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REDRESSING IMPEDIMENTS TO IMPROVED AGRICULTURE

By Emmanuel Onwubiko on 27/09/2014

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Daily Trust newspaper is based in the nation’s capital, Abuja. Although it is a national daily but its focal point is reporting comprehensively from the perspectives that are favorable or slanted towards Northern Nigerian interest. Whether we like it or not, newspaper houses in most countries do have their traditional focal points in which the owners would naturally expect that the staff must service even when respecting the professional ethics of the job.

So it is important to state that Northern Nigeria is known in those good old days for being the hub of Agricultural businesses including animal farming activities. Even with the presence of terrorists that have severely threatened the general economy of Northern Nigeria since 2009, Agriculture still remains the mainstay of the North of Nigeria and this national newspaper that has a slant towards serving the geopolitical interest of Northern Nigeria usually dedicate a chunk of the news spaces to the coverage of the agricultural sector. 

In one of its recent coverage Daily Trust reportedly quoted President Good luck Jonathan as reassuring the nation of his government’s commitment to minimise hunger and ensure food security while checking poverty.

The president who was represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, at the foundation laying ceremony of the National Roots and Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) sub-station in Iresi, Osun State at the weekend reportedly said the federal government would alleviate poverty through agriculture.

He added that government has embarked on programmes aimed at creating wealth for all Nigerians in the agricultural sector, noting that the government has also improved food and nutrition security in the country.
The president also promised to further promote the agricultural sector through efficient research.

Chairman Governing Council of NRCRI, Dr Oludaisi Aina, said the sub-station would cater for the research needs of the people of the South West region. He said the institute would assist to consolidate on the achievements recorded by the Jonathan administration in the agriculture sector. 

As can be deciphered this story emanated from the South West but this Abuja based national daily called Daily Trust which has become a respectable voice on the issue of Agriculture gave generous coverage to it.

Reading through this brief but catchy story immediately attracted my attention to the reality that indeed the agricultural sector which has suffered systemic generational neglect by virtually all previous administrations holds the strategic solution to the persistent problem of youth unemployment.

It is therefore worthwhile to draw the attention of the current Federal Government and by extension the governments of the 36 states of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory to borrow a leaf from the bold efforts other civilised nations like the United States of America and the United Kingdom including Australia and Germany have made for ages to harness their respective nations’ agricultural resources to increase the quantum of their foreign revenue earning scopes. Most of these European and American governments pay generous subsidies to farmers to keep them busy and cushion the effects of global recession.

The current Federal Government of Nigeria seems to have struck the right cord by appointing a versatile agricultural expert as the Minister of the Agricultural ministry and this young man has consistently made the right media presence to promote agriculture as a business for all the willing young Nigerians to embrace as a distinct profession and not just look at it as the job for the never do wells or the village based retirees.

But getting it right in the agricultural sector is different from making the right media impacts by the Minister of Agriculture who ironically is in love with designer suits and clean sets of black shoes. The Government of Nigeria needs to do more to redress and address the impediments to improved agriculture such as the total absence of interest on the part of finance institutions to fund agricultural businesses of young Nigerians and also the need to address once and for all the land tenure issue and also the need to collaterise landed assets of rural agricultural practitioners so they can attract investments and funding support from commercial banks. Aggressive rural infrastructural developments is key to achieving any sustainable agricultural industry in Nigeria so the states have to stand up and work for the people with their resources by reducing the high rate of corruption and unlawful diversion of public fund. If the state governors can keep back even fifteen percent of the public fund stolen regularly by them and their cronies including their foot soldiers in the local government councils, then rural development will be achieved in no time. The anti-graft agencies should stop sleeping and go after these rogue government officials to recover the public fund being diverted which would have been used to promote rural infrastructure in the 36 states and Abuja.

The Nigerian Agricultural bank only exists on the pages of newspapers and the jobs in that bank seem to be the exclusive preserve of boys nominated by political god fathers. This fraudulent method of appointment must stop if Nigerian farmers are to derive maximum benefits from this funding institution.

The Nigerian Government must revive the Nigerian Agricultural Bank so it can begin to generate peoples’ interest in embracing agricultural practices as modern business. The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria should also sit up and monitor banks to ensure that they give quality support to real rural farmers so they can expand their activities and modernise them to become mechanised and commercial in scope and dimension even as the various state governments must provide infrastructural support by building and running efficient food storage facilities so farmers do not run out of work due to wastages occasioned by high harvesting of their farm produce. Big time factory owners like beverage industries should be compelled to patronise Nigerian farmers because from what I have been told some of these big companies that produce beverages and non-alcoholic drinks are said to be importing fresh fruits from Cameroon and other neighboring countries thereby promoting the demise of our local agricultural industry. Government must stop this practice and Nigerians must wage campaign so buyers must beware of the products made in Nigeria but whose raw materials rather than been sourced locally are imported. When we boycott such products the manufacturers will have a rethink.

Coming to the issue of policy and legal frameworks to promote the agricultural sector, the National Assembly should consider the findings and recommendations of the just concluded National Conference in the area of land reforms and also in the area of setting up ranches for cattle rearing so farmers are not consistently put at a disadvantage by cattle breeders who invade farmlands and destroy farm produce in search of greener pastures for their cattle.

States needs to look at the modality of establishing cattle ranches if need be so the Fulani herdsmen accused of a range of farm invasion and violent insurgency that have resulted in high fatalities are brought under control.

Cattle rustling is also another impediment that the law enforcement agencies must address to save genuine cattle breeders from falling prey to well organised crime syndicates that intermittently attack them to steal their cattle and these thieves are aided by security agents who let them pass freely to market their produce whereby they share these criminal proceeds on equal basis.

If governments at every levels can get it well in commercial agriculture then the sky will be our limit in our collective national resolve to create employment opportunities for the youth who are increasingly losing patience and getting recruited to join terror gangs and armed robbery syndicates in recent periods. A stitch in time, the wise people say saves nine.

RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Wednesday and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source News Express

Posted 28/09/2014 01:34:28 AM

 

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