By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja
The latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) placed agriculture behind the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector as the second largest contributor to the Nigerian economy in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020.
The sector which grew at 3.68 per cent is one of the main drivers of Nigeria’s exit from recession brought by the crunch of the novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) disease earlier in the year.
The indices show the importance of the agriculture sector as a major contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is also an indicator that the Federal Government’s drive to grow other sectors of the economy, with the dip in the price of oil, is yielding great results.
Apart from government’s drive to diversify the economy, some state governments have intensely commenced the drive to grow sectors of their economies too. In this regard, some governors have formed alliances with ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government which have similar mandates in their areas of interest.
One of such alliances is the partnership entered into by the Nasarawa State government and the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) in the areas of agriculture and Science, Technology and Innovations (STI) development.
Speaking during an official visit to the NASENI headquarters in Abuja, the Nasarawa State governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, highlighted his administration’s willingness and readiness to partner the agency in the areas of STI and agricultural development.
He said Nasarawa State with about 80 per cent farmer population was desirous of forging partnership with the agency to provide indigenous technology to boost the nation’s agriculture sector.
The governor pointed out that Nasarawa is central to Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Niger and Plateau, the hub of agriculture in the north central, and has 80 per cent of its own people in the area of agriculture with big and professional farmers already present in the state.
“Nasarawa State is a cultural state. I have seen a lot of areas, interventions and collaborations that NASENI is doing in the area of agriculture and I strongly believe whether it is in the area of manufacturing equipment like the tractors or in the areas of applying fertilizer, chemical and herbicides or in the area of post crop harvest because a lot of times when you harvest crops in Nigeria you have a lot of losses, so you have to find a way of preserving the crops,” he said.
The governor, who is also an engineer by profession, revealed the state’s willingness to also partner the agency in the area of science and technology development, saying the state was engaging students vigorously in the area of science and technology education.
“I thought NASENI was more of a research and development centre that will come up with ideas put into practice. But to my amazement, it is where ideas are initiated, designs are carried out, 3D drawings are done, programme is set up, computer numerical machines are inputed, operated; manufacturing is done.
“So, for us in the engineering this is complete, from initiation to completion. Therefore, I am very impressed. And I have already identified someone from Nasarawa State and as an engineer myself, I strongly believe we can collaborate with NASENI.
“First and foremost, in Nasarawa State, we are promoting science and technology education. We have identified, equipped, and are in the process of really equipping additional laboratories in the areas of biology, chemistry, physical, ICT, etc. and I believe we can go into collaboration with NASENI. The Nasarawa State University is already setting up a new faculty of engineering and technology and the EVC is the chairman for the committee in the implementation and also to drive a full arrangement with the institution,” he added.
Earlier, the executive vice chairman of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Sani Haruna, said the agency was working in collaboration with some state governments and international bodies in order to deliver on its mandates.
Listing some of the agency’s interventions in the agricultural sector, Haruna said it had designed, produced and tested an agriculturally based unmanned aerial vehicle (AB UAV) to facilitate dispensing of herbicides/pesticides in farmlands. He stated that the agency had also produced a myriad of products which include rice thresher, multi-grain thresher, fish dryer, solar dryer, cabinet dryer, cassava chopping machine, mobile cassava grater, and processing machines like tigernut juicing machine and seed oil expeller.
The EVC also highlighted the successful completion of the pilot scheme of the national tractor rehabilitation, redeployment and management as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He added that the agency had invested in the establishment of training institutes across the states of the country aimed at reducing unemployment as well as advancing the sciences.
“As an agency, we are committed to harnessing the vast mineral resources across the country by establishing institutions for improved internal revenue and self-reliance among the youths.
“We have about 10 training institutes across different states of the federation which include Kano, Enugu and Nasarawa among others,” he said.
Earlier, board members of the agency present at the meeting, commended the agency for its laudable achievements.
President, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Ali Rabiu, lauded the agency for its numerous solution-based interventions in line with its mandate.
President, Nigeria Institute of Engineers (NIE), Babagana Mohammed expressed delight at what Nigerian engineers in the agency can do, saying there are capacities in Nigeria and the nation could change a lot of things if it looked inwards.