Paying Lip Service To Agric Development


Successive administrations in the country have never enunciated any aggressive agricultural development policy since independence in 1960 except the much hyped Operation Feed the Nation programme of the Olusegun Obasanjo military administration in the 70s and Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s Green Revolution of the 80s. But these were mere mantras that did not put more food on the tables of Nigerians as governments were more interested in exporting crude oil to earn cheap petro dollars at the expense of harnessing the nation’s abundant agricultural potentials.

The nation has stagnated largely due to the criminal neglect of agriculture, with its attendant consequences in form of hunger and poverty ravaging the country.

It is no surprise therefore that Nigeria relies heavily on food importation to feed its teeming population of 150 million. Now there is nothing under the sun that the country does not import, even vegetables and toothpicks. If something is not wrong with our leaders, why should farm produce like wheat, sugarcane, vegetables, palm oil etc. be allowed to be imported into the country?

Only recently, the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, told a gathering at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan that Nigeria spends N635 billion on importation of wheat and another N217 billion on importation of sugar annually. Nigeria has the climate and right soil to produce these items but our myopic leaders and their cronies prefer to import these items so that they could make huge profits at the expense of the people.

While many less endowed nations boast of food security, Nigeria’s leaders are so bereft of ideas that they can’t harness the vast human and natural resources of the country to turn around the country’s economy and feed the poverty-stricken citizens.

The unrest in parts of the country could be brought to an end if the youths are gainfully employed through mechanised agriculture.

It is also disheartening that only one per cent of Nigeria’s farmers have access to finance. With this situation, the farmers have no choice than to engage in subsistence agriculture. But can these farmers feed a population of 150 million? We have heard that the Central Bank of Nigeria has made available N450 billion to boost agriculture. That money won’t get to the farmers. It will end up in the pockets of a few corrupt government officials. And the vicious cycle will continue. This is the dilemma the nation is facing and has to opt for the easy way out by relying heavily on food importation.

President Goodluck Jonathan must stop paying lip service to agriculture. He must invest more in local food production so that the country could save the huge foreign exchange being wasted on all manner of imported food items. His administration can make the much needed impact in the agricultural sector within six months if he musters the necessary will to keep the directing minds in the Ministry of Agriculture on their toes. We will continue to remain the laughing stock if we can’t feed our large population.

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