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Helping Farmers Eradicate Hunger

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In 2016, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, made public the CBN’s and commercial bank’s initiative to grant N300 billion loan to the agricultural sector of the economy.
Good news, isn’t it? His explanation suggested that the commercial banks were to use some of their liquidity to grant new loans to the agricultural sector and its value chain.
The bankers committee, no doubt, had done this to demonstrate their support for the effort of the federal government to create employment and diversify the economy.
Almost three years down the line, the required impact of the very initiative of the federal government, is, to say the least, far from being felt. Reason being that portfolio and political farmers are at it again.
This set of farmers is known to always emerge from the blues whenever agricultural incentives are trumpeted. Their emergence had, at different times in history, frustrated many loan schemes.
Loans were never repaid because they were given to the wrong persons who never invested them. This had always futilised efforts in this direction as real farmers are not captured in the scheme.
Come to think of it, before the announcement of the release of the N300 billion loan scheme by the CBN, Nigerian farmers had at various seasons and regimes, come to terms with exciting headlines and news highlights. These ranged from tax incentives for farmers, to USDA grant for new farmers and ranchers, agricultural incentive programmes etc.
In all of these, while some farmers tell their stories of how they were financially stabilised through one agricultural programme or the other, others simply describe same as mere channels which administrators and their cohorts pass through to loot government’s treasury.
The differing views about the administration of agricultural incentive schemes do not contradict the fact that at various times in governance, there were programmes and initiatives orchestrated by the government, neither does it highlight the farmers’ ingratitude towards the government’s efforts at alleviating their plight.
No doubt, such were intended to assist local farmers to break even as well as contribute to the country’s gross national product (GNP).
The intervention of the world through the introduction of the eight (8) Millennium Development goals (MDGs), broken down into eighteen quantifiable targets, measured by forty eight (48) indicators is enough pointer to the fact that a responsible government is never at ease while its citizenry groans in abject poverty.
The aspect of the millennium development goals which is about the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, is such that can primarily be met through agriculture. And as the foremost of the basic human needs, this can only be actualized if all the actors work together and play well their parts.
Apart from being seen to be helping farmers who happen to be major actors in the play, the burden of poverty alleviation and eradication of extreme hunger is enormous to be left in the care of the farmers alone.
From drought, extreme heat, to sea level rise and flood, the farmer, especially the small scale farmer, is on the frontline of climate change which every extreme case drastically affects livelihood and yields.
As weather patterns become obviously the more unpredictable, the farmers must not be abandoned to their fate, else the undesirable would be their portion.
Thus, to help farmers source for viable crops and adapt to climate changes, interventionary measures must not be compromised. Efforts of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, ( IFAD), Food Agricultural Development and Management Agency (FADAMA), and series of agricultural development programmes, must be felt by rural farmers in the South-South geopolitical region of the country.
What this implies is that the agricultural mileage in Nigeria should no longer be evaluated on the basis of the number of interventionist schemes so far flown, but on the impact so made.
Hence, of great importance is the interest placed on who manages what funds and initiatives. May I re-echo that those who can meet up with bank’s requirements for agricultural loans in the South-South geopolitical region are more of the portfolio/ political farmers.
While Emefiele calls on all hands to be on deck to boost power and transportation so that banks would achieve the goal of improving the economy, the writer is of the view that corruption in the agricultural sector can be checked by setting aside bogus and stringent requirements for securing loans.
Of greater importance is the emphasis on farm site visitation, so as to see what the farmer has on the ground with a view to seeing how he can be helped. Adequate monitoring of the farm to ensure a realisation of the intention of the scheme cannot be overlooked.
If agriculture in Nigeria must be taken to the next level, then now is the time to visit the real farmers’ farms and not cataloguing unattainable paper requirements that can hardly be decoded by the local farmers.

 

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

The Ministry Of Livestock Development

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From the reactions of the populace since the announcement of the creation of the Federal Ministry of Livestock Development on Tuesday by President Bola Tinubu, it is obvious that many people did not see that coming.
In February this year, the federal government had announced its resolution to implement the Stephen Oronsaye report that called for a leaner government by merging some agencies and scrapping some others. The president was widely applauded for that decision which many believe will reduce cost of governance and save money to tackle pressing challenges in the country.
The kick-off of this was still being awaited when the announcement for the creation of another ministry came. By this development we now have 46 ministries, the highest in the history of the country.
Apparently, President Tinubu, just like many other well-meaning, patriotic Nigerians is disturbed about the state of the nation’s economy and the unabating insecurity in the land. As a way of tackling these challenges he, on September 15th, 2023, approved the establishment of the Presidential Committee dedicated to the reform of the livestock industry and the provision of long-term solutions to recurring clashes between herders and farmers in the country.
The establishment of the Ministry of Livestock Development was part of the recommendations of the National Livestock Reforms Committee. Part of the 21 recommendations submitted to the president include: “This agenda should include the establishment and resuscitation of grazing reserves as suggested by many experts and well-meaning Nigerians and other methods of land utilisation.
“Create the Ministry of Livestock Resources in line with practice in many other West African countries. In the alternative, Federal and State Governments should expand the scope of existing Departments of Livestock Production to address the broader needs of the industry,” among others.
The livestock industry is a vital component of any economy, contributing significantly to various economic and social aspects. Two agriculturists were on a national radio on Wednesday and spoke expansively about these benefits which include: job creation, increase to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and foreign exchange earning through the exports of livestock and livestock products such as meat, dairy, wool and leather.
The livestock industry creates millions of jobs directly in farming, processing, and distribution, and indirectly in related sectors like feed production, veterinary services, and marketing. It provides livelihoods for rural populations, helping to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life in rural areas.
According to them, a well-funded livestock industry supports the growth of agro-processing sectors, such as meat packing, dairy processing, and leather manufacturing, adding value to raw products and creating additional economic activity.
It stimulates the development of supply chains, including logistics, packaging, and retail, contributing to broader economic growth. It enhances economic resilience by diversifying the agricultural sector and providing a buffer against crop failures or other agricultural shocks and many more.
Some other agriculturists have also opined that the livestock industry in Nigeria is currently underdeveloped and that by the creation of the ministry of livestock development will open up the industry which will be a huge money spinner for Nigeria.
While their points are quite logical, it must be stated that these can still be achieved without the creation of a new ministry. There is the department of livestock in the ministry of agriculture both at the federal and state levels. Why not empower them to do the job? The National Livestock Reforms Committee even recommended the expansion of the scope of existing Departments of Livestock Production by both federal and state governments to address the needs of the industry.
Why not take that option instead of creating a new ministry with all the attendant costs at a period the citizens are faced with severe hardship and no food to eat? If adequate concern is given to the various departments of livestock as the new ministry will most likely receive, they will function effectively and the best results will be achieved.
Why do we like changing nomenclature all the time and achieving the same result or even nothing? For instance, what has the Ministry of the Niger Delta Development achieved that is different from that of the NDDC since it was created? Since Limited was added to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) thereby making it (NNPCL), what changes have we seen?
To get Nigeria on the right footing has nothing to do with duplication of ministries or agencies. It has to do with the determination of the leader to do the right thing, appointing the right people to the right positions, irrespective of the tribe, religion or political affiliations. If the Ministry of Livestock Development was created to appease a certain section of the country in order to secure their votes in 2027, as being insinuated by some people, then it is very unfortunate. Former President Goodluck Jonathan built Almajiri schools as a political strategy. Did that make him win the election?
The president should discard this selfish idea if he has it at the back of his mind and focus on repositioning this country through good policies and exemplary leadership and he will naturally have the support of Nigerians during the next election. He should begin to fulfil all the promises he made to the citizens like the launching of about 2,700 Compressed Natural Gas, CNG-powered buses and tricycles before May 29, 2024, making our local refineries functional and many more.
Nigerians are skeptical that the new Ministry of Livestock Development is merely a political gimmick that will go the way of many other “political projects” in the past and that it is another way of compensating some party loyalists. Tinubu therefore has to prove the skeptics wrong by ensuring that only the right, qualified people are employed in the ministry. Square pegs must be put in square holes.
There should be a holistic look at the challenges facing the agriculture sector which is largely responsible for the food shortage the country is grappling with currently. The issue of insecurity must be handled headlong to enable farmers go back to their farms. Attention must also be paid to irrigation, provision of fertiliser at subsidised rates to ensure adequate food supply at all seasons. Whatever needs to be done to guarantee surplus food supply in the country should be done so that the people will have food to eat. Livestock is important but let us have food to eat first.
It is also important that the relevant agencies should embark on sensitisation and education of the populace on the functions and scope of the new ministry. The notion that livestock is all about cows and dairy production can be destructive and must be corrected. Every part of the country is involved in one form of livestock or another – piggery, goat rearing, fishery, snail rearing and many more. They should all be carried along.
In summary, the livestock industry is integral to economic development, providing essential contributions to employment, food security, industrial growth, and social well-being. Investing in and supporting this sector is crucial for fostering sustainable and inclusive economic growth. But it must be done in the proper manner and with sincerity of purpose.

Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Understanding What Marriage Is

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Marriage is a timeless institution that has been the foundation of human society for centuries. Yet, in today’s evolving world, its essence and significance are often misunderstood. As we navigate the complexities of love, commitment, and relationships, it is essential to revisit the true meaning of marriage and its enduring importance in our lives. At its core, marriage is a sacred union between two individuals, transcending mere romance or legal contract. It is a lifelong commitment to build a life together, fostering growth, trust and unconditional love. Marriage is a journey of mutual support, understanding, and compromise, where two souls become one.
Beyond the vows and ceremonies, marriage represents: Unwavering commitment: A promise to stand by each other through life’s triumphs and tribulations. Emotional intimacy: A deep understanding and acceptance of each other’s thoughts, feelings, and desires.Trust and loyalty: Unshakeable faith in each other’s words and actions. Shared values and goals: A united vision for a life built on common principles and aspirations. Family and legacy: The foundation of a family unit, creating a lasting impact on future generations. Personal growth: A catalyst for individual development, encouraging self-improvement and selflessness. Social and cultural significance: A celebration of love and unity, strengthening social bonds and community ties.
If I may ask, Do you understand a newly wedded man is called groom and the woman called bride? A friend of mine got tired of his wife just about six months after wedding. He complained bitterly to me about her and told me that he has concluded to break up with her; he went on to say that he was sure that he made a mistake. I did not respond immediately because I knew I must tell him the right thing, so I went home. And that is what birthed this message. Many men have broken up with their wives because they ended up not being the wife that they have dreamt of. They have forgotten that their wedding day was when the man was commissioned for the new task.
Nobody calls the woman wife on her wedding day but bride, because it is the man that will groom his bride to become the wife. That is why the man is called ‘bridegroom or groom’ and the word grooming has to do with patiently nurturing, teaching, tending and helping someone to become what he or she should be. It is therefore believed that a man that takes a woman to the altar of marriage is mature enough to patiently groom his bride to become the wife. The man is not supposed to just expect the bride to automatically become the wife, she must be groomed. It is clear that many of us men had unnecessary expectations when we were getting married.
Yes, we want some magic to happen to our wives, we want them to become what we have had in mind about who we want our wives to be; not considering the fact that the woman does not know what is in your mind except you teach her. Our expectations are often too unrealistic, because we do not remember that change takes time and we can only expect something from someone that knows what we want. So, before you think of breaking up, have you groomed her? Have you given her time to understand you? Hope you realise that a turtle will never become a hawk? God often brings people that are opposites of each other together in marriage so they can help each other in their place of weaknesses. If your wife is weak where you are weak, then where will you get the strength that is needed?
The problem with many of us is that we do not accept people before attempting to change them. Of course, our wives are not from our backgrounds, so it will take time for them to adjust. Stop trying to change her: accept her, love her, teach her and be patient with her; that is what grooming is all about. She is going to be your wife but she is your bride now, so groom her. Stop complaining about her, she may be a turtle and you a hawk, she cannot fly so be patient with her. I do not believe that your marriage can not work, be patient and allow God to help you. The term “groom” for a husband-to-be or a newlywed husband has its roots in history and tradition.
In the past, a “groom” referred to a servant or attendant responsible for taking care of horses. Over time, the term evolved to describe a man who was “grooming” himself for marriage, preparing to take on the responsibilities of a husband. In the 15th century, the term “groom” became synonymous with “bridegroom,” emphasising the man’s role in preparing for and supporting his bride. The word “groom” also connoted a sense of refinement, elegance, and polish, much like a well-groomed horse.Today, the term “groom” is a romantic and endearing way to refer to a husband or fiancé, symbolising his commitment to care for, support, and cherish his partner, much like a groom would tend to his horses.
So, in essence, a husband is called a groom because he is seen as the one who prepares himself to care for and support his bride, much like a groom would prepare and care for his horses. In a world where relationships are increasingly complex, remembering the true essence of marriage is crucial. By embracing its timeless values and principles, we can nurture stronger, more meaningful relationships, building a foundation for a lifetime of love, happiness, and fulfilment. Let us cherish and honour the sacred institution of marriage, recognising its profound impact on our lives and society. Marriage is not just a union between two individuals but a celebration of love, commitment, and the human spirit.

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

BEYOND RHETORIC

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Sometimes when Nigerian leaders speak and sermonize on how to make the nation’s economy grow, what comes to one’s mind is the popular cliché “talk is cheap”. Indeed, it is easy to mount the stage probably as a special guest to a public event, take the microphone and start reeling out all the beautiful ideas that will make Nigeria a better country.

It might not even be a difficult task to lobby the lawmakers to pass these ideas into laws, adding to the plethora of laws in the land. Using these laws to support an argument is no stress at all.  But where the issue lies is in walking the talk.

At the recently held National Manufacturing Policy Summit in Abuja, the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, made a case for the patronization of made-in-Nigeria products and prioritization of local content. Citing the Executive Order 003 which makes the patronage of locally manufactured products mandatory, he said, “Let us be reminded that we cannot achieve significant progress in our drive for industrialisation unless we deliberately promote the production of capital goods.”

“We must be focused on expanding our production base, prioritizing local content, and promoting made-in-Nigeria products.”

“I want to assure you that Executive Order No 003 – Support for Local Content in Public Procurement by the Federal Government, which mandates the patronage of locally manufactured products is still in effect.

“The relevant government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies are mandated to fully comply with the order,” he declared.

Is it the first time we are being told about the importance of embracing locally made products? Certainly not. Manufacturers, economists and various development experts have times without number harped on this, insisting that unless Nigeria’s exports outgrow imports, the balance of payment will remain negative, which is not healthy for the nation’s economy. …

The call for patronization of locally made products is not merely a patriotic gesture but a strategic move towards fostering economic resilience, creating jobs, and preserving the nation’s rich cultural heritage. Embracing locally made products offers numerous benefits that are crucial for Nigeria’s sustainable development.

Painfully, our leaders say something and do the opposite. They pontificate about patronizing made-in-Nigeria goods but everything they use both in their offices and at home are foreign products. Records have it that only Governors Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State and  Alex Otti of Abia State use locally manufactured vehicles, Innosonvehicles, as their official cars.

So, it is possible that in the Vice President’s convoy to the venue of the summit where he preached about using made-in-Nigeria products, there was no locally made vehicle. It is possible that his attire, including his shoes, clothes and others were produced outside Nigeria. Stories even have it that some big men in Nigeria now sow their “babariga” in Morocco, Dubai and other countries because the special machine used for special designs on the clothes are lacking in Nigeria. it is possible that the food and drinks used in that event were imported.

They pontificate about patronizing made-in-Nigeria while they hardly patronize Nigerian hospitals and schools. Investment in these key sectors is not a priority leading to unsatisfactory output from them. So, they send their families to the best schools and hospitals in the world to enjoy their quality services.

As a matter of fact, Nigerians are patriotic. They do not need an Executive Order to mandate them to patronize Nigerian made products so long as they are of good quality, accessible and of good price. As an analyst rightly put it, “Nigerians love Nigeria. They love to patronize Nigeria.”  At virtually all social events in Nigeria today, hardly do they play foreign music. It is usually Nigerian music all the way. That is how good Nigerians love their products.

One must admit that some Nigerian made products are of low quality and expensive compared with the imported ones. Ordinarily, it should be expected that items manufactured in Nigeria will be cheaper than the ones imported from China but that is hardly the case. We all know why. Issues such as inadequate infrastructure, inconsistent power supply, access to finance for small businesses, and multiple taxation remain significant hurdles.

Producers and manufacturers borrow money from commercial banks at a very high rate. They spend millions of Naira on the purchase of diesel and petrol to run their businesses due to epileptic and expensive power supply. How then do you expect them to compete with producers and manufacturers in other countries whose interest rates are very minimal and power supply is not an issue?

Recently, Africa’s foremost entrepreneur and Nigerian businessman, Aliko Dangote, raised an alarm over the high interest rate in the country, saying that the increase of interest rate to almost 30 percent by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will stifle growth and hamper job creation in the country.

For the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the last election, Mr. Peter Obi, the recent monetary policy rate (MPR) by monetary policy committee (MPC) of CBN, on which banks benchmark their interest rate — from 24.75 percent to 26.25 percent, will have serious negative impacts on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which are the engine of economic growth.

“In February this year, I argued against the decision of the Monetary Policy Committee on MPR to 22.5% and CRR to 45% increases which, in my opinion, would further worsen the economic situation, as the increases would push interest rates on loans to above 30%, which would be very difficult for manufacturers and MSMES to borrow and repay”, said Obi.

So, Nigerian leaders should go beyond the rhetoric and take sincere and practical steps towards making the country’s economy more productive. The government should create an enabling environment through supportive policies, investment in infrastructure, and facilitating access to credit for local producers.

There should be improved electricity generation, distribution, and reliability to reduce operational costs and increase productivity. Energy security is key to the growth of any economy. You cannot expect the manufacturing sector to thrive when you remove subsidies on petrol and other sources of energy. Regular maintenance of roads, railways, ports, and airports is important to facilitate the movement of goods and raw materials.

Investment incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies, and grants to attract both local and foreign investors must be adopted in addition to provision of low-interest loans and credit facilities specifically for manufacturing businesses as well as strengthening financial institutions to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Our policy and regulatory framework must be looked into. The policy makers should come up with and implement consistent and clear industrial policies that support long-term investments. There should be a deliberate effort to simplify business registration processes, reduce bureaucratic red tape, and combat corruption.

 Development of policies that protect local industries while promoting exports through favorable trade agreements is inevitable likewise the promotion of the use of locally sourced raw materials to reduce dependency on imports.

The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development must wake up to their responsibility of developing the mining sector to provide raw materials for manufacturing and contribute to the economic growth of the nation.

The government must support manufacturers in accessing international markets through export incentives and trade missions. And producers must do their own bit by ensuring that their products meet international quality standards to compete globally.

Additionally, there is a need for a cultural shift in consumer attitudes. Marketing campaigns that highlight the quality, uniqueness, and benefits of Nigerian products can help change perceptions and encourage more people to choose local options. Educational initiatives that emphasize the importance of supporting local industries can also foster a more supportive consumer base.

Most importantly, our leaders should always walk the talk.  They should stop preaching about patronizing made in Nigeria products while they use foreign made one. In the words of Henry Ward Beecher, “ A good example is worth a thousand sermons”.

CALISTA EZEAKU

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