The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has appealed to the Nigerian Prisons Service to aggressively embark on agricultural production to improve feeding of inmates.
Ogbeh made the appeal at a sensitisation workshop for officers of the service organised by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Abuja on Thursday.
The minister, represented by Alhaji Muyiwa Azeez, the Director, Agribusiness, Processing and Marketing in the ministry, said the workshop was aimed at building a world class economy through agriculture.
The minister said that adopting all-inclusive agricultural practices, which should involve both retiring and serving officers, would help in boosting food production and cut costs for the government.
According to him, Section five of the 1999 constitution allows government officers including civil servants to go into agriculture without interference.
He said: “We have 79 million hectares of land but less than 40 per cent of them are being utilised.
“We want to equip you to be prepared for a better life in and out of service.
“We want you to go into livestock farming, crops farming, fertiliser manufacturing, storage and processing of agricultural produce.
“We will train, help and assist you to access loans to achieve this.’’
The Comptroller-General of the service, Ja’afaru Ahmed, commended Ogbeh for the initiative aimed at involving military and para-military officers in agriculture.
Ahmed was represented by Dorothy Atajiri, the Deputy Comptroller-General in charge of the Directorate of Health and Social Welfare in the service.
He said the initiative would further strengthen the agricultural activities already ongoing in the service.
On yams, the comptroller-general, however, appealed to the ministry to encourage yam farmers to produce more and ensure their produce were purchased to encourage them.
He said: “How are we sure that these countries where we export our yams will not develop and improve on our yams and cause market glut for our farmers here.
“We do not want a situation where our people will produce and at the end of the day, the yams will not be bought.’’
Winifred Ochinyabo, the Senior Adviser to the minister on Special Projects and General Duties, said that inmates could leverage on the opportunity of the workshop through the management of the service to explore agriculture.
Ochinyabo said: “Prisons personnel help to reform and re-integrate inmates to the society, trying so hard to add value to our lives.
“These are noble acts of patriotism which should never be paid back with retirement woes.
“When a nation cannot feed itself, it leaves her vulnerable.’’
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the workshop with the title: `Food Security in Defence of National Security’ began on September 13 with the Nigerian Air Force.
It will also be conducted for officers of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Federal Fire Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service and other military and para-military organisations.