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Promoting Cocoa Production In Nigeria

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Little Abdulqahar Mohammed could well be described as a child with penchant for processed cocoa foods such as Bournvita beverage.

“Whenever he cried as a toddler, Bournvita drink or any other variety of cocoa beverages easily pacified him; not even pap, a local food drink common to most infants sufficed,” recalls Malama Sefiyat, Abdulquahar’s mother.

Other kids and adults too, have their own peculiarities of foods processed from cocoa. These underscore the fact that cocoa as a cash crop will constantly be in demand by food and beverage processors the world over.

Besides foods, cocoa is also processed into other consumables such as soaps, creams and related cosmetics in huge commercial quantities. Cocoa has proved therefore, to be a major revenue earner for farmers and entrepreneurs in the food processing and manufacturing sectors of nations’ economies.

Agriculturists trace cocoa’s origin to the Aztec civilization in South America in the 14th and 15th centuries, though over the ages, its cultivation had spread to many parts of the globe, including Africa.

In West Africa, Nigeria had ranked amongst the leading cocoa producers in the sub-region. In the 1960s in particular, long before the oil boom years of the 1970s, cocoa was a major export crop for the nation as it fetched a sizeable percentage of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings.

In fact, the product largely drove the economy of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, with legacies of its economic relevance still standing till the present day.            Regrettably however, crude oil displaced the agricultural sector of the nation’s economy from the early 1970s and till date, the sector has remained faltering, while efforts made by successive governments to restore the old glory of agriculture proved ineffective.

Cocoa production, which was predominant in the South-West and parts of South-South geopolitical zones of the country, was badly hit by the drawback in the agricultural sector, largely because of the emergence of oil as the nation’s new major foreign exchange earner.

“Cocoa used to be the major revenue earner for the old Western Region of Nigeria just as palm oil and groundnut boosted the revenue profiles of the Eastern and Northern regions of the country respectively,” said National Coordinator, Golden Cocoa Producers of Nigeria, Dr Tunde Arosanyin.

By the account of Dr Akin  Adesina the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, an estimated 600,000 metric tonnes of cocoa is produced annually in Nigeria.

He said that the expectation of the Federal Government is that the figure would rise astronomically, once current efforts at revitalizing cocoa production began to yield fruits.

As part of the collaborative effort to give boost to cocoa production in Nigeria, an international conference on cocoa held recently in Abuja, under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Dutch Sustainable Trade (IDH) and the UNDP.

With the theme – “Mobilizing Public-Private Sector Cooperation for Sustainable Cocoa Development in Nigeria”, stakeholders in the agricultural sector brainstormed on ways to revitalise the crop’s production in the country again.

The participants were optimistic that it was a matter of time before the cash crop regained its old glory as a prime revenue earner for the country.

Lokoja-based small-scale farmer, Mr Anthony Alabi is one such optimistic Nigerian.

“I am very sure that there is a life span for the crude oil currently sustaining Nigeria’s economy today. Experts predict that it will dry up one day but with a cash crop like cocoa, the revenue earning capacity is limitless.

“Before our crude oil dries up, this is now the time for the public and private sectors to begin to revive cocoa production and other cash crops that could sustain the country’s economy and put it on a long-lasting footing. “

Alabi’s viewpoint is most apt as many agricultural economists also believe that it has become imperative for the nation’s economy to be diversified through giving a renewed attention to the agricultural sector.

They hinge their arguments on the fact that oil revenues had become very unstable in recent times because of fluctuating prices, besides the prediction by experts that the nation’s oil could dry up in the next 50 years.

Such a scary scenario, no doubt, reinforces economists’ views that the diversification of the economy is sine qua non; else the nation will inevitably find itself in economic doldrums in a matter of decades to come.

An agricultural economist, Mr Jide Akinola  particularly shared this sentiment saying: “There is the need for us to start the process of diversifying the economy urgently by channelling more resources to the revival of the nation’s cash crops, with cocoa production as a focal point”.

The Minister assured the conference participants that the Federal Government would not renege on its pledge to boost cocoa production in the country once more.

He disclosed that government planned to establish the Cocoa Marketing and Trade Development Corporation, specifically to harness opportunities in cocoa production in the country.

Adesina assured that the new outfit would seek to redress the dwindling fortune of the cocoa industry in Nigeria, with a view to boosting the nation’s production capacity annually.

Besides, he said, the newly created organ would work to improve cocoa farmers’ skills, while boosting the competitiveness of the commodity at the global market.

A former president, Nigeria Cocoa Association, Mr Victor Iyama commended government’s initiative, stating that the corporation should, indeed assist farmers to access standardised inputs at subsidised rates, to enhance their production for export.

He said the corporation would be a positive development as long as it acted as the market of last resort and not buyer or seller of commodities as it was with the defunct Nigeria Cocoa Board (NCB).

“We need a board that will promote the production of cocoa in this country. The reason is not far-fetched. Today, Ghana is producing 915,000 tonnes and Cote d’Ivoire is producing 1.3 million tonnes.

“Ghana only has about 24 million people, Cote d’Ivoire, maybe 29 million people. Nigeria used to be at par with these people. Today, we are producing about 300,000 tonnes.

“So, we welcome that board as long as it is a board that will be used to promote cocoa.”

In all these efforts, analysts expect that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would continue to act as a valued partner in the revival of the nation’s agricultural sector by giving financial empowerment to relevant institutions to ultimately assist farmers. .

Only recently, the Federal Government unfolded a fundamental reform in the nation’s agricultural sector through the Agriculture Transformation Action Plan (ATAP).

The initiative focuses on the development of the key areas of the agricultural sector, which had comparative advantage, value chain development and cluster-farming settlement.

Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who also doubles as the coordinating minister for the nation’s economy said that ATAP would create about three-and-half million jobs in the agricultural sector in the next four years as it focused on the production of five major crops in which the country had comparative advantage, among them, cocoa.

She added that through the progamme’s implementation, an estimated N300 billion additional income would be injected into the hands of Nigerian farmers; with an additional N350 billion into the economy through rice sufficiency.

Arosanyin, applauded government’s efforts but specifically urged the government to utilise the buffer fund accruable from foreign sales of raw cocoa, to further boost the crop’s cultivation in Nigeria.

The buffer fund represents ten per cent of the total profits made by foreign companies which bought raw cocoa from Nigeria. The proceeds are expected to be ploughed back into the development of cocoa production in areas of its cultivation.

Many participants advise that the fund should be purposefully utilised to assist farmers and boost researches that would further improve the variety of seedlings available in the country, to enhance the price of the nation’s cocoa at the international market.

Some economists have also urged the government to give incentives to private sector operators to set up cocoa processing industries in the country. This, they say, will maximise incomes from the crop from its cultivation to processed state.

They insist that the practise where raw cocoa is exported to foreign countries at relatively cheap prices, whereas the finished products are imported by Nigeria at excessive costs, negates true economic transformation.

Such a focus they maintained would revive the moribund industrial sector, while creating more employments for the citizens.

Dada Ahmed, writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Dada Ahmed

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Imperative Of Overhauling Nigeria’s Security Agencies

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Recurring terrorists’ killings, banditry, kidnapping, deadly farmer-herder clashes and other related crimes across the country, have, no doubt, reached embarrassing situation. These dastardly incidents have also elicited hue and cry, prayers and suggestions on how to contain the incidents.
Security agencies have upped their ante fighting with tenacity to curb crime and tackle terrorism in various theatres, while President Muhammadu Buhari, has reiterated his administration’s commitment of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, recently reassured of government’s commitment to protect lives and property, when he announced that more personnel would be recruited for the nation’s security agencies. He said that more weapons would be acquired to tackle the hydra-headed problem, adding that more would be done to ramp up surveillance and intelligence gathering.
Osinbajo spoke when he hosted clergymen from the northern part of Nigeria, under the aegis of Arewa Pastors’ Forum for Peace. The vice president said the Federal Government was committed towards containing the threats and security concerns in the country. The vice president assured the pastors that the Federal Government was doing everything that needed to be done.
“We are handling security well, and as you know, including military deployment in diverse fields, like the Boko Haram in the North-East. In fact, we have to recruit more into the army, and much faster than we ever did because we need men on the ground and resources to buy more arms, to buy more platforms.
“ At the last meeting of the National Security Council, we had discussions on how to beef up the military’s platforms. How do we beef up the numbers? How do we recruit more men and women into the army? How do we collaborate more with local vigilante, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) and all that.
“So, there is a lot going on in terms of trying to beef up security; the security situation is one that is very challenging. We are also looking at aspects of surveillance, how we can do more aerial surveillance using drones and electronic devices to improve surveillance,” he said.
Osinbajo assured the clergymen that the Federal Government was also committed to finding lasting solutions to the perennial crisis in communities in the North and other parts of the country, including the ones bothering on religious prejudices. He urged the group to also come up with ideas and thoughts on how to ensure lasting peace in the country.
President of the forum, Bishop Mbayo Japhet, said the group’s visit to the Presidential Villa was to support the administration and the vice president. The bishop described  Osinbajo as an apostle of peace.
President Buhari, at the recent inauguration of two Nigeria Air Force Agusta 109 Power Helicopter and Mi-17 E Helicopter at the Eagle Square, Abuja, said the military would be re-professionalised and re-equipped to meet the growing exigencies of security in the country. He assured Nigerians that the promise of ending terrorism would be realised. The president urged the Nigeria Air Force to ensure discipline in their operations, and a strong maintenance culture that would enable the nation to derive maximum benefits from the newly acquired helicopters.
“We promise to re-professionalise and re-equip the armed forces and security agencies to effectively discharge their duties to our nation. Professionalism, capacity building and adequately equipping the armed forces and other security agencies are a major policy thrust of the administration. I have no doubt that the deployment of these Agusta 109P gunships and the M-17E Helicopter would add impetus to the combat efficiency of the Air Force in combating our contemporary security challenges.’’
Buhari said that two earlier inaugurated Agusta 109 Power Helicopter gunships, which were procured from Italy over a year ago, had made impact on the war against terrorism. He commended the support of the governments of Italy and the Russian Federation, and efforts of the Italian and Russian ambassadors to Nigeria, at sustaining the strategic partnership which facilitated this acquisition.
“I want to, once again, salute the resolve of our armed forces and the invaluable contributions of all security agencies for their efforts towards the decimation of Boko Haram. Your contributions in internal security, peace keeping and humanitarian operations in places like The Gambia, Guinea, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Cameroon have not only been a source of pride to us as a nation, but has also projected us as a reliable regional power.
“During my inaugural speech as President, I promised to put an end to Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping and other forms of criminalities that have bedevilled our country. You will all agree with me that the successes we have achieved so far, have restored our pride and honour, the world over,’’Buhari said.
The president appreciated Nigerians for their support to the military and other security agencies against terrorism, banditry and kidnapping, adding that the security challenges would be collectively won.
On his part, the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magashi, said the purchase of the helicopters further demonstrated the administration’s commitment to bringing the security challenges in the country under control.
Sharing a similar sentiment, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the visionary approval to purchase more aircraft for the Air Force since 2015 had impacted positively on the fight against terrorism and other crimes.
“Your excellency’s government has so far procured and inducted 22 aircraft. And the service is expecting 17 additional platforms including 12 x Super Tulcanos from the US,’’ he said.
Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, recently ordered the deployment of aerial surveillance helicopters to major cities in the South-West and North-West. He said that the Police air wing operational base in Abuja, would cater for Abuja–Kaduna highways and the adjoining states in the North-West and North-Central.
The National Assembly, on its part, strongly agreed on the urgency of boosting the capacity of Nigeria’s security agencies to enable them tackle the security challenges. The leadership of the National Assembly recently met with President Buhari over the security issues in the country and other matters of governance. Speaking afterwards, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said that there was need to provide solution on how to tackle the security challenges in the intermediate and the long term.
“We should be able to come up with some strategies, the road map to ensure that we secure the lives and properties of Nigerians. We believe that it is imperative that we are able to provide those necessary equipment and welfare for the armed forces of this country and the police, to ensure that they are able to operate and perform efficiently and effectively,’’ he said.
According to Lawan, in order to minimise the casualties of the armed forces and improve efficiency, technology should be applied.
Security analysts are of the view that, aside enlisting more men and procuring more weapons, revving up intelligence gathering is also critical as this will keep security personnel ahead of the criminals or terrorists as the case may be.
Okoronkwo is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

By: Chijioke Okoronkwo

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NEW Rivers: Promotion Of Workers’ Welfare

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All across the country, Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is known as Mr Projects.  He is popular for his commitment  to expanding  the frontiers  of infrastructural development of Rivers State.  But there is an aspect of Governor Wike’s performance  that is not as pronounced. His commitment  to workers’ welfare.
Many have forgotten  that Governor Wike took over the reins of leadership at a time the morale of Rivers workers was at its lowest level.  The immediate past APC Administration owed the workers three months salary arrears. Even Pensioners were owed four months arrears.
Governor Wike cleared the arrears and has since placed workers welfare on his top priority list. He has always opened a line for dialogue  and settlement of disputes that arise in the course of government-workers relationship.
The Rivers State Government has built and completed  the Ultra-modern Secretariat of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). The Former NLC Secretariat was gutted  by fire in 2015. Since then, the Rivers NLC operated from makeshift  facilities.
On 29th June, 2018, Governor Wike invited the NLC President,  Comrade Ayuba Wabba to lay the Foundation of a new Secretariat.  That Secretariat is now being  used by Rivers workers.  The State Government  is also constructing another Secretariat  for the Trade Union Congress (TUC). That Secretariat is almost ready for Commissioning.
During the commencement  of construction,  Governor Wike said that the State Government embarked on the construction of the  two secretariats  in appreciation of the cordial working relationship with Rivers workers.
“We have worked harmoniously with labour. They have not troubled this administration with unnecessary strikes . In order to build stability, we have set up a structure that will enhance the performance of labour.
“This project must be completed by December.  I don’t want to hear excuses.  The contractor has been mobilised.  We will also build a secretariat for the Trade Union Congress “.
Performing the flag off, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba lauded the Rivers State Governor for taking steps to improve the working condition of workers.
“This will go down in history as a landmark as you are one of the governors who has worked with Labour for a better society”.
He said that the partnership between labour and the Rivers State Government will lead to faster development in Rivers State.
”Once workers are happy, they will put in their best and the state will benefit in terms of development “.
The NLC President added that the congress was overwhelmed by the gesture of the Rivers State Government, which will advance the productive relationship between Labour and the Government.
“Workers and employers are supposed to be partners in progress. It is when we partner together that we will be able to deliver on our various mandates. This is commendable and I urge that it should continue”, the NLC President said.
Rivers State NLC Chairman, Comrade Beatrice Itubor said by constructing the Rivers State Secretariat of the congress, Governor Wike has shown goodwill, which will be reciprocated by the workers.
The NLC Secretariat built by the Wike Administration  is a three-storey building with conference halls, offices, stores and multiple staircases.
The Secretariat was commissioned as part of the first 100days of the second term of Governor Wike.  It emphasised the commitment of the Rivers State Governor to the welfare of workers.
Speaking at the Commissioning of the NLC Secretariat,   Governor Wike said that his administration will continue  to partner with labour for the development of Rivers State.
He said that the State Government resolved to create enabling environment for labour leaders to work towards improving labour/government relations.
Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike called on the leadership of labour in the state to always place the interest of Rivers State above other considerations in their engagements with the State Government.
“For me, Rivers first  before  any other thing. Before you go on strike or declare any dispute with the Rivers State Government,  look through and check what the implications would be for Rivers State.
. Chairman of NLC Rivers State,  Comrade Beatrice Itubo commended the Rivers State Governor for building the Secretariat despite recent economic challenges.  She said that labour is committed  to improving  synergy with the State Government for the development of the State.
Representative of the NLC President,  Dr Comfort Okoh said Governor Wike is the authentic leader who is needed at the national level to advance national growth.
Aside the Secretariat,  Governor Wike recently commissioned a Civil Servants Quarters  in the heart of Old GRA in Port Harcourt.  Last year, the Governor unveiled another Civil Servants Quarters at Lagos Street,  Port Harcourt and Doctors Quarters at the GRA.
Governor Wike said that his administration remains committed to ensuring that civil servants live in beautiful and secured residential Quarters.
“ See where you are going to live free of charge.  Assuming you are going to pay house rent here in Old GRA,  you know it will be very costly.
“This is a very secured environment.  Government is here for you. To give you the best. You also have to contribute your own quota as Civil Servants.”
Governor Wike urged Rivers civil servants to reciprocate the commitment of the State Government to their welfare. He said that they are under obligation to give their best to the state.
“Work for the people of the state. Civil servants should reciprocate and work for the people of Rivers State.
“I dont know any State that can say they have these  facilities. This is the third time. We built one at Lagos Street,  we built the Doctors Quarters and then this one.
“You have no excuse not to contribute the best. Take this property as your own and keep it clean. Civil servants I give that challenge   keep your environment clean. “
The Rivers State Governor assured workers that his Administration will invest in the development of more housing quarters for civil servants.
“We will build more houses for civil servants to stay . Take it as your personal building.”
Governor Wike pointed out that Judges Quarters, constructed by his Administration,  is  one of the most beautiful residential estates  in the country.  He said that Judges Quarters will soon be commissioned.
The commitment to workers  welfare does not mean that there are no areas for further engagement.  It simply means that Governor Wike is ever willing to address workers needs within the available resources and with the required speed necessary at all times.
The harmony that exists cannot be underestimated.  Several states are owing salaries and pensions,  running into years. While State Economies are collapsing across the country,  Rivers State is waxing stronger.
Much as the opposition is unwilling to recognise this fact, they appreciate  the truth that Governor Wike has enhanced  working conditions and stabilised the work environment.
The key projects developed by Governor  Wike will serve as the premise for further partnership between the State Government and Rivers workers.
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media.

 

Simeon Nwakaudu

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Using Weather Forecast To Boost Agric

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The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) predicts a below-normal rainfall, dwindling amount and duration in many parts of the country.
Observers, therefore, posit that the pattern of rainfall can affect food production except there is sensitisation to climate-smart agricultural practices and proper weather information dissemination to the farmers.
Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to support food security under the new realities of climate change.
Researchers believe that widespread changes in rainfall and temperature patterns threaten agricultural production and increase the vulnerability of people who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.
According to them, the threats can be reduced by increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers as well as increasing resilience and resource use efficiency in agricultural production systems.
They note that CSA promotes coordinated actions by farmers, researchers, private sector, civil society and policymakers towards climate-resilient pathways.
Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, while reviewing NiMet’s report admits that the country is expected to experience a below-normal rainfall season.
He observes that rains are expected to start late, especially in the northern part of the country while the south eastern zone as well as the coastal areas will experience a normal onset of the rains.
He notes that most of the northern states will experience earlier-than-normal end growing season while shorter length of the growing season is predicted for most parts of the country.
He also says that there will be frequent and severe dry spell over the northern region during the rainy season.
“Dry spell will be more frequent and severe, ranging from 10 to 18 days in some parts of the extreme north around June and July, while the little dry season or (August break) in parts of the south is expected to be pronounced.
“The expected below normal rainfall in parts of the country does not rule out the possibility of isolated flash floods due to high intensity rainfall at the peak of the season, especially in places that are naturally prone to flooding.
“In every season, dry spells occur and in certain cases, lead to crop losses; farmers and other stakeholders are advised to get in touch with NiMet to access meteorological updates within the growing season.
“This is because these are risk factors for farmers in the affected areas and have to be carefully and scientifically managed.
According to Sirika, early release of the SRP before the beginning of the rainy season is to ensure effective harnessing of the climate resource.
He agrees that such information will further guarantee minimal losses from associated hazards, which are becoming quite devastating in this era of climate change.
He says that an increase of at least 30 per cent agricultural yields can be achieved if relevant meteorological information is utilised.
Similarly, Prof. Sani Mashi, the director-general of NiMet, says that farmers in the northern part of the country, mostly the Sahel zones are advised not to plant early as the country is likely to experience late onset of rains.
Mashi explains that early cessation of rains in the northern part will lead to shorter length of growing season and recommends  early provision and access to improved and drought resistant variety seeds.
“Normal onset is expected over coastal and some south-east states while the earliest onset date is predicted to be from March 7 around the coastal region of the south-south region.
“The onset dates are expected to change northwards with areas around Maiduguri, Sokoto, Katsina, Dutse, Potiskum, Kano and Nguru having onset of rains from June 16.
“The earliest cessation dates are expected to be from September 29 around the north-western parts of the country while most of the north is expected to witness cessation dates within October,’’ he explains.
He explains further that while the growing season is expected to end between late October and mid-November, parts of the central and southern states are expected to experience end of the season by mid-November to early December while the season is expected to end by late December along the coast.
According to him, governments at all levels are advised to embark on awareness and sensitisation of farmers and other stakeholders on CSA practices such as on-farm water harvesting structures, soil and water conservation practices and land preservation.
“Farmers are also encouraged to make provision for irrigation water during the predicted periods of dry spell.
“The warmer-than-normal temperatures predicted in February and April are expected to affect livestock in some parts of the country, particularly the northern states where rainfall has not yet established.
“Decrease in fodder production from dry land, increase in vector-borne diseases, internal parasite infestation and mortality rate is likely to increase during these months due to temperature fluctuations, shell quality and egg weight in layers may also be affected.
“The colder-than-normal daytime temperatures in March may affect day old chicks and increase feed conversion ratio in layers and broilers while the spread of heat-related diseases is likely to increase as a result of the predicted warmer conditions in most parts of the country.
“Good veterinary practices for livestock vaccination, fisheries and aquaculture management should be adhered to because fish production is likely to be adversely affected as a result of warmer-than- normal conditions especially in the northern part of the country,’’ he warns.
Ogbaje writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

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