On Wednesday, November 11, 2015, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, resumed duties shortly after been sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari. His mission was to revamp the sector to drive the president’s quest for a diversified economy – away from oil that truncated the nation’s economic diversification.
Since taking over office, Chief Ogbeh has made a number of gargantuan promises to solve the many problems bedeviling the sector:
Grass-up 50,000 hectares of grazing reserves with imported seeds
Chief Ogbeh took office at the peak of deadly carnage between herdsmen and farmers across many states of the federation. His position to grass up 50,000 hectares of reserves with imported Brazilian seeds drew a lot of criticisms from many quarters. On the March 8, 2016, during a press conference, he said: “We are faced with cattle grazing challenge now and the conflicts. A lot of people are getting killed; it is my business to solve that problem. The president has told me so. I have done my survey and I have taken my decision that we have to grass-up 50,000 hectares of land in the next six months across the northern belt before we move south. I’m bringing improved grass seeds, I will multiply it and I’m going to solve the problem of grazing. Whether critics like it or not, it’s my business.”
Eight months down the line, the problems linger on as the federal government is yet to grass-up grazing reserves across the northern belt where farmers/herders conflict is rampant.
Pint of milk each a day for 30 million school children
Addressing officials of the West African Milk Company (WAMCO) in December last year at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja, Ogbeh stated that with 18 million children in primary schools and 12 million children in secondary schools across the country, the nation needs to step up its agricultural production mechanism to address local food demand gap particularly in diary production as the number of children suffering from malnutrition is widening.
“If we give a pint of milk a day to each, we will need 30 million pints of milk a day, while for eggs, we would require 30 million eggs daily,” Chief Ogbeh explained, citing UNESCO statistics that said 24 percent of Nigerian children under the age of five are underweight while 37 percent are under nourished.
Almost a year now, not much has been heard about the milk for 30 million school children.
But Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye who is the Special Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture on Media, told Daily Trust that the programme has inter-ministerial components involving the federal ministries of Agriculture, Health and Education.
Distribution of 20,000 beehives to bee farmers
On apiculture, the minister during the launch of the Nigerian Apiculture Platform and inauguration of Inter-ministerial Committee on Honey Production, Bee Health and Pollination Services in Abuja on September 8, said:
“Global honey yield is estimated at 1.4 million tonnes annually, costing about $7 billion. It is estimated that honey bee could contribute to increase in agricultural productivity and food security by more than a third through pollination,” Chief Ogbeh said.
The minister said about 20,000 beehives would be distributed to farmers this year, adding that the market for the bee products was hugely global.
Dr. Chinyere Akujobi of the ministry told Daily Trust Golden Harvest that the ministry was working on getting beehives to the farmers as announced by the minister.
So far, no farmer has gotten the beehives.
Returning three universities of agriculture back to the ministry.
During a courtesy visit to the management of Media Trust Limited in Abuja on the 30th of December 2015, the minister said plans were underway to return the three universities of agriculture – University of Agriculture, Abeokuta Ogun State, University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State – which are under the Ministry of Education back to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
He said the law establishing the institutions did not even empower the National Universities Commission (NUC) to supervise them.
Dr. Oyeleye, the minister’s Special Assistant on Media, stated that a consultant was working on the issue, adding that details would be made available soon on the progress so far made to return the three institutions back to the ministry, but up till now nothing has been done.
Rice export to begin in 2017
Nigeria spends billions of dollars annually importing rice to meet the domestic demand of 6 to 7 million metric tonnes of milled rice. Chief Ogbeh said that will stop by 2017 as the nation will meet its self-sufficiency in rice and begin export same year.
The leadership of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) led by Aminu Goronyo believed the country’s production is already meeting our local demand.
The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has also said the Anchor Borrower Programme for rice farmers was already driving the process.
But some commercial farmers believe a lot more needs to be done, stressing that 2017 might be too close to achieve the target.