The Federal Government has assured residents in the northeast that the prediction of famine in the region in 2017 is not true.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, the Minister Of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, explained that although there could be food shortage in some states as a result of the northeast insurgency, that would however not lead to famine in the country.
Referring to states such as Borno and Yobe, the minister said: “neither the devastation in the north-eastern states nor farmers and herdsmen clashes in Kaduna state is likely to lead to famine and starvation in the country.
Meanwhile, it can be recalled that the Famine Early Warning System Network, an agency supported by the United States Agency for International Development had predicted famine in the northeast because the Boko haram insurgence had prevented the people from farming over the past five years.
According to the report, the rampage of Boko Haram insurgents contributed negatively to market activity and normal livelihoods for Nigerians.
The Nigerian government says it can no longer sustain the importation of foreign rice which has continued to hamper the growth and development of the nation’s peasant farmers who are into local rice production.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, made the statement during a visit to the Ettem Amagu Rice Farm in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
The minister was accompanied by the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Rice Production, Governor Abubakar Bagudu, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele.
It was undertaken in a bid to ascertain the agricultural potentials in the state and explore possible partnerships.
The team was taken to the Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi to the Ekaeze Rice farm in Ivo Local Government Area, Ettem Amagu Rice Farm in Ikwo Local Government Area, Ikwo irrigation dam and the Abakaliki Rice Mill.
Governor Umahi while enumerating the efforts of his administration in the development of local rice production in the state, solicited for the efforts of the Federal Government and the CBN in improving agriculture and the value chain, noting that there is no way agriculture will develop without support.
He said that with the Rice Anchor Borrower Programme of the Central Bank, Nigeria would be positioned to be one of the rice growing nations in the world.
While addressing some group of local farmers at the Ettem Amagu Rice Farm, Mr Ogbeh disclosed that there had been tremendous pressure on the government to import rice in order to meet the demand for the commodity, but stressed that with the downturn in the nation’s foreign reserve the country cannot continue to import rice.
He said that President Buhari had issued a directive to the Ministry to focus on Agriculture especially rice production.
He said the country had huge potential to grow rice in commercial quantity.
“Each ship load of rice imported into the country displaces 12, 000 farmers from employment,” he said.
The minister insisted that it does not make any economic sense to continue to spend scarce foreign exchange resources on rice importation.
On his part, the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Rice Production said with the support of the Federal Government and the CBN through the Rice Anchor Borrower Programme of the Federal Government, which has brought about successful testimonies in Kebbi State, Nigeria would become one of the top nations in rice production.
However, the governor of the CBN said machines and financial support would be made available to farmers to help address challenges they face.
He, however, commended the Ebonyi State government for their commitment to encouraging local rice production and suggested a partnership between the CBN, Federal Government and the Ebonyi State Government’s in rice production.
Mr Emefiele said the partnership could produce 400,000 metric tonnes of rice per cropping season, amounting to almost a million metric tonnes a year to be actualised.
The Federal Government has expressed high hopes that the Anchor Borrower Programme would lift thousands of small farmers out of poverty and generate millions of jobs for unemployed Nigerians as well as make Nigeria a top rice production country.
Ebonyi State is one of the most agrarian in all states in Nigeria and made up predominantly of farmers, with savanna and semi-tropical vegetation. Its major agricultural potentials is in the local production of the famous Abakaliki rice which has made the state so popular and a commercial hub.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, has endorsed the ban on the sale of foreign rice in Ebonyi State, with a view to encouraging local production, as the Nation strives towards rice self-sufficiency.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbe, gave the government’s position over the weekend.
He assured farmers in the state that the Federal Government would deploy agricultural equipment, including rice harvesters, threshers, and parboiling drums, to the state to encourage rice farming.
Mr Ogbe, however, asked youths to key into the initiative in order to diversify the economy.
Since recession hit Africa’s largest economy, there has been an upsurge in the cost of the staple food from about 12,000 Naira per bag of rice to over double that amount.
As a way of seeking solutions to the recession, the Federal Government as well as several economic analysts, have suggested a ban on the importation of products which the nation’s farmers can produce, though not in sufficient quantity.
The increase in prices has pushed many to resort to smuggling of rice to be able to sell cheaper to Nigerians.
Just last week, a tanker was intercepted by the Ogun State Area Command of the Customs.
Twenty-five other vehicles, loaded with smuggled bags of rice, were also intercepted along the land borders in some parts of Ogun State.
With the Federal Government’s intervention and full support in the area of local rice production, it is expected that the menace will be curbed while there would be increased supply of rice at subsidized rates.
The Federal Government of Nigeria says it is recruiting 100, 000 graduates as extension workers in rural areas in order to meet the seven million metric tone of domestic rice consumption.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, stated this in Benue State during the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assessment tour of cooperatives’ rice farms, as the nation battles against rising food insecurity.
Speaking through his Technical Adviser on Donor funds, Mr Auta Apeh, the Minister said, the scheme would help Nigeria achieve the seven million metric tone of rice needed to feed the nation.
The visiting team were in Guma and Gwer West to distribute additional fertilizer and farm inputs to farmers and to assess the progress of the cooperative rice farm and how it will impact on the Nigeria’s food security programme.
The Federal Government has commenced the planting of 2,000 cashew seedlings to kick start the 2016 cashew planting season and Cashew Expansion Programme in Ife, Osun State, Nigeria.
The Federal Government commenced the programme in line with its goal of reviving the agriculture sector and creating jobs for the youths,
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, who flagged off the programme in Ogudu Village in Ife, Osun State said the government is determined to build the future of Nigeria by reviving cashew farming to make it earn more foreign exchange.
The Minister assured that the government will roll out two million cashew seedlings annually to sustain the programme.
Speakers at the event harped on the need for all to return to the farm especially the youths to help revive the sector as well as provide and create jobs for the unemployed.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola and others spoke about the health and financial benefits derivable from planting cashew should be the driving force to sustain the programme.
Mr Ogbeh re-affirmed the readiness of the Buhari – led administration to improve the lives of Nigerians through agriculture.
He assured that a cocoa and banana plantation programme will also be unveiled very soon .
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, while speaking blamed the nation’s ailing economy on the total abandonment of agriculture, stressing that agriculture remains the largest employer of labour in the world.
The cashew plant is expected to begin to yield it’s fruits three years from now.
The event was graced by several traditional rulers, officials of the Bank of Industry and the Bank of Agriculture and a delegation from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbe, says government has no plans to forcefully acquire any land for the proposed National Grazing Reserves in the country.
Mr Ogbe, who made the clarification in reaction to concerns coming from the southern part of the country said 50, 000 hectares of land have already been volunteered by 11 northern state governments and there would be no further need for land if these are appropriately grassed and utilized.
The Minister said federal government has no plans to take anybody’s land by force, as the aim is to end the conflict and not aggravate it.
The Minister said the Ministry of Agriculture will work with federal lawmakers to fine tune the bill and also make necessary input.
The states that volunteered the 11, 000-hectare land are Plateau, Jigawa, Gombe, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Taraba, Niger and the FCT.
Channels Television’s Omelogo Nnadi reports that when these grazing reserves are set up, the herdsmen would be expected to operate under strict regulations.
The Nigerian government is making efforts to contain the spread of “Tuta Absoluta” the disease that experts identified to have affected tomato farms leading to scarcity of the product in the nation, authorities have said.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, assured Nigerians that the government was working with a team of experts from the United Kingdom who will deliver specialised insecticides for the control of the disease.
According to him, the disease has affected six tomato producing states, including Plateau, Jigawa, Kano and Katsina.
He said Tuta Absoluta had high resistant to the commonly used insecticides and had the capacity of spreading to other crops like pepper and Irish potatoes.
For over a month now the price of tomatoes has gone up due to scarcity of the product, with less than seven seeds selling for 500 Naira, the highest price of the commodity in history.
Many families are depending largely on tinned tomatoes which people fear the price may begin to rise soon.
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, says he will on May 29 speak on the recovered stolen funds from persons that had been indicted in the fight against corruption.
The report is expected to be part of his speech on that day recognised as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
In an interview with Channels Television in the UK, where he took part in the London Anti-Corruption Summit, President Buhari said: “So far, what has come out, what has been recovered, in whatever currency, from which ministry, department and individuals, I intend on the 29th to speak on this because all that Nigerians are getting to know are from the newspapers, radio and television.
“We want to make a comprehensive report by May 29”.
On whether the names of the corrupt government officials or those indicted would be published, he said it would eventually be done.
“We want to successfully prosecute them. But you know you can’t go to the court unless you have the documents to do your prosecutions – where some of these people sign for these monies, send it to their personal bank accounts.
“Their banks gave a statement that the money is there when it came how much of it available and so on”.
Never Heard The Word ‘Padding’
On the 2016 budget and the delay that had characterised its processing, he pointed out that if he had not uncovered the padding of the budget, corruption would have crept into the budget, blaming it on technocrats.
“I never heard the word ‘padding’ until this year. I never heard about it. And what does it mean?
“It means that the technocrats just allow the government to make its noise, go and make presentation to the National Assembly so they will remove it and put their own. So, when we uncovered this, we just have to go back to the basics again,” he told Channels Television’s correspondent, Chukwuma Onuekwusi.
President Buhari also made comments on security issues, fight against Boko Haram, increasing herdsmen attacks on communities, militancy in the Niger delta and what will happen to those bowing up gas pipelines in the oil-rich region.
He stressed that he had asked the Chief of Naval staff and other Service Chiefs to work together and make sure that those blowing up installations and subverting the investment in Nigeria would be dealt with eventually.
“When I was in the Petroleum Trust Fund, we made a comprehensive study of cattle routes and grazing areas through Nigeria. I am referring the Governors’ Forum and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to it. Let them see what they can do and save the situation.
“There seem to be some credibility to the fact that there are other than Nigerian cattle rearers involved,” he said, linking the development to the crisis in Libya.
“Now this is because of what happened in Libya. When Gaddafi during his 43-year regime, he trained some people from the Sahel… Militarily, he trained them.
“When his regime was overthrown, those people were again dispatched to their countries. They are gone, carrying their weapons and they found themselves even in Boko Haram,” he explained.
President Buhari further said that the increasing herdsmen attacks on communities in Nigeria had become a governmental project, with the government ready to “trace them, disarm them and if necessary try them and discipline them”.
President Buhari had during the London Anti-Corruption Summit requested for the repatriation of funds that had been stolen and taken to the UK by past government officials.
Research institutes have been urged to be more productive and convert products of research to commercial advantage.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, made the call during the commissioning of the bio-safety laboratory at the National Veterinary Research Institute in Plateau State.
The Minister said that the new laboratory would help in tackling animal diseases such as the avian flu.
The Canadian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Perry Calderwood, also explained the importance of his country’s investment in the project which also includes training of laboratory technicians to manage the equipment.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, gave the assurance that the legislative arm is set to empower research institutes with enabling laws that will enhance productivity.