Alhaji Abdulahi Adamu, a Lawyer. Engineer, farmer and consummate politician ruled over the state of Nasarawa as a governor between 1999 and 2007, now a Chairman-Senate Committee on agriculture; in this exclusive encounter with SHOLA AKINGBOYE and PETRA OLOGUNDUDU in Abuja, he reminisced on the landmark achievement of the Buhari administration on diversification of economy through agric sector to becoming the mainstay of the Nigerian economy; while admonished the federal government on Fulani herdsmen crisis, the elder-statesman cast spells on those calling for Mr. President’s death to die before him. Excerpt:
Sir, as the Chairman Senate Committee on Agriculture, what would you say is the notable achievement of the present government in agricultural sector?
Honestly, it is up to the kind of attitude if you permit me, of my brothers in the fourth estate that if government start a programme in one month, one year and you begin to ask how far. Indeed, nothing wrong if most of you who are following the events on budgetary allocation to ask questions about the implementations of the budget to see what direction we are going? One thing I am happy with is that all know, including the media of the need to diversify our economy meaning that we need to go from one product, which is away from one revenue earner; moving away from mono economy and over dependent on oil and gas, into the economy that will diversify into generations of revenue to attain the economic requirement for the country. We are quite understand how it used to be in the past, that agriculture did take care of some basic things like we were food sufficient that we could feed ourselves as a nation. Particularly in the first republic, but today, instead of improving, getting more and achieving more, but what particularly went wrong to the extent that we now go abroad to become major importer of the food requirement of the country.
How do we go out from here?
The current administration saw what is wrong with that approach, which is why it is giving priority to the agricultural and solid mineral sector of the economy, so the government is trying to propagate the issue of going back to land, the government refer to it as the greener alternative, meaning if we go back to the farm to produce what we want and for export to generate foreign exchange from it, we would be able to work on macro economy and some of the pressing issue regarding the GDP. That gave birth to the whooping N92b for the sector in the current budget, having realized that we have not done enough as the promise we made as a country following the Maputo conference in 2010, where we made the promise along with other African nations that we would improve our budget on agriculture. All African countries agreed that subsequent budgetary allocation of African nations should not be less than 10 per cent of total budgets, but we have never been anywhere near that. But in terms of impact of what this present government is doing to improve agricultural production, many thanks to the current budget, which is over N7 trillion; the government has done a lot in terms of quantum of agricultural production that is ongoing; we are now producing a lot more than what we are producing in the last administration.
But where is the impact on the common man on the street owing to the erratic increase of food items in the market?
Another thing is that, our neigbouring countries’ agric produce have dropped and are not able to produce as much as we are producing due to the improvement in the Nigerian agric sector; this prompts them to buy agricultural commodities from Nigeria while ECOWAS kind of treaty permit for free movement in the sub-region, and that robbed us of improvement in food supply to the country. So, on the whole, I believe that we are not yet there, but definitely we are not off the track in improving the food production in Nigeria.
Let’s narrow down to your state Nasarawa state coupled with your position as the Chairman of Senate Committee on agric, what is impact of Nasarawa food production to the nation at present?
Let me remind you that as i talk to you, I talk to you as a senator; I am a legislature and as a parliamentarian, I don’t belong to any group but a nation. The implementation of a budget is solely the executive responsibilities be it federal or at state level, how it oversee what were given to him. But all I could tell you concerning some of the achievements of the government in my state, is that the state government is recruiting thousands into the agric sector, and it is actually subsidizing fertilizers to farmers presently in enhancing the ease of food production, not only for the large scale farming but also the small scale farming in the state with a ‘guidance’ policy put in place to help farmers achieve more.
What other areas you think this government has recorded a landmark achievement in the sector?
Access to credit is one of the biggest challenges farmers are facing, this government is trying to create agriculture fund as this will go a long way to boost agricultural sector in the country. The Recent federal government collaboration with CBN on micro credit intervention policy to encourage farmers with loan is another major landmark achievement of the current government, which will enable easy access to loan in order to grow more agric production in line with the diversification policy of Buhari administration, and that will make agric sector the main stay of the economy. Some of this policy is being rooted through Bank of Agriculture and Commerce Bank and at a single digit rate to finance different agric programme. Fertilizers used to be sold for N12, 000 thereabout before now, but it is sold FOR N5,000 as of today, government should be commended as far as development in agric and mining sector is concerned. As I said earlier, much still need to be done; much needs to be committed in terms of access to loan for the agric sector, policies on importation on agric products needs to be reviewed, such that will enhance government control price as we use to have in the past, likewise a resounding marketing board for agric products is required at this point in time.
As lawmaker committee on agric, what are you doing against killings of farmers by herdsmen across the country, which probably could impact on agricultural produce in the country?
My contribution on that is that, the issue has been highly politicized and blown out of proportion. The problem between farmers and herdsmen has been there for ages, this is because the two revolves. Herdsmen in search of grazing field will not go elsewhere but in search of field to feed their stocks and also have a way they relates until recently when politicians now dabble into farmers herdsmen affairs.
Are you insinuating that the killings across the country are just hearsay?
We are not saying there are no rifts here and there among herdsmen and farmers. What baffles me is way and manners people tend to caused more havoc than managing the situation so that the matter is not allowed to disintegrate us as a people. Today you hear eighty five people is killed by herdsmen, tomorrow is fifty; we keep asking, where are the dead bodies or anyone should indicate where those bodies were buried without anyone seeing them.
What do you think is the solution to this problem?
The only solution is that, we must go beyond politics to resolve issues between Fulani herdsmen and their brothers, the farmers. A common herdsman on the street cannot afford grazing reserve, but someone like me can afford it because you can’t find any of my animals on the road. But the Nigerian government should try a policy that could help balance the equation, rather than shifting the whole blame on herdsmen with attendant confusion here and there, so we must go beyond politics to solve the problem.
Lets conclude with those who calling for President Buhari’s resignation and death wishers, what is your say on this?
(Cut in) if you are one of them, you will die before him. Anyone who wishes Buhari dead will die before him. It is only God that gives life, and Him alone can take it; I will not mention anybody’s name, but anyone whatsoever either a Muslim or Christian shouldn’t wish others dead under any circumstances, so whoever that wish Buhari dead will die before him, that is my position.
Sola Omosola Akingboye graduated from Lagos State University, Ojo and also an alumni of International Institute of Journalism, Abuja. The Abuja based Media Consult is a member of NUJ, FCT Chapel; Member, Nig Energy Correspondents and affiliate of other proffesional bodies such as Believe in Nigeria Initiative (BINI); Change Agent for Positive Transformation (CAPT); OSHA Association for Industrial Safety in Nigeria. He is currently an Associate Editor and Chairman Editorial Board Informavores.com.ng.
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