Do You Think The Ministry Has Programs That Can Support The Growing Population Of Nigeria?

Yes of course. The Minister understands the growth and development pattern of the country. He once stated that Nigeria has capacity to even feed the entire West Africa with some staple food.

I agree that as the country’s population increases faster than what the country produces in its food production capacity, the likelihood of food crisis remains certain. But in this light, the minister, over the years, launched a series of agricultural policies to assist women and local farmers in cultivation of crops. In 2016, he launched a road-map for the agriculture sector, tagged “The Green Alternative: Agriculture Promotion Policy, 2016-2020”.

Also, the launching of the second phase of the Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise (AEHE), under the Mechanisation Intervention Programme and the National Gender Action Plan in the agricultural sector to boost women farmers’ knowledge, skill and approach to go into large-scale farming.

As part of efforts to reduce dependence on oil and increase income from the agricultural sector, the ministry officially exported 72 metric tonnes of yam to China, the United Kingdom and the US in 2017. Nigeria is expected to export food and earn foreign exchange in the region of $10.0 billion annually over the next four years.

Recent initiatives by the ministry include an intervention fund to support rice farmers, millers and marketers; Goldmax Total Crop Protection, a home-grown solution to curtail  Fall Armyworm attacks on crops (particularly, maize grains); FADAMA Graduate Unemployed Youth and Women Support (GUYS), in line with the Green Alternative policy, as the initiative has trained 5,916 candidates, competitively selected in 23 states in collaboration with 60 training institutions across the country;  An agreement with John Deere Tractor manufacturers to acquire 10,000 tractors as part of its policy to promote mechanised agriculture in the country; the Climate Change Adaptation and Agribusiness Support Programme (CASP) for erosion-prone, farm connected market roads and rehabilitation of degraded rangeland, cutting across seven states in the Savannah Belt of the country.

It may interest you to know that the ministry acquired 100 hectares of land at Gaobe (Kuje Area Council of the FCT) for the establishment of a skill acquisition centre to train women and youths on aquaculture.

 

With Your Assessment, What Is The Future And Prospect Of Agriculture In Nigeria?

As I said earlier, the Agriculture Sector in Nigeria has evolved rapidly in the last four years. The present Government is notable for it’s immense fight against corruption and revolution of the Agriculture and reelected on the basis of this twin virtues.

The agriculture sector created six million jobs in the last two years, both on and off farms, as a result of the huge increase in local rice production. There are diverse transformations and reforms going on in the Agriculture Sector. We have sighted the Sector to other African Governments as a reference. I will be very important for the Federal Government of Nigeria to sustain this tempo in her Next Level frontier. Our organization is planning a symposium in Abuja to beam a search light on Impact of the Agriculture Sector in Nigeria between 2015 to 2019. We salute Mr President on his stride in Agriculture and appeal to him to please sustain these strides for the greater good of Nigerians and Africans, because Nigeria is the giant of Africa.


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