Council Of State Backs $1bn Intervention Fund For Agriculture
In line with the government’s policy on economic diversification, the Council of State yesterday sought a fresh allocation of $1 billion to the agricultural sector to boost growth and development. This was disclosed by the Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, after the Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja. According to him, the funds will be disbursed through the Anchor Borrowers and Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS) Programmes, in order to encourage diversification of the economy and promote food security. Amosun disclosed that Council deliberated extensively on how to diversify the economy; efforts being made to pull Nigeria out of doldrums, efforts that had been made to move Nigeria out of recession and the progress being made. He said: “Council advised that we improve on the funding for agriculture; that the paltry sum of $200 million – when compared to what is being pumped into the oil sector – is insignificant. “Council recommended that at least, about $1 billion be pumped into agriculture. “Council noted how Nigeria moved the budget from about N4 trillion to now about N8 trillion. It also noted that when this president came in, he was jostling to manage the lean resources because oil had nose-dived from $112 in 2014 and in 2016, it was $30.” He further noted that the Council also appreciated the ministers of Agriculture and Budget and National Planning on the efforts they have been making in the present administration and encouraged them to continue along the path they are going. He continued: “Council advised that planting should be done all-year round and not only during planting seasons and that we should grow what we will need, what we will eat and what we grow; the era of wasting our very scare foreign exchange on everything that we need is over.” The governor noted that Council even considered the $1 billion investment in agriculture as inadequate. “We are looking at, maybe, $2 billion but, of course, $1 billion will be the starting point as against, in two years now, it was about $200 – whereas if you compare what is being pumped into subsidies on our oil and all of that, it runs to even trillion,” he said. During his briefing, Jigawa State governor, Abubakar Badar, stated that the Council received a briefing on the security situation in the country by the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Munguno. He said: “On the security situation in the country, we received a very long brief from the National Security Adviser, ranging from farmers/herdsmen clashes, Boko Haram, militancy in the Niger Delta, kidnapping and cattle rustling. “Farmers/herdsmen clashes were discussed thoroughly and we learnt that this takes three dimensions. First is the real farmers/herdsmen clashes, where the normal herdsman moves around with his cattle and gets into a farmer’s land and eats up his crops. In some situations, it’s pure banditry. Some of the pastoralists that are not herders attack, steal and kidnap, and that has to be defined as such. “Some of them rustle cattle and move into the deep forests, and because of the thickness of the forests, responses are usually very difficult. That was also discussed today and solutions were proffered on how to get deep into the forests to check those bandits that hide and continue to commit havoc. “The third aspect usually classified as farmers/herdsmen clashes is also the settlers and indigenes’ clashes, like in Southern Kaduna. Some migrant farmers or herders stay in an environment for a very long time and when you have such clashes, they are also classified as farmers/herdsmen classes.” According to him, the different approaches in solving the problems were proffered at the meeting, which government believes will bring a solution to the problems in the near future. He further stated that the minister of Agriculture (Audu Ogbe) also presented a position on how to resolve the first part of the farmers/herdsmen clashes, that is, the actual migrating herdsmen that pass through towns and farms, eating up crops in the farms and creating a lot of conflicts. Badaru said: “He (minister) proffered a lot of solutions ranging from those states that have already designated cattle routes, grazing reserves and activating the grazing reserves to ensure that farmers and herdsmen live in harmony. “That is for those states that have the capabilities to do this. And in the states that do not have the capabilities to do this, ranching was proffered and the federal government has promised to support the states and indeed, the Fulanis or the livestock producers to settle in one place and do businesses like it is done in the modern way. Already, Kaduna State has visited Denmark with some Fulani leaders to study a kind of livestock production with the aim of establishing same in the country. “We believe it is possible and profitable to do and those states that want to key into this option can do so. Generally, we believe that every state has its own peculiar problem and each state will be analyzed and solutions will be proffered so that these farmers/herdsmen crisis will be a thing of the past.” On allegations that the government is giving priority to herdsmen who are running private businesses, he said, “For those states that have grazing reserve, they will have support to provide veterinary services and other small services for the already existing herdsmen.” Badaru pointed out that for states that do not have enough land, the federal government would find a solution to their peculiar situation. “But we are just saying that $1 billion will be used to support agriculture; livestock is part of that and I am sure these monies are being given as credit to the farmers to develop their own businesses, and it is done for two reasons: first to boost the economy, second to act as import substitution mechanism so that we will stop to import milk, beef, chicken and all those things that come into the country. “So it is not purely designed to support the rich livestock producers but to support the movement of those existing herdsmen that cause this problem and these clashes,”the governor explained. On his part, Anambra State governor, Willy Obiano, announced that the Council of State approved the appointment of two non-legal practitioners to the Federal Judicial Service Commission, a national electoral commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the 23 members of National Population Commission. Present at the meeting were former heads of state, Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Also in attendance were former chief justices of the federation; Senate President Bukola Saraki and the 36 governors of the federation. LEADERSHIP recalls that the Council has the constitutional duties of advising the president in the exercise of his powers with respect to national census, prerogative of mercy, award of national honours, INEC, the National Judicial Council and the National Population Commission. It also has the responsibility of advising the president – whenever requested to do so – on the maintenance of public order within the federation or any part thereof.