By Arc Kabir Ibrahim
The effort of this administration in Agriculture has been quite commendable from inception and has attracted the intervention of the CBN and several stakeholders. The Food Security Council Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, the passing into law of the Seed Act, Soil Bill, PVP Bill and several others are very commendable actions.
The evolution of institutions like National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) to empower and incentivize 774,000 youths from all the LGAs to embrace agriculture, NIRSAL to mitigate risk for Agricultural lending by commercial banks, the creation of NIRSAL Microfinance Bank and the incentives to commercial banks to participate in agricultural lending are efforts to aid the financing of agriculture.
The appointment of two ministers for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) with clearly defined roles is also a very good step in the right direction.
The cumulative effect of all these have resulted in bringing agriculture to the front banner of Nigeria’s development.
The interest of government in agriculture has attracted many people to agriculture, unfortunately, the FMARD seems to be in denial of what really needs to be done to fully make agriculture work for the benefit of all Nigerians.
In the last two years or so the agriculture space has been going through a number of hiccups due largely to unfocused leadership at the FMARD.
The leadership of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) paid a courtesy visit to the Ministry on the assumption of office of the current ministers and suggested that there should be synergy with a number of stakeholders and MDAs.
We pointed out the need for close relationships with the CBN, the Ministries of Water Resources, Trade and Investment, Science and Technology, Transport, Works and Hosing, Environment, Humanitarian Affairs and several MDAs as well as Bank of Agriculture (BOA), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Bank of Industry (BOI) etc.
We are surprised that the relationship between the Ministry and most of these important components of government are not exactly cordial.
It is not surprising therefore that the responsibilities of FMARD are practically taken over by some of them like the CBN through its Anchor Borrower Programme, the Federal Ministry of Finance in driving the UN Food System Dialogue and the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment taking over everything about agribusiness.
The little responsibilities left to the Ministry are not given the right kind of attention due to lack of inclusion and greed for control.
Something laughable happened on the 18th of March, 2021 that I could not help but mention in greater detail to make the Ministry to pay more attention to their responsibilities.
The President assented to the Seed Act 2019 and the provisions in it gave the NASC full powers to regulate the Seed System.
It is amazing that the minister hosted some Chinese entrepreneurs who promised to give Nigerian farmers high yielding rice, soya and maize seeds.
The Seed Act clearly spells out that no one can bring seeds into Nigeria but produce it here and get it certified by NASC and subsequently released to the farmers.
At the same time he also met with a large estate developer who promised to assist the Nigerian farmers with irrigation facilities and training.
This is balderdash moreso because the meeting with these fellows did not include the relevant directors of the FMARD except photographers, some of the Minister’s aides and “friends”
The President, Muhammadu Buhari is passionate about agriculture and has made tremendous efforts to make it the mainstay of the economy.
It is germane to ensure that the following are reappraised properly to sustain the gains made so far:
. We must reinvigorate the GMP ( guaranteed minimum price) as it is very clear on when government intervention is necessary:
. for farmers to be able to go back to produce some crops the government will buy off at a minimum guaranteed price what they bring to the market when prices are low.
. the government will release what it stocked in the SGR when prices are high to bring stability.
. No waver should be given to fertilizer traders to import the commodity considering the government’s effort at the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative(PFI). Contemplating that is detrimental to the gains made.
. The effort to borrow $1.1billion from Brazil for mechanization needs to be actualised as soon as possible.
The matter is not likely to see the light of day with the present attitude so a change of modus operandi is necessary.
. The unnecessary controversy in the fight for quylea birds and pest control that trended throughout 2020 should not be allowed to continue or happen again.
. The controversial farmer-data capture handed over to consultants without involving state governments and even the FMARD’s Federal directors in most of the states should be looked into.
The Nigerian farmers are ready to do their utmost to make Nigeria food sufficient given the required enabling environment.
– Arc Ibrahim is the National President, All Farmers Assiciation of Nigeria (AFAN).