Arguably, no ministry can boast of being in the news in the last four years more than the agric ministry, being headed by Chief Audu Ogbeh.
He is known for making numerous policy pronouncements with some feasible and many not.
Ironically, one of the major achievements this administration swanks with is the agricultural sector. Since assuming office, the present administration had initiated number of projects that are expected to power the wheel of economic diversification from the troubled oil sector.
Six months of taking over the mantle of leadership, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme for Rice and wheat in Kebbi State.
The programme was designed and financed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through a fraction of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Fund at a single-digit of 9% (nine percent) interest rate loan to farmers.
Anchor Borrowers’ Programme doing the magic
By October 2018, it was estimated that the programme has created 2.5 million direct jobs according to President Buhari with additional 1 million more indirect jobs also said to be created with a total number of 862,069 farmers cultivating about 835,239 hectares of land producing different crops.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele while addressing Banker Forum in Lagos said that many Nigerians are taking advantage of the administration’s agric policies to venture into the domestic production of the 41 restricted items with remarkable successes and great positive impact on employment.
Rice is the star as other crops struggling
One of the crops under the ABP that has become the start of the administration is rice.
A president task force on rice and wheat headed by the Governor of Kebbi state Alhaji Atiku Bagudu was also inaugurated in 2016 with the specific objectives of creating production targets for rice and wheat in the participating states to determine the scope and particulars for government support needed towards the attainment of the set targets, and to consider and proffer the best off-take and marketing arrangements that will encourage maximum effort among the farmers/millers among others.
Aminu Goronyo, who is the National President of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, said the ABP was the best thing that happened to the rice industry in the country as its production has increased to about eight million metric tonnes by 2019 from 5.5 million tonnes in 2015.
The increase in domestic production has forced down the rice import bill by almost 90 percent, according to Chief Audu Ogbeh, the country’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and figure from the CBN.
Although rice import is the ban by land borders, smuggling activities massively continue on the nation’s porous borders-a situation that put pains in the heart of local producers and processors who continue to accuse some custom officials of abetting the activities.
While rice shines, wheat producers are crying of neglect despite launching rice and wheat task force together.
Alhaji Salim Mohammad, National President of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria while speaking on the issue with Daily Trust said more focus on rice leads to less attention on wheat leaving the farmers at the mercy of flour millers who are the major buyers and offer ridiculous prices that does not commiserate the cost of production.
Also, the Maize Association Nigeria (MAAN), President Alhaji Bello Abubakar Funtua, said in 2018, a total of 38,000 farmers cultivating 55,000 hectares across nineteen (19) states in the country benefited from the CBN programme.
He stated that the total money assessed by maize farmers under the ABP is N9.3 billion across the country, adding that they produce more 20 million metric tonnes.
The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative
One of the major milestone in the fertilizer industry is since the coming of this administration was the bilateral agreement signed in December 2016 between the King of Morocco, His Royal Majesty Mohammed VI, and President Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja during a visit of the former to Nigeria.
Under the agreement, OCP, a Moroccan state-owned company, which is a world leader in phosphate, is supplying phosphate to Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers of Nigeria (FEPSAN) for the domestic blending of NPK Fertiliser starting in 2017.
President Buhari in 2017 independence broadcast said; “Since December 2017, this Administration has produced over seven million 50Kg bags of fertilizer. Eleven blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million metric tons have been reactivated. We have saved $150 million in foreign exchange and N60 billion in subsidy. Fertilizer prices have dropped from N13,000 per 50Kg bag to N5,500.”
However many farmers who spoke to Daily Trust said the fertilizer is not available everywhere and where it is available, the prices are often above the N5,500 to N6000-N7000 leaving many farmers unable to afford.
The yam export
Early in 2017, Ogbeh was quoted to have said that Nigerians could not finish the yams being produced in the country and that there was need to begin the export of the tuber produce.
He said, ‘’we don’t even eat all the yam we produce, most of it goes to waste.’’ His statement attracted mixed reaction from the public, with some questioning if we have enough to eat domestically or is the export so important at the moment. But true to his words, the country started the first export on June 29, 2017 even though it reportedly met a brick wall soon after that as the produce was rejected in Europe for failing to meet export standard.
Ogbeh’s many unfulfilled policy promises
Agric minister, Chief Audu Ogeh, a farmer himself has made many policy announcements, which according to him, will make the country self-sufficient in a very near future.
However, many of these pronouncements are usually dumped at the point where they are made.
Where are the Brazillian grasses?
Prominent among his promises is the grassing up of the 50,000 hectares of the grazing reserves with imported Brazilian grass seeds. None of the grazing reserves in the country saw those seeds and the battle between farmers and herdsmen ranges on.
What about his imported semen to impregnate our cows?
The minister also promised to import semen from abroad to impregnate our local cows in a bit to improve the local breeds for better milk and meat. Since making that promise, nothing has happened and it seems many of the female cows are still yearning to be impregnated.
Graduates willing to take part in Ogbeh’s graduate farming scheme may still have to wait
Another promise was the provision of 5,000 of the 15,000 hectares of farm land in Kwali Area Council of the FCT for the youths, which Ogbeh himself visited along with journalists to assess. According to him, the land will be shared to graduate farmers interested in engaging in agriculture. Part of the land today is given to a coy for banana production. However, the graduate farming scheme promised didn’t see the light of the day.
Cocoa farmers still waiting for their 6 million seedlings
Also, the minister had promised to provide six million cocoa seedlings to farmers in the south and western part of the country. The programme is still yet to be launched years after making the pronouncement.
Where is the replacement for Jonathan’s GES?
The ministry also announced a replacement of the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) introduced by the immediate past administration for getting subsidized farm inputs to farmers through their mobile. Ogeh announced that Agricultural Input and Mechanization Supply (AIMS) to be established in all 774 local governments of the federation will replaced the scheme. However, the rainy season has begun in earnest but farmers spoken to say they cannot find such offices in their local government areas.
Creating cattle colonies
Chief Audu Ogbeh had announced that the present administration would establish cattle colonies for herders to check incessant crises between them and the farmers.
Daily Trust reports that this plan was included in the 10-year National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) approved by the Federal Economic Council early this year.
But since then, no cattle colony exists as at today-something the government must urgently look at as the rainy season, which is the heightened period of the conflict approaches.