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Agriculture: Our Only Hope?

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By most accounts, Nigeria was self-sufficient in food production 50 years ago when she became an independent country.

Agriculturalists recall that the country was able to attain that feat largely because of enhanced agricultural activities and the priority accorded to the sector at that time by the various levels of governments.

They, however, bemoan the steady decline in food production during the oil boom era of the 1970s, with the attendant effects on widening food supply and demand gaps, as well as rising food import bills.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD) have predicted a sharp increase in global food prices in the coming decades with the cost of assorted grains estimated to rise by 15 to 40 per cent due to declining production.

The report indicates that global food prices are expected to rise again without reverting to the average levels witnessed during the past decade .

.. If history is any guide, further episodes of strong price fluctuations of food grains cannot be ruled out, nor can future short-lived crises,” says the report.

However, some agriculturalists have attributed the growth in food demand to the spiraling world population, which is estimated to peak at over nine billion by 2050.

The scenario is even more frightening, as a recent World Bank report also indicates that several people die on a daily basis from hunger and hunger-related diseases in the developing countries, including Nigeria.

This, perhaps, explains why Gov. Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, on assumption of office in May 2007, pledged to revitalize the agriculture sector to guarantee food sufficiency and increased production, while reducing poverty among the people of the state, who are predominantly farmers.

Less than three months in office, Yuguda initiated some programmes aimed at modernising agriculture through mechanization.

As a first measure, the state government procured more than 23 tractors directly from the Federal Government, while acquiring over 1,200 medium-size tractors from Steyr Tractor Assembly Plant in Bauchi, as part of efforts to promote mechanised farming.

To provide easy access to the tractors for the farmers, the government distributed the tractors to the state’s 20 local government councils, with each council receiving 50 tractors.

In addition, the government refurbished more than 20 broken-down tractors, so as to increase the number of tractors avai lable to the farmers.

Besides, the moribund 4,000 metric-tonne-capacity grains silo project at Boto in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area has been completed, while similar silo projects are at various stages of completion in Bauchi and Azare towns.

The government is also constructing a 10,000 metric-tonne-capacity grains silo at Kangare in Bauchi Local Government Area.

To add value to its huge investments in agriculture, the government had procured and distributed 72, 200 metric tonnes of fertiliser to farmers, as part of measures to boost food production in the state in the last three years.

Alhaji Sanusi Muhammad, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, says that the Yuguda-administration has invested a lot in revitahsing the agriculture sector. He recalls that more than 30,000 metric tonnes of fertihser were procured and sold to the farmers at 40-per-cent discount during the 2008 farming season alone

Muhammad says that additional 44,200 metric tonnes of fertilizer were procured and distributed to farmers during the 2009 farming season.

“In addition to the 25-per-cent subsidy on fertilisers given by the Federal Government, the state government further subsidised the commodity by 40 per cent.

, ‘This is all in the efforts to make agricultural inputs available and more affordable to the farmers,” he says.

Muhammad stresses that in line with the government’s strategy to ensure that farmers in the rural areas have unrestricted access to fertiliser; more than 70 per cent of the distributed fertiliser was allocated to wards and local government councils directly.

To enhance funding of agricultural projects, the state government also increased its budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector, while fulfilling its counterpart agreements with donor agricultural-support agencies.

Muhammad said that the state government has spent more than N2 billion on agricultural projects in the 2009 fiscal year alone.

The amount, he added, was spent on purchasing agricultural inputs, including fertilisers, organising capacity building activities and implementing agricultural development programmes.

He said that more than N 1 billion was also spent on the procurement of fertilisers, adding that N 126 million was spent on forestry development, while N55 million was spent on livestock programmes.

Besides, Muhammad said that the government has revived all the moribund farms and cattle ranches, while purchasing grains for strategic reserves and renovating some of the dilapidated veterinary clinics.

Alhaji Saleh Yahaya, the Project Officer of the Community-based Agricultural and Rural Development Programme (CBARDP), corroborates Muhammad’s claims on the gove.rnment’s feats in agriculture.

He noted that the state government, in conjunction with the African Development Bank (AfDB), are spending over N500 million to build the capacity of agricultural extension service workers and fund other community-based intervention projects in the state. Yahaya says that the bank had so far disbursed over N150 million to the state to fast-track the programme’s implementation.

According to him the programme is a joint venture between the AIDB, the Federal Government, the Bauchi State Government, nine selected local government areas, and the benefiting communities.

Yahaya said that the bank will contribute 81 per cent of the total cost of the programme and the state government will contribute nine per cent of the cost, while the nine local government areas will contribute six per cent.

‘The beneficiary communities will contribute one per cent in kind and not in cash,” he says.

Total project cost covers the training of agricultural extension workers in the nine participating local government areas he said, adding that the benefiting communities will also benefit from the capacity-building initiative.

The programme also includes the execution of community-based projects such as dispensaries, clinics and maternity centres in the rural communities .

. , The beauty of the programme is that the communities were allowed to select and execute projects of their choices.

“The project is also socially inclusive and gender-sensitive, as women are active participants.

“More than 30 per cent of the bank’s intervention activities have been reserved for women in the participating local government areas, particularly the income-generating activities,” he said,

Yahaya said that livestock fattening, poultry, fish farming, provision of kerosene­powered incubators as well as sewing and knitting machines are some of the income­generating activities.

The training programmes organised for the extension personnel have started to yield positive results, as more farmers are now exposed to modem farming techniques.

Yahaya says that more than 99 agricultural extension officers had been trained and re­trained since 2007 when the programme was launched.

Alhaji Ilyasu Gital, the Programme Manager of Bauchi State Agricultural Development Programme (BSADP), sheds more light on the programme.

He noted that the state government had so far spent over N66 million as its counterpart funding to the programme since its inception in 2007.

Gital adds that the nine participating local government had also contributed over N35.9 to the programme in the last four years.

He commended the programme’s implementation so far, saying: “This is one of the best agricultural intervention programmes of the AIDB in terms of direct involvement of the stakeholders.’ ,

From all indications, the state government has placed considerable emphasis on capacity building in its agricultural programmes.

The government’s focus, perhaps, explains why it recently organised a four-day workshop on modem cowpea farming techniques for more than 184 cowpea farmers and 90 agricultural extension service agents, in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

The govemment says that the project is pmt of a comprehensive strategy aimed at promoting large-scale cultivation of cowpea in the state.

Alhaji Tanko Dutse, a former Commissioner for Agriculture, said that the workshop was designed to train farmers and agricultural extension workers in modem cowpea farming and preservation techniques.

The government  earmarked N36 million for agricultural extension services, as part of measures to boost agricultural activities in the state he noted. 

“The training programme is aimed at improving the capacity of the extension workers to impart relevant knowledge and skills on the farmers.

“Govemment is adopting new technology for agricultural productivity in the state,” he says.

The ex-commissioner says that the government intends to set up monitoring units to ensure the effective implementation of the agricultural extension services programme in the 20 local government areas.

 

By Sani Adamu

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What Do Nigerians Expect In 2022?

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As the year 2021 was winding up with all its ups and downs, it was natural for people to state some of their expectations in the coming year, 2022. And what are some of these prospects?
Joseph Omeje, is an economist and lecturer with the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT). He believes that human beings are usually very optimistic. Hear him: Yes, the economy of the country and globally is very bad but I expect that 2022 will be better than 2021 only that we have to plead with the political leaders to play the game of electioneering very gently. Let there be human face in whatever they are doing. We wouldn’t like to hear that the youths are being used to kill or to commit all evil in a bid for some people to realise their political ambitions. Our leaders should do their best so that we do not incur much human losses anymore. We have suffered a lot in the hands of these religious extremists and those who are pursuing their personal goals.
Economically, Nigeria will do better once there is security. The insecurity problem in the country is something that government can tackle if they want. Once the security situation in the country is improved so as to allow farmers go back to their farms and Nigerians go about their businesses freely, then the nation wouldn’t be as bad as it was in the last year. Government should dialogue with agitating groups. Whatever is the problem let them discuss it so that there will be peace in the country. When there is peace, the economy will improve. I believe that political solution is much better than judicial solution.
I also expect that government should take a second look at the idea of giving out money in the name of allowances. What is N5000.00 for a household or even an individual in a month? Instead of all these handouts, government should create an environment where people can get employment. When we were growing up I know that some states had stakes in businesses. In my own state, Enugu, we had cashew industry, aluminium roofing sheet industry and all that. All these are moribund now. If all these can be revived and new ones added, you will see that there will be a lot of jobs. And once you have job opportunities for the youth, you will see that even the problem of insecurity will reduce and per capita income will increase and the economy will improve.
It is also my expectation that the excessive borrowings will stop. We have borrowed enough. It’s true that no country can do without borrowing but when we keep borrowing and we are not putting it into real investment portfolio or productive sector so that it helps the economy to grow, then there is a big problem. And how do we intend to pay back these loans? We heard what happened in Uganda recently. The Chinese government has taken over the only international airport they have because of their indebtedness to China. What if the same thing should happen to Nigeria?
For Mrs Dorathy Mayford, a civil servant, the experiences of the previous years have taught her not to have any expectations from the government, the society or individuals as doing so affects her health negatively. “I have learned that the best way to live is without having any expectations from life. Expecting good from our leaders in Nigeria will end up getting you disappointed. For some years now workers in the state and the nation have expected that their salaries will be increased to enable them cope with the prevailing harsh economic realities in the country. Civil servants in the state have expected that they will be promoted but these expectations were never met.  So, I have decided that in order to stay healthy and happy, I will not expect anything. I only put my trust and hope in God because only He will not disappoint or fail me.”
A technician, Mr Malachy Amadi, expects that there will be plenty of money in circulation in the country in 2022. In his words, “2022 is a year preceding an election year. It will be a period of campaigns and the politicians will bring out all the money they have been stealing from government’s coffers and saving. So, there will be a lot of money in circulation and that will make life better and easier for the masses.”
Joel Ogwuche, a stock broker, projects that Nigeria will be a better society, a well-planned environment where people can begin to make plans for the future. “As it is, presently, nobody can plan for tomorrow in this country because of several policy summersaults. Those in authority change the existing policies at any time and introduce new ones without even notifying the citizens. Nobody can make a sustainable plan in this type of environment. So, I expect that in the coming year, our leaders will begin to do the right thing for the benefit of the entire citizens and not for a few individuals”, he said.
Miss Grace Moses, a housekeeper, is of the hope that in 2022, security would be a major concern for those in the authority both at the federal and state levels. Grace, an indigene of Kaduna State, working in Port Harcourt, narrated that many people from her state have been forced out of their state and into other major cities around the country where they engage in all kinds of menial jobs to survive. According to her, the prices of food and other commodities are rising daily in the country because farmers have been driven away from villages by Boko Haram militants disguised as Fulani herdsmen and other criminals. She, therefore, expects that in 2022, the problem of insecurity will be given a sincere, adequate attention so that people can go back to their villages.
Jake Baridon, a legal practitioner expects the national and state assemblies to be on the side of the masses and make laws that will benefit the generality of the people instead of being “rubber stamps”. He continued, “I personally will expect the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on electoral bill. The bill, as far as I know, represents the desire of the electorates in the country and it is wrong of Mr President with withhold his assent for the second time for some flimsy reasons. The year 2020 should be a period for us to start seeing vibrant law making, practical separation of power and checks and balances in our nation. These people have been dormant for a long time and it is high time they showed that they can not only bark but that they can also bite.”
He also expects the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the police, the EFCC and others bodies to play their respective roles in fighting corruption in Nigeria, adding that the high rate of corruption in the country is disturbing and if nothing is done to check it, the future of the country will be very bleak.
Arinola Moyo, a youth corps member, says she wants to see true leadership in the country, especially at the federal level. In her words: it’s been as if we don’t have a true leader since the current government came on board. Every time you hear the Presidency said this, the Attorney General of the Federation said that, Lai Mohammed said that. You hardly hear from the President, making it seem as if these people are the ones ruling the nation. So, I want to see more effective leadership in the country.
“Government should also do something about the high unemployment rate in the country. Thousands of graduates come out from schools every year without jobs for them. That is why some of them join Internet fraudsters and other bad gangs.
“I also expect federal and state governments to implement the recommendations of the various judicial panels on #EndSARS. This issue is so delicate to be swept under the carpet.” Moyo said.
Christian Chidi is a businessman. He expects that with the issue of COVID-19 being curtailed, life will come back to the business sector in the country. According to him, since the advent of the pandemic two years ago, business has been dull with many oil companies working from home and many private companies folding up.
A housewife, Lady Pep Iroh, is projecting that, come year 2022, adequate attention will be paid to the problem of soot in Port Harcourt which she alleges is causing serious health issues for the residents of the city.
Pastor Godswill Abalagha envisions that the grace of God will be abundant for the nation and the citizens in 2022 to help see them through all difficulties and challenges. He, however, advised Nigerians to turn away from their wicked ways, including stealing government’s money, shedding of blood, kidnapping, corrupt practices and rather seek the face of God.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.

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Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria

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In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines  more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations  to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network  (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim,  according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan,  explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is  also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area –  career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him,  it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in  workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun  Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank  will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
 According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch  of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency,  points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should  have courage and confidence in taking risks within  organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer,  Standard  Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
 She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
 For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but  about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
 Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian  women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population –  mainly women –  economically unviable.
 A First Bank customer,  Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN –  benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
 “If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to  enhance gender parity.


By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

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