President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the partial closure of Nigeria’s borders is not meant to punish her neighbours, but to strengthen the country’s security and economy.
In a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, President Buhari told a select group of the Nigerian Community in the United Kingdom that the period of closure will be used for stock-taking on threats to the nation’s security and economy.
He noted that Nigerian farmers have been celebrating the closure which has drastically reduced the smuggling of agricultural produce as well as arms and ammunition.
President Buhari attributed the country’s virtual food security position to the “very good last three rainy seasons;” the federal government’s reduction in the price of fertilizers by 50 percent and the presidential directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria not to give foreign exchange for food imports thereby saving the nations billions of naira.
Commending Nigerians in the Diaspora for their huge home remittances – more than $25 billion in 2018 – the President also lauded their individual performances in their various fields of expertise.
Explaining the achievements of his administration in implementing its three-point campaign agenda by focusing on fixing the economy, providing security and tackling corruption, the President said Nigeria’s “huge, vibrant youth population” have been encouraged to go back to the farms and are “living decent and respectable lifestyles.”
On security, he said “it is common sense that you can only run the country if it is secured,” adding that the country “has not done badly in the North East.”
Describing the havoc done by corruption to the image and economy of Nigeria as “terrible,” President Buhari said that his administration has now focused on retrieving stolen fixed assets and returning the proceeds of the sale “to the treasury through the Treasury Single Account (TSA),” so that nobody can return them back to the convicts even after his tenure.
The Ogun State House of Assembly has acknowledged the receipt of a letter by the State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, seeking authorization for the government to participate in the bulk purchase of fertilizer under the Federal Government’s Special Fertilizer intervention programme to the tune of 4 billion Naira.
The letter, dated February 7, 2017, was read by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Suraju Ishola Adekunbi at the plenary.
Adekunbi said that the Federal Government Special Committee on Fertilizer Intervention Programme, was set up with a view to encouraging local production of soil and crop specific fertilizers.
It was aimed at ensuring availability of fertilizers to Nigerian farmers in good time at affordable prices as well as to resuscitate the local fertilizer manufacturing industry.
“In the light of the programme, all 36 states of the federation have been asked to show their expression of interest and give indication of the quantity and type of fertilizers required by their state.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria Special Committee will then source and provide fertilizers to states at a controlled price of 5,000 Naira per 50 kg for onward sale and distribution to farmers and other parts of the agro-value chain within the states at reasonable prices.
“The State Executive council has authorized the Ministry of Agriculture to procure 40, 000 metric tonnes through the Intervention programme at the cost of four billion Naira, the sum is to be recouped through direct sales of fertilizers to farmers in the state,” the letter stated.
Meanwhile, the state government requested for the issuance of an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) to the Federal Ministry of Finance to secure the purchase of the fertilizers.
In the same vein, the Assembly also received Governor Amosun’s letter dated January 31, 2017 seeking amendment to the Olabisi Onabanjo University law, (2001), following an earlier unanimous decision by the State Executive Council at its meeting held on the 3rd of January, 2017 to amend the law.
Harnessing technological advancement for food production and preservation is key to successful agriculture and must be taken seriously by all stakeholders, some Nigerian scientists have suggested.
They made the suggestion in a resolution arrived at after a three-day summit at the Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IIta) Ibadan, where researchers and other stakeholders in agribusiness brainstormed on mechanisms to wipe off hunger from Nigeria.
The summit pointed out that enabling policies must be created to enhance access to research findings aimed at adequate food production, improved nutritional advantage and domesticate them for public use among rural farmers.
The major focus of the summit include leveraging on technological advancement to improve food production, sufficiency and preservation.
Participants also sought to provide an active bridge to the gap between research findings and farmers, as end users no matter how remotely located.
One of the speakers at the summit, Adebayo Akinola, a representative of the Obafemi Awolowo University, said more than 50 innovative applications were in use but there was the need for better access for farmers especially in rural areas.
The summit intends to drive the new trends for economic growth through the youth majorly, Mr Richard Olayiwola told reporters.
By 2050, the world will be battling with about 10 billion population, the only way to meet the challenges ahead can only be done with technology.
The IITA, as a major pedestal, has been turning out research findings since 1967 and will continue to drive agricultural innovations for the future but more efforts must be put into collaborating with the institute to make its findings impact maximally on Nigerians and Africa at large.
Many small-scale farmers in Nigeria have regrettably continued to face the challenge of inadequate funding as they do not have access to credit finance and are therefore unable to invest in basic farming inputs such as implements, seedlings and fertilizers.
This is despite the acknowledgement that agriculture plays a crucial role in driving economic development.
The Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has taken the initiative to listen to the plight of the farmers and cooperative societies in the state.
The occasion was the inauguration of the Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP) under the job and wealth creation scheme of the Okowa-led administration.
While noting that due to the challenges of financing, farm yields have remained abysmally low, leading to widespread poverty and stunted economic growth, the Delta Governor promised to provide more help to farmers in the state under the newly launched support programme
Cheques ranging from two million naira to cooperative societies, tractors and other farm implements were presented to beneficiaries.
This act, according to him, is to help to overcome the problems of resource scarcity, poor technology and infrastructure deficit in the state.
President Muhammadu Buhari has stressed the need for Nigeria to cease total reliance on crude oil and gas as its major source of revenue.
He made this declaration on Friday in Abuja at a meeting with Dr Kanayo Nwanze, the Nigerian born President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
President Buhari said that time had come for Nigerians to do more than pay mere lip service to agriculture, which was the mainstay of the nation’s economy before the discovery of crude oil.
‘Go Back To The Land’
“It’s time to go back to the land. We must face the reality that the petroleum we had depended on for so long will no longer suffice. We campaigned heavily on agriculture, and we are ready to assist as many as want to go into agricultural ventures,” he said.
He also promised that his administration would cut short the long bureaucratic processes that Nigerian farmers had to go through, to get any form of assistance from the government.
Buhari assured the IFAD boss that his administration would give attention to improvement of the productivity of farmers, dry season farming, and creative ways to combat the shrinking of the Lake Chad.
According to the President’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, President Buhari said there was so much to be done and that his administration would try and articulate a programme and consult organisations like IFAD for advice.
He added that foreign exchange would be conserved for machinery and other items needed for production, “instead of using it to import things like toothpicks”.
Dr Nwanze congratulated President Buhari on his victory at the general elections, assuring him that IFAD was ready to give all possible assistance to the Federal Government and Nigerian farmers to boost agricultural production and promote food security.
Since the price of crude oil dropped, the Nigerian government has given more attention to agriculture to ensure that the economy of the oil-rich nation, which depended so much on revenues from crude oil sales, is diversified.
IFAD is an international organisation dedicated to addressing issues of agriculture and poverty alleviation.
It was established in 1978, and has been collaborating with Nigeria for over 30 years.
The Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has promised to provide one million naira each to 35 Small and Medium Enterprises for infrastructure development and to support the cassava bread bakers in the country.
The Minister made this promise while addressing newsmen in Ayede Ekiti, Ekiti State, where he revealed that Nigeria saves 200 billion Naira yearly from its 20% cassava substitution for wheat in bread making.
He added that the agricultural transformation of the Federal Government was to add value to the Agric sector and to support Nigerian farmers, as well as the 36 cassava bread bakers in the country so far in achieving their dreams.
He also advised Nigerians to eat more of cassava bread.
Dr. Adesina explained that the sum of 3.5 billion Naira had been expended on the upgrading of facilities for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises to boost the economy and encourage entrepreneurs.
The Commissioner for Agriculture in Ekiti State, Babajide Arowosafe, in his reaction, commended the efforts of the Federal Government and also explained what the Ekiti State Government had also done in the areas of agriculture.
The Minister and his entourage had earlier paid a private visit to the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, before moving to Ayede Ekiti.
He was accompanied by the Ekiti State Commissioner for Agriculture.
The Chairman, Community of Agricultural Stakeholders of Nigeria, Emmanuel Ijewere, on Thursday suggested new ways for farmers in Nigeria’s growing agricultural sector to obtain long terms loans, including pension funds and Federal Government Bonds.
Mr Ijewere who spoke on Sunrise Daily, at the 2nd edition of the Ogun Investors’ Forum, holding in Abeokuta, the State capital, stressed that the best way to encourage famers and boost growth in the sector is to make long term loans available to farmers.
To this end, Ijewere highlighted the importance of the Forum, which is aimed at promoting agriculture and urban development. According to him , players in the agri-business industry and other stakeholders, including the banking institutions are able to dialogue and resolve issues.
“Historically, we thought agriculture meant farming but we’ve learnt a lot more now,” he said.
Logistics, communication, banking and ready market are some of the issues Ijewere raised concerning the value chain, which he said must be fixed and made to work in synergy for the benefit of all.
“It’s in totality, bringing everybody together on one table, discussing agro-business as one unit of event.”
On issues raised by members of the banking sector, concerning the lack of structure in the agriculture sector, which discourages bankers from granting farmers credit, Ijewere said “if they get their monies from short-term sources, they cannot give it on long-term basis.”
However, he explained that 75 per cent of the farmer’s cost is used in preparing the land.
Hence, “when you prepare the land for the first time, you use that same land for a minimum of about 5 or 6 years, but the sunk cost is already there in the first year. The banks would want their money back within 12 months, whereas you have spread it out over five or six years.
“So, you have this mismatch,” he said, noting that members of the banking sector have no training on the internal workings of the agricultural sector, as they do of the oil and gas sector.
“They have trained their people for those highfalutin worlds and highfalutin businesses. Nobody is going to talk about agriculture.”
Although the Federal Government and some State governments are making efforts to ameliorate this, “the long term solution is looking for long term funds”.
The Community Chairman went further to suggest that pension funds, which are built over a long period of time, be used as credit to farmers. Other suggestions he made were Federal Government Bonds, international funds.
The Kwara State government has set up a 215 million Naira commercial agricultural loan scheme to boost agricultural activities, which 217 farmers across the 16 Local Government Areas of the state will benefit from.
While presenting cheques to some of the beneficiaries who received between one and one point five million Naira each, the state governor, Abdulfattah Ahmed, encouraged the farmers to make judicious use of the funds to expand their businesses.
Governor Ahmed also noted that the initiative would take the State a step closer to achieving its dream of agro-driven growth as well as the launch of the off-taker demand driven scheme, which would extend agribusiness to other parts of the state.
He emphasised that the 172 lead farmers were the core of his administration’s model of 10 out-grower farmers per local government, who will receive funds to expand their businesses because they had proven their capacity to drive agribusinesses.
The governor charged the beneficiaries to be change agents that would train the next generation of commercial farmers in the state in their various communities, stressing that they should judiciously apply the funds disbursed to them for the establishment of agriculture as the pivot of Kwara State’s economic prosperity.
The Abia State Government has distributed improved cocoa seedling to registered cocoa farmers free of charge.
At the event held at Michael Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia, Governor Theodore Orji who was also awarded with Best Agriculture Friendly Governor hinted that the administration landmark in agriculture is to create wealth and boost the economic development of rural areas.
According to Dr Uche Nwafor, the state has keyed into the agriculture transformation by supporting the 2012/2013 data capture for farmers where the state recorded the highest figure in the Southeast zone with a total number of two hundred and forty thousand registered farmers.
Shortly after receiving the award as the Agricultural Friendly Governor, Southeast, Governor Orji disclosed that the attention being given to agricultural sector is a strategic move by government to ensure the sector which used to be the mainstay of economy before the oil boom is not overlooked.
He added that the state government has chosen to make the sector a major priority and as part of deliberate development strategy government has revamp most of the agriculture industries because it is in line with the objectives of the World Development Economic Goals with focus on Agriculture activities as a solution to poverty.
The Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adeshina has affirmed that despite the criticisms trailing the proposed purchase of cell phones for farmers in the country, the ministry would not go back on its decision.
He maintained that the policy would not only enhance the performance of Nigerian farmers but also transform the agricultural sector.
The Minister disclosed this while addressing newsmen on Monday in Abuja. He noted that the government would not commit itself to direct purchase of cell phones for farmers but would only subsidise the phones through a partnership that would involve telephone service operators, Ministry of Communications Technology and other stakeholders.
He disclosed that reason being that the purchase of cell phones for farmers is tied to the distribution of fertilizers directly to the farmers without the involvement of third parties who had allegedly been ripping them off.
He said, “Government policy must always be based on evidence and well analysed data. We carried out an analysis of our GES work based on a large sample of 426,000 farmers from various local government areas in 13 states.
“We found that 71 percent of farmers sampled did not have cell phones. This shows that many of our farmers in rural areas are quite poor and are excluded from the benefits of the mobile phone revolution going on in Nigeria.
“These farmers cannot access the GES scheme without cellphones and we must find a way to include them. They must not be left behind.”
Mr Adeshina said that the Ministry planned to make phones available to farmers on a gradual basis, stressing that government would not be involved in direct purchase of the phones.
“Of course, we cannot get 10 million phones to all farmers who do not have phones this year. Our plan is a gradual scale up. We intend to get about 2 million phones to farmers who do not have phones this year”.
“How will these phones be paid for and how will they be distributed? We ended four decades of corruption in the fertilizer and seed sector by ending direct procurement and distribution of these inputs by the government.
“We also ended the ineffective and corrupt direct procurement and distribution of tractors by government. It will therefore be inconsistent for government to now start direct procurement and distribution of phones.
“There will be no direct procurement of phones by the Federal Government. We are also not going to give anyone contracts to import phones from China or anywhere else. Let me also state loud and clear.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Communications Technology are partnering together to implement this policy,” he emphasised. Asked who will be eligible to benefit from the scheme, the minister said “we intend to use the GES scheme to distribute these phones. To be entitled to a phone, farmers must be registered on the e-wallet platform. Paper vouchers will be issued to farmers who do not have phones.
“The government will provide a subsidy to the farmer through the voucher to buy the phone. The farmer takes the voucher to the local mobile phone operator and pays the balance which is the difference between the value of the voucher and the cost of the phone.
“Once a farmer buys a phone and a SIM card, his new phone number will be updated on the e-wallet database and he will be able to receive his e-wallet voucher which will entitle him to purchase fertilizer and seeds at subsidized rates.
“Phones will be sold directly to farmers by local mobile phone service providers. The government simply subsidizes the cost of the phone directly to the farmer.
“We intend to start by first targeting farmers who live in areas where there is network coverage already but who do not have phones. We will then encourage phone companies to increase their coverage and as they do we will target farmers in those areas.
“By so doing phone companies will have the incentive to expand to rural areas because our programme will assure them of customers in those new areas. Cell phones in the hands of our farmers will do more than deliver government subsidized inputs.
“It will provide them access to market price information. They will be able to bargain better and save themselves from the middlemen who currently exploit them by paying them very low prices for their produce.
“Cellphones in the hands of our farmers will allow us to reach farmers with extension information such as what crops to plant, when to plant and other agronomic practices that will help them improve their productivity.
“It will allow farmers to better deal with shocks such as drought and floods in real time. Simple alerts to farmers’ phones can help them avoid catastrophes while saving lives.
“Majority of our farmers are excluded from financial services. 78.8 percent of Nigeria’s rural population are unbanked according to the report by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, EFInA. The cost of reaching them in rural areas is high for financial institutions.
“No bank can afford to build branches in every little village. Cellphones provide financial institutions with a low cost and efficient way of providing financial services to our farmers. The use of cellphones to provide financial services in rural areas is not new. It is already being used in several African countries.”
The minister said despite the wide criticisms on his plans for the farmers, he would not be deterred in his determination to transform the agricultural sector, stressing that “as a Minister, I cannot use hype to guide policies. I must use evidence to guide policies. When the floods occurred, there was panic in the land.
“Some derided our efforts and said Nigeria would have famine; that there would be massive food shortage; and there would be food riots. Those who wanted to import food and get waivers from government sponsored such media hypes. I was not moved.
“We used modern technology to guide our decision. Using remote sensing and satellite imagery, we mapped out the extent of the flood and determined that no more than 1.17 percent of our total cultivated area was affected by the floods. Our detractors wanted the world to believe the opposite, that food crisis was imminent. They were wrong. Today, five months after the floods, we do not have a food crisis.
“The same way these detractors have misled the public about the relevance of cellphones in Nigerian agriculture. They do not know that we are already using cellphones to distribute fertilizer and seeds to even mitigate the impact of the flood. We are already using cellphones to reach 232,000 farmers for rice production in the dry season, each getting three bags, across 10 states of the north east, North West and north central regions.
Speaking further the minister claimed that: “To reach farmers affected by the flood, we are also using cellphones through the growth enhancement support. We are reaching 98,000 farmers affected by floods across the country with two bags of fertilizers per farmer, plus one bag of agrolyser micronutrient to replace some of the soil micronutrients that have been washed away by the flood. Such is the power of cellphones revolutionizing agriculture today in Nigeria.
“I will not be distracted. We will rebuild the broken walls of Nigeria’s agriculture and unlock wealth and opportunities for our farmers. For those calling for my crucifixion, let me say that when Jesus was before Pilate, they had accused him falsely. Pilate, after listening to his case, found no cause for condemning him. Nonetheless, should anyone still want me crucified, let me say this, along my faith: “I am crucified with Christ already. Nevertheless, I live and the life that I live, I live by the grace of the son of God, who died for me,” Mr Adeshina said.
As parts of its efforts to stop the huge amount wasted on the importation of rice, the Federal Government has said it will establish two rice mills in Ekiti State.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, disclosed this through a director in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the state, Mr. Dipo Kolade, at a workshop organised for rice farmers in collaboration with the state government.
Adesina said the state was blessed with good soil and climate conducive to growing rice, and urged the farmers to invest more in rice production and produce more to enable the planned mills operate at full capacities.
He said the Federal Government’s target was to ensure food security for the nation, stressing that it was high time the country stopped importation of low quality rice with huge amounts of money.
According to him, over N365billion is being wasted on importation of rice every year, adding that this huge amount of money would have boosted the nation’s economy had it been spent on capital projects.
The Minister called on people of the state to begin massive production of rice, while assuring them that there would be market for their produce.
The Ekiti State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. Babajide Arowosafe, said the purpose of the workshop was to teach the farmers modern techniques of rice production.
The Commissioner, who lauded the Federal Government’s agenda on agricultural transformation, said it would encourage massive food production and reduce the near total dependence on other countries for food.