By INNOCENT ODOH, Abuja
The Federal Government stands to earn over $2 billion in revenue annually as stakeholders dealing in donkey business and its derivatives have made a significant move to help the government standardize and regulate the agriculture sub sector to boost the Nigerian economy in line with the government’s quest to diversify away from oil.
This was the crux of a sensitization and town hall meeting organized by the Donkey Dealers Association in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State Capital over weekend aimed at stopping unauthorized exportation of donkey derivatives and smuggling of donkey skin.
National Chairman of the Donkey Dealers Association, Mr. Ifeanyi Dike, who inaugurated the Ebonyi State Chapter of the Association, in his address, noted that the exercise was to encourage the dealers and other stakeholders on the need to abide by the stipulated laws of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), to stop indiscriminate killing of donkeys as well as encourage breeding of donkeys through ranching and pasture production to stop extinction.
Mr Dike had told reporters that if the stakeholders abide by the rules, “the Nigerian government will rake in over $2 billion annually and create employment opportunities for the teeming population of jobless Nigerians, stop the distortion in the business and improve the donkey value chain.’’
He noted that the government had feared extinction of the donkey specie such that at a point it planned to ban business in donkey skin and derivatives.
He said “It got to a point that the donkey population in Nigeria began to reduce as a result of high demand of donkey skin, this particular trend attracted the attention of the National Assembly in 2018, where a public hearing held and a ten- year jail term was slammed on anyone caught with donkey skin or derivatives.
“Our Association, NAQS, and the National Animal Production and Research Institute (NAPRI) contended that instead of a blanket ban of donkey skin, we are going to support the breeding of donkeys to stop the much feared extinction. It was based on this that the Federal Government marshaled various regulatory policies in trade of donkey hide. We are making things to work the way the federal government wants it to work. We want regulations, breeding, and pasture.”
Dike warned the stakeholders against violating the rules, adding that anyone who violates them will face appropriate sanctions from the government.
“I will like some of our people here to know that the Federal Government is watching us and once you go contrary to their policy they have the right to take action, nobody can fight the government. So, we are pledging our support to NAQS, which is the regulatory agency, that we will abide by the regulatory policy of the federal government and at the same time they should look into us and see the areas we have challenges,” he said.
South East Zonal Coordinator of the NAQS, Dr. Nehemiah Yila, in his remarks said the government will support a regulated business in donkey derivatives but stressed that it will take severe measures against violators of the rules.
He said “We are a law enforcement agency and we want the stakeholders to comply with the rules and regulations in doing agro-business. The government has said they should stop indiscriminate slaughtering of donkeys because it is going into extinction, so they must stop it. They must do ranching. Whatever that is the position of government we will enforce it.”
He emphasized that if the business is properly regulated, government revenue will definitely improve, but when smugglers are allowed to take away these goods, the government would have been deprived of the revenue. “So, it is better to follow government regulations to move the nation forward,” Yila said.
The highlight of the meeting was the inauguration of Mrs. Chinenye Eze as the chairperson of the Ebonyi state chapter of the Donkey Dealers Association.
Mrs Eze, in her remarks, pledged to lead with honesty and assured of fidelity to the operating rules set by the federal government. She said “we are going to put everything in place in order to ensure that we abide by the rules so as not to attract the wrath of the government.”
She however, pleaded with the government to support them in any way possible and to release some of their seized goods.