Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, has tasked Agricultural Research Institutes to take the lead in the efforts of the Federal Government to revolutionise agricultural sector to diversify the economy, ensure food security and make agriculture the mainstay of the economy.
Ogbeh gave the charge at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, when he inspected three Agricultural Research Institutes situated in the Agricultural Complex of the university at the weekend.
The institutes he visited include Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) and the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS).
The Minister, who confessed that he was traumatised by poverty in the country especially on the issue of ever growing youth unemployment, explained that the sad development was brought about by long neglect of agriculture and adoption of wrong economic policies that favoured massive importation of food at the expense of local production and
A statement on Monday by Tolu Makinde, the Director of Information in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, quoted the minister as saying that the bad situation could be fixed with strong determination and adoption of relevant science and technology.
Ogbeh commended the institutes for the giant strides they have made in developing varieties of improved seedlings for maize, rice, sorghum, groundnut, cotton, cow-pea as well as in livestock – goats, sheep, cattle as well as development of different species of grass feeds for cattle; not forgetting improvements achieved through tissue culture on
rice, cassava, bananas, cashew and grasses.
He also mentioned the foray into artificial insemination for cattle as well as local fabrication of simple agriculture implements like planters, shredders, harrowers’ tractors, oil-press, threshers and rice-mill.
The Minister, who frowned at the politicisation of every issue in Nigeria, called for a change of attitude among the elite, adding that collective action was needed to address the problems in the agricultural sector.
He reiterated that the Federal Government was committed to solving the festering farmers/herdsmen crisis by working with willing state governments to establish safe havens where the pastoralists would have access to guaranteed clean water, health facilities, and nutritious pasture for their animals.
He said that once that is done, and there is security to guard against rustlers, there would be an end to open grazing that is the root cause of conflicts between farmers and herders.
“We have to end this fight between the farmers and herdsmen. We have got enough land and scientific knowledge to solve the problem except there is too much politics and too little governance.
“Everything is politicised and there is too much suspicion even with religion, everybody is suspicious that you are about to play one trick or the other.
“We have well over 145 million hectares of land untouched yet we have no land to give for gracing for cattle build up.
“Why should one set of people be in the bush, working around day and night because they are keeping herds and trying to give us meat when we can give them better life; secure the farmers, secure the herdsmen from rustlers and give the Fulani man, the Ijaw, the Ibiobio, the Yoruba whoever our good attention.
“I tell you, we can do it. Let the two of us work towards the national happiness that we all desire. When we do it, we will expose your expertise to the rest of West Africa,” he stated.
He therefore challenged the scientists to deploy products of their research and technology to help solve the farmers-herders crisis.
He said that from what he had seen on the field, he had no doubt in his mind that Nigeria has what it takes to solve the problem and become a reference point to other countries experiencing same challenge in the West Africa sub- region.
Earlier on, Prof. Ibrahim Garba, the Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, praised the Minister for spending two days to get first-hand information about the institutes.
He lamented the lack of appreciation of research work in the country, saying there were piles of research works by professors all over the place.
He drew attention of the minister to the problem of outdated equipment and pleaded with him to help improve the funding of the institutes.