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LASG Charges FG To Evolve National Policy On Coconut

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The Lagos State Coconut Development Authority wants the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) to develop a national policy on coconut value chain.
Its General Manager, Dr Dapo Olakulehin, expressed the desire in Benin yesterday at a one-day stakeholders meeting on coconut value chain.
The meeting was organised by FMARD in collaboration with the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR).
Olakulehin said such policy could make the crop the mainstay of the nation’s agriculture economy.
In his paper entitled: “The Coconut Tree: Economic Benefits for Nigeria’’, Olakulehin said coconut was a major non-oil export foreign exchange earner for the country and provided livelihoods for millions of Nigerians.
He said that only proactive interventions such as the development of a national policy and a regulatory agency could reposition the agriculture sector for employment generation along the value chain.
He added that Lagos State had dedicated about 1,000 hectares of land for commercial coconut plantation to be blocked into 100 plots apiece.
Olakulehin said also that Lagos State accounts for about 70 per cent of Nigeria’s coconut production and is committed to the production of more than 200 million seedlings in the next five years.
In his remarks, President, National Coconut Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN), Mma Okoroji, supported Lagos State’s call for a national policy on coconut.
Okoroji said Nigeria was lagging behind other countries in coconut production and that there was the need to re-evaluate production among stakeholders to identify the current constraints responsible for the decline in the sector.
He said that NACOPPMAN was committed to planting about 10,000 coconut trees in each of the coconut viable states annually.
“Nigeria can make more than N300 trillion from coconut without value addition. So, if you now add value, Nigeria can earn more,’’ she said.
Earlier, a Deputy Director at FMARD, Chukwuemeka Ukattah, said Nigeria was expected to generate about 250 million dollars from coconut and its derivatives by the year 2022.
“Nigeria is ranked 19th among world’s coconut producers. It is a prominent crop cultivated in 22 out of the 36 states of the federation.
“Nigeria’s coconut national production is about 229,578 tonnes. The area under cultivation is estimated at 30,420 hectares.
The national demand is estimated to be one million tonnes per annum, leaving a deficit of 716,000 tonnes.
“There is the need for stakeholders to cash in on this deficit and see it as an opportunity to increase production through replanting of aged plantation and value addition,’’ Ukattah said.
He said the meeting was for stakeholders to discuss critical issues affecting coconut value chain and evolve strategies that would help to address inherent challenges.
Dr Celestine Ikuenobe, Executive Director of NIFOR, also noted that Nigeria’s coconut production was far below the demand.
In his paper entitled: “Overview of Production and Challenges of Coconut in Nigeria’’, Ikuenobe said it was regrettable that Nigeria is an importer of coconut and its products.
He said that NIFOR was strengthening its capacity to meet the sudden upsurge in the demand for coconut seedlings.
“We are working to invigorate our coconut gardens in addition to other identified trees seeds.
“We are confident that the coconut sector will sooner than expected, be repositioned as a very significant sector of the economy providing employment and income,’’ he said.
Among those present at the meeting were CBN officials, those of the Bank of Agriculture and Edo Investment Promotion Office.

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Reps Urge FG To Revisit School Feeding Programme

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The House of Representatives, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to revisit the school feeding programme, suspended over sundry controversies.
The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme was a pilot programme launched in 2004 targeting 12 states to provide a nutritious midday meal to public primary school pupils in the country:
In 2016, the programme was relaunched nationally, targeting public primary school children using locally sourced ingredients to improve health, stimulate agricultural production, and boost smallholder farmers’ income.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu, on January 12, 2024, suspended all programmes of the National Social Investment Programme Agency for six weeks.
The four programmes administered by NSIPA are N- the Power Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, and Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
Following the adoption of the motion, the House mandated its Committees on Special Duties and Finance to invite the Ministers of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Education, and Finance to revisit the program and propose solutions for its future success.”
The House, while adopting a motion on “Urgent call to revisit school feeding policy” moved by the member representing Tarauni Federal Constituency, Kano State, Mr Muktar Zakari, noted that the philosophy behind the NHGSFP is to encourage enrollment into the public primary schools, address childhood hunger pangs, and improve their ability to concentrate, learn, and increase school attendance.
The lawmaker, a member of the New Nigeria People’s Party, lamented that “The suspension of the NHGSFP by the current administration is unsettling for several reasons, namely reduced school enrollment and attendance, compromised health and cognitive development of the children, and disruption of the income of smallholder farmers.”
He also said “Addressing the programme’s challenges is crucial, but a complete suspension may cause more harm,” noting that “It is important to find alternative solutions or efficient implementation of the NHGSFP to ensure Nigerian children continue to benefit from this important initiative.”
In his words, “The cancellation of the programme is causing an upsurge in the number of out-of-school children, posing a threat to the country’s future and leading to a high rate of crimes, insecurity, and unemployment.”

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Kogi Lauds Appeal Court’s Verdict On Ododo’s Victory

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The Kogi State Government has hailed the verdict of the Appeal Court, Abuja that yesterday uAtiku hails Supreme Court judgment on LG autonomypheld the victory of the state governor, Usman Ododo.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, made the government’s position known in an interview with journalists shortly after the judgment was delivered in Abuja.
Fanwo described the judgment as “sound,” adding that the it represents “echoes of the indisputable victory” of the governor at the poll.
He said the governor remains unwavering in his faith in the judiciary.
The conmissioner said, “Today’s judgment represents echoes of our victory on November 11, 2023. We campaigned round the state and worked hard to reassure the people that our party is the most reliable to take the state forward.
“November 11 will continue to be remembered in Kogi as the day that Kogites across the senatorial districts united to speak with one voice, birthing a resounding victory for the incumbent governor.
“Today’s verdict has offered another great opportunity for those who lost at the poll and in the courts to join the governor in moving the state forward.”
Fanwo said the court case did not in any way slow governance down as the governor has continued to “roll up his sleeves and deliver democracy dividends to the great people of the state.
“The jubilation that greeted the verdict affirming the victory of the Chief Servant of Kogi is a demonstration of the triumph of the people’s will.”
He urged the people of the state to continue to support the governor to make the state the Confluence of Excellence.

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Insecurity: Reps Want Modern Technology Deployed In Nation’s Borders

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The House of Representatives has called on the Nigeria Customs Service to deploy modern technology to secure the nation’s borders with neighbouring countries.
The directive followed the adoption of a motion on “Need to employ the use of modern technology to secure the nation’s borders,” sponsored by the member representing Awka North/Awka South Federal Constituency, Anambra State, Obiageli Orogbu at Thursday’s plenary.
Consequently, the Reps mandated “The Nigeria Customs Service to beef up the nation’s border security with modern technological gadgets.”
It also directed its Committees on National Security and Intelligence and Customs and Excise to “Interface with the relevant agencies of the executive arm to ensure implementation and report back to the House within four weeks for further legislative action.”
Leading the debate, Orogbu said that there are over 320 illegal routes into Nigeria “That serves as horrendous channels for the influx of inadmissible aliens and goods.
“Nigeria at the moment lacks sufficient security personnel to safeguard the existing illegal routes across the borders. These unmanned routes provide avenues for insecurity, proliferation of arms, and dumping of unwholesome goods into the country;
“The porous borders have provided an impetus to the thriving drug and human trafficking routes all over the country.”
Justifying the significance of the motion, the Labour Party chieftain noted that, “Border policing has since shifted from the mundane use of only human beings to the deployment of sophisticated electronic based equipment for potency.
“The deployment of technologies like electronic sensors, video monitors, and night vision scopes to detect illegal entries has proved more effective in western countries than human security.
“Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, (drones) and dark fighter cameras are available to further enhance border controls,” she added.

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