The Governors of Kwara, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq; Taraba, Agbu Kefas; Ondo, Lucky Aiyedatiwa; and Kogi, Ahmed Ododo, on Monday, stormed the Abuja headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to push for increased crop production to ensure food security in Nigeria.
The is aimed at tackling food inflation and food shortage.
Abdulrazaq, who doubles as the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, told the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari, that adequate concentration should be given to food security, but stressed that Nigeria’s food remained the cheapest in West Africa.
On Monday, we reported that youths and women of Niger State took to the streets of Minna, protesting over what they called the biting hardship and the rising cost of food and harsh living condition in Nigeria.
The report stated that the protest started when a group of women blocked Minna-Bida Road at the popular Kpakungu Roundabout to lament what they termed the suffering under the Bola Tinubu government. They were later joined by men and youths stopping vehicles from moving.
Speaking on behalf of the governors, Abdulrazaq stated that the Anchor Borrowers Programme that was previously implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria under its former boss, Godwin Emefiele, did not achieve much.
He, however, called on the agric minister to work hard to meet the food targets of government, as this was vital for the Nigerian masses, adding that state governors would work with the ministry.
“We could not achieve much with the CBN Anchor Borrowers programme, it was very challenging. The issue of food security is a one-stop-shop and we need to concentrate on what we are doing. We need to concentrate on what we are doing for the dry season farming.
“The minister has come up with a programme on cassava, rice and maize and we want to engage in that programme and urgently make sure we improve on our yield and deliver to the Nigerian population.
“We want to get to a stage where we export our food. What we have now is that, because of the devaluation of our naira, Nigeria’s food being exported to West Africa and is the cheapest in the region today,” the Kwara State governor said.
He added that the governors had “come to the realisation that we have a new Ministry of Agriculture, because over the last four years, before this administration, the engagement was not too productive.
“This was because the CBN took over most of what the agric ministry use to do, our trips to the ministry at that time was not fruitful. But now we have seen strong engagement and sense from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and that is why we are here today.”
Abdulrazaq said the governors had also noted that food in Nigeria was the cheapest in West Africa, adding that Nigeria’s neighbours were using its food to trade.
“They are taking our soya and other stuff to make foreign exchange for themselves. That is not a bad thing, what we need to do is to ramp up production and increase our yields per hectare so that we can feed West Africa, feed ourselves 100 per cent and export food. That is the goal we must achieve,” he stated.
The NGF chairman commended the government for priotising food production, adding that “whatever subsidy that is coming from the Federal Government will be improved upon by the states.”
On his part, the agric minister described the four governors’ visit as a huge endorsement for the progressive drive towards the much-needed collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and state governments.
“It is with a view to creating an agricultural sector fit for a nation as endowed as Nigeria with massive arable fertile land, abundant water resources and agricultural labour force. This visit is, in my view, beyond a courtesy call,” Kyari stated.
He told his guests that though agriculture had witnessed noticeable development over the years in their various states, “the bigger picture we seek to create now is to vastly increase agricultural production all year round.
“This is with the cardinal objective of driving down food inflation, creating employment, reducing poverty, engendering economic growth and development, as well promoting inclusivity.”
He pointed out that “ahead of the second phase of the Dry Season Food Production Programme under the National Agricultural Growth Scheme and Agro-Pocket, I sent out Expression of Interests to the governors of the 36 States and Federal Capital Territory, to which responses have been encouraging.
“Indeed, a number of your brother governors have paid visits to our corporate headquarters here. These include the Governors of Jigawa, Katsina, Ekiti, Niger, Kebbi, and Sokoto states in furtherance of the collaboration that we are seeking for the success of the Dry Season Food Production Programme.”
Kyari stated that there was no question that if all parties get things right, and without an iota of doubt with all hands on the plough, future programmes and projects would enable the government to seamlessly achieve all-year-round agricultural production.
“We are putting behind us the challenges encountered during the first phase of the dry season farming with wheat in 15 participating states.”
He added, “The phase we are about to get into is particularly crucial because, unlike the phase one for wheat production, which involved only 15 states, the second phase will cover the entire country.
“We will, therefore, like you to use the instrumentality of your offices as governors to ensure the readiness of your respective states for optimal participation in this second phase for the cultivation of rice, maize, and cassava.”
Among the readiness criteria, the minister said the FMAFS would want the governors to ensure that “the land is prepared and available for immediate cultivation; that the irrigable lands are allotted or owned by verifiable genuine farmers; and that the state is participating to the last mile of the entire chain.”
He, however, noted that some states had purchased power tillers and other mechanised implements, solar-powered water pumps, and recruited and trained extension agents whose involvement was vital to the dissemination of agricultural innovations to the farmers.