JUST IN: Has Tinubu forgotten north’s agriculture?

On October 17, 2022, at Arewa House, Bola Ahmed Tinubu presented to the north his blueprint for the region. He said he would fight bandits and terrorists with the technology the Muhammadu Buhari administration began to use in 2022. Tinubu pledged to turn the north’s fertile land into grain fields – and that the north will become the hub of agriculture. The dairy economy and agro-allied industries would be promoted as he accelerates the Mambila Project and rejuvenates existing power stations….CONTINUE READING

He vowed to exploit the gold in Zamfara, and iron ore in Kogi state. Tinubu also promised to bring back to school the millions of the north’s out-of-school children through incentives. He further promised to create a special commission for Almajiri education including employing Almajiri teachers.

So far, President Tinubu has appointed eight (8) special advisers (SAs), appointments seen by many political pundits as the direction of his administration’s policies and programmes. Of the portfolios of the eight SAs, agriculture gets none. Has Tinubu forgotten agriculture or does he have major policies and programmes planned for the sector?

The north needs a unique recovery program in the agriculture sector. The mainstay of the region’s economy is now devastated by banditry, insecurity, floods, and corruption. Some of the previous administrations’ beautifully designed programmes for agriculture have been abused. Many ‘real’ farmers have tearfully complained that the custodians of the programmes and projects have hijacked the benefits.

The Anchor Borrowers Programme, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI), Youth Farm Lab, Paddy Aggregation Scheme, Agricultural Trust Fund, Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative (PEDI), Food Security Council, etc, including other CBN interventions programs, are good. However, the implementation and targeting were not 100 percent successful. For example, under the PFI, fertiliser blenders benefit from government resources and smile to the banks, while the farmers for whom the scheme was primarily designed for buy fertilisers through their noses. Instead of the N5,000 per bag, as envisaged by the programme, a bag of fertiliser now costs between 20,000 to 25,000 naira.

Despite the shortcomings of some of the programmes, Nigerian agricultural production has improved. For instance, rice milling created many productive jobs. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) supported about 4.57 million smallholder farmers who cultivated over 6.02 million hectares of 21 agro-commodities across the country. The programme has helped to improve the national average yield per hectare of these commodities, with productivity per hectare almost doubling within eight years of the programme’s implementation.

Also, statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicated that some of these programmes contributed significantly to the increased national output of commodities, with maize and rice peaking at 12.2 and 9.0 million metric tons in 2021 and 2022.

However, one of the fundamental bottlenecks that these projects and programmes faced was their managers. For instance, the last two ministers of agriculture were somehow ‘disconnected’ from agriculture. Moreover, some of the managers of these programmes and projects are not agro-enthusiasts nor farmer-friendly.

With workable and real farmer-friendly agricultural policies, programmes, and projects, President Tinubu will have a golden opportunity to directly ‘talk’ to millions of northerners. What should Tinubu do? First, his minister of agriculture should not only be an agricultural enthusiast, but an agile practising farmer who understands the entire agricultural value chain, politics, and markets. A personality who understands the needs and global trends in agriculture and has a connection with real farmers and private initiatives.

Tinubu’s minister of agriculture should be someone who sees agriculture from the prisms of entrepreneurship, wealth creation, and national GDP growth. Tinubu should also appoint a special adviser on agriculture and an advisory team on agriculture which should be populated by competent real farmers. The chairman of the Forum for Agricultural Commodities Association, Sadiq Darewa, once said: “The Tinubu administration should sustain and improve upon programmes and projects that have clear benefits for Nigerians. At the same time, those that have wasted Nigerians’ time should be rejected.”

Tinubu may wish to sustain but redesign all the current agricultural policies, programmes, and projects. He needs to remove the obvious opacity which characterises most of the programmes.

Tinubu should bring real farmer associations and groups on board to assist the government in redesigning the programs. They have a good grasp of what went wrong with the schemes, programmes, and projects and how to rejuvenate them for millions of real farmers in the country.

The redesigned and improved programmes should incorporate livestock production and the establishment of more herbicide and pesticide factories. Nigeria has no business spending billions of naira on importing water mixed with some chemicals, it should work on reducing the cost of seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs including labour and transportation costs….CONTINUE READING