Minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, has vowed to overhaul the agricultural sector even if it means stepping on powerful toes.
Abubakar who was recently appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari after sacking his predecessor was on a two-day working tour of some federal agricultural establishments and institutions in Kaduna. He expressed displeasure over what he described as the neglect of the agricultural sector saying agriculture is the backbone of every country and should be given all seriousness it deserves.
He said the ministry under his leadership would do all it takes to strengthen the sector for economic growth and development.
According to him, “There are successes and there are challenges and that’s part of life. I have seen equipment that is going bad in the store and that should not be the case, this equipment was purchased using government money and if it is equipment that we need to subsidize and sell to end users, we should have done that and not let it lay fallow.
“Stepping on toes is also part of life, if a toe needs to be stepped on, step on it otherwise you will not move forward. You cannot just let things continue to happen because you do not want to step on toes, those toes are injuring so many people and might even be killing the whole body, so there is no point saving a toe against the whole body, no, you remove the toe so that the rest of the body can function.”
The minister who said he was not afraid to do what is right to change the narratives in the sector added, “We will seek the cooperation of all stakeholders in the agricultural sector from the top to the bottom to make sure the agriculture sector performs its best because it is the backbone of any country as most successful countries have strengthened their agricultural sector.”
Earlier at the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), the managing director and chief executive officer, Alwan Hassan said the bank has outstanding loans of N101 billion and over N400 million outstanding rent and lamented how the bank has been unable to get licenced many years after its establishment.
He however appealed to the minister to consider writing-off the loan component of the Cassava Bread Initiative Fund and the Agricultural Mechanisation Intervention Outstanding loan.
Also, the provost, Federal Cooperative College, Kaduna, Hajiya Aisha Ishaq said the college has been withdrawn from benefiting from TETFund projects and appealed for the minister’s intervention in that regard.
She said, “The College is faced with shortage of manpower both academic and non-academic, there is urgent need for the construction of a bridge and perimeter fence to forestall flood and security breach.”
On his part, the zonal director, North West of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Engineer Ubandoma Fularano lamented that technical officers are inadequately trained in zonal and state offices.
He noted that lack of operational and field vehicles, paucity of funds to embark on agricultural practices, dilapidated infrastructure and lack of adequate coordination are major challenges facing the zone.
Earlier, the head, National Fertiliser Development Centre (FMARD) Kaduna Shehu Usman Salihu enumerated the centre’s challenges, which the minister also promised to look into accordingly.
Responding, the minister challenged the BOA to get an operating licence saying that it is counterproductive operating without a licence no matter the amount involved. This is even as he assured necessary assistance in that regard.
He however assured that his ministry would rebuild its cooperation with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other collaborators to ensure that the bank functions effectively and efficiently.
He further advised the Federal cooperative college and the zonal office to make available to his office their challenges in order of priority, assuring that he will do his best to attend to as much as is possible.