LAGOS – Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have opined that for Nigeria’s efforts and investments in the sector to yield desired results and become food secure rest on the effectiveness of the Joint Border Patrol System put in place by the Federal Government and the nation’s neighbouring countries works.
Besides, they are of the view that strict compliance and strict implementation of the Presidential order banning the provision of forex for food importation could take the country to achieve food security.
They submitted that now the borders have been flung open the government must take drastic measures to ensure sustained enforcement of the ban on importation of rice, poultry products and all other products on the ban list. Such items they argued should be further prevented from gaining entrance into the country through the land borders.
The stakeholders in separate interviews with DAILY INDEPENDENT enjoined officers of the Customs Service to rise to the development by discharging their responsibilities and duties without let or favour.
They advocated for renewed cooperation with other security operatives and all good citizens of the country to join hands with them to ensure that the issue of smuggling of prohibited items, especially foods through the land border become a thing of the past.
Emphasising the need to uphold the numerous initiatives taken by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to grow the agric economy, the stakeholders advocated for its protection from profiteers and commercial adventurers without sacrificing the programme on the altar of trade liberalisation.
They added that with the reopening of the borders, the existing and expected gains from the government’s interventions might be jeopardised through economic sabotage if the joint border patrol system fails, stressing that the government must do all within its power to ensure that the gains recorded are not jeopardised.
In his view, Anga Sotonye, an Agribusiness Strategist said the truth be told that it will be difficult to prevent smuggling with opening of borders, especially the porosity of Nigerian land borders.
He said that the closure of the border has to a great extent brought a degree of restrictions in terms of the flow of goods, saying that its reopening would not constitute a serious issue that should be looked into as smuggling will thrive without hindrances.
Dr. Victor Iyama, President of the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN) noted that the only way to prevent smuggling is for customs and all the security operatives to be up and doing in their assigned responsibilities.
“We have the entire security outfit and once they do their job well we will prevent smuggling,” he said.
Arch Kabir Ibrahim, President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in his opinion charged the institutions of customs and others tasked with the responsibilities of making the border safe to work with patriotism and without compromise.
According to him, all the gains made during the lockdown would be lost if smuggling continues and not reduced.
Ibrahim added that the Customs should be charged to stop the menace of smuggling, saying anyone caught in the act should be severely dealt with aside forfeiting all items impounded and promptly auctioned.
He charged the government to also apply capital punishments on economic saboteurs.
To the citizens, Ibrahim tasked all and sundry to work together and ensure that goods that are not supposed to come into Nigeria are not allowed in.
“Everybody must work together to make it work. If you go to a shop and there are contrabands in the market for sale we should kick and fight against it thereby embarrassing the custom that took bribes to allow it to happen.
“All the citizens must work together to make it work, the customs should not be left alone, we should show them how to carry out their work, and also remove any officer caught doing the wrong thing.
“If you go to England for instance and you go through the border all those things that are not allowed in, nobody will allow it and if you find your way inside London, you cannot display that on the counter because it is contraband. Nobody will go to the shop. I think the same way it is happening there it should happen here in Nigeria,” he said.
However, the experts commended the proposed partnership between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and 36 states of the federation on production and value addition in the all-important task of cultivating unassailable domestic capacity in food production using the Anchors Borrowers Programme (ABP) template as a good step in the right direction.
Sotonye, who commended the move, described the synergy between the CBN and 36 states of the federation as a right step in the right direction.
However, he tasked the apex bank to match words with action.
“What we need is the result because farmers need access to finance; they need financing at a single-digit interest rate, low-cost finance and all of that. If a farmer can access the credit he would be able to improve cultivations, productivity and be in business. What farmers across the country are experiencing in Nigeria are issues of funding.
“What the CBN has said is good but we want them to match words with action that we can verify and see so that at the end of 2021 we should be able to say across the 36 states 5million or 20million farmers were impacted, directed and are able to get access to finance and they can do their farming businesses.
Contributing, Iyama corroborated Sotonye’s position that the move CBN was a welcome development, saying that partnership with the states should be synergy with active farmers and the farmer’s associations.
“It is not a matter of the states; it is a matter of the practitioners and the associations.
Ibrahim also said agriculture in itself takes place in the state, saying the partnership with the states was right as agricultural lands are in the states.
However, he tasked the CBN to also partner with All Farmers Association to ascertain the true farmers.
It would be recalled that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in line with its developmental function established the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).
The Programme, which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) on November 17, 2015 is intended to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in the processing and smallholder farmers (SHFs) of the required key agricultural commodities.
The thrust of the ABP programme is the provision of farm inputs in kind and cash (for farm labour) to smallholder farmers to boost production of these commodities, stabilise input supply to agro-processors and address the country’s negative balance of payments on food.
At harvest, the SHF supplies his/her produce to the Agro-processor (Anchor) who pays the cash equivalent to the farmers’ account.
The Programme evolved from the consultations with stakeholders comprising the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, State Governors, millers of agricultural produce, and smallholder farmers to boost agricultural production and non-oil exports in the face of unpredictable crude oil prices and its resultant effect on the revenue profile of Nigeria.
In 2015, CBN launched the ABP in 14 states that include Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Adamawa, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun, Cross-Rivers and Ebonyi for rice and wheat farmers to advance their status from smallholder farmers to commercial or large growers.
According to the apex bank, the effort, which formed part of its development agenda, would not only create millions of jobs but that it is also capable of lifting thousands of smallholder farmers out of poverty in the country.
During the flag-off in Birni- Kebbi, Kebbi State, the CBN set aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEDF) to be given to farmers at single-digit interest rate of maximum nine per cent per annum under the ABP.
However, in the space of five years, the ABP has demonstrated as a surgical solution to Nigeria’s quest to boost her non-oil sector profile by empowering millions of farmers in the country’s agric sector.