AGRICULTURE is an evolving sector which dwells on research to increase its productivity for the growth of the sector and also make the sector attractive to youths.
The National Agricultural Research Institutes over the years have been doing some researches which could be beneficial to the country’s agricultural sector, but regrettably, those researches ended up in the shelves of the Research Institutes.
The Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) is the coordinating body of all the Agriculture Research Institutes in the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development while harping on the need for effective Research Institutes, said “one of the fundamental problem facing the country is probably in the hidden activities of the research institutions and I know that most of the Research Institutes are underfunded as they have big buildings but lack funds for research”.
“Giving instance of a professor paid N500,000 monthly but is not given up to N200,000 for research yearly, and that is basically the truth. If we don’t move forward in that direction how do we progress? We as a government must examine what can be done”.
“We must rationalise Research Institutes and make it more cost effective and more productive if we are going to achieve our goal”.
In another occasion, the Minister said “we need to rationalize Research Institutes and make them more cost effective and more productive if we want to achieve what we want to achieve. I am a farmer; I know what it means to have good and bad seeds.”
Subsequently, in September 2019, the Minister appointed a Professor of Veterinary Medicine, Garba Hamidu Sharubutu as the Acting Executive Secretary of the ARCN, with the mandate to revitalize agricultural research in Nigeria.
Professor Sharubutu was deployed to the Council as Director, Knowledge Management in company of two other Professors appointed by the Ministry, in order to boost the staffing structure of the Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria, before the Minister appointed him as the Acting Executive Secretary of the Council.
He said before his appointment, “the various Research Institutes were like children without father and mother because the principal function of ARCN was actually to advise government on policy issues that bothered on agriculture and draw up master plan for running the Research System”.
However, the Council was almost moribund due to the defunct Management in place.
According to him, when he was appointed, he looked at the facilities that are available and realized that the Council does not have a library, no Conditions and Schemes of Service as stipulated in the Act establishing the Council.
This is regrettable because the ARCN should be in comparison with Research Institutes in Kenya, Ethiopia and Mali. It was also learnt that audit reports from 2012 until 2019 was not available in the Council.
“Of course most of them were satisfied with that because it made the system vulnerable to manipulations, lack of transparency and provided the platform for mediocrity”, Professor Sharubutu said.
“So the Minister appointed me and gave me the mandate to resuscitate the Council. He said I must make sure I solve the leadership crisis in the various Research Institutes. Secondly, I must transform the ARCN because to him agriculture cannot move without research and extension.
“On assumption to duty, I discovered amongst others crowded work place (about seven (7) Agricultural Officers lumped together in an office); Lack of capacity in Council’s staff (with Diploma, NCE, HND, Third Class First Degrees and a few with Masters and Ph.D Degrees). In order to address the issue of staffing structure we decided that we must build capacity of our staff”, he noted.
He said the Council insisted that staff must go to school because there was no way they can become a research officer and keep on moving around with NCE, Diploma or First Degree (Third Class).
Furthermore, he said that the second mandate in the Act says that they must design a structure and a plan for the Agricultural Research Institutes and provide fund for them.
“Now how do you design a plan for Agricultural Research Institutes when the Research Institutes have serious capacity, and you here are supposed to dictate what they are supposed to do, but you don’t have the capacity, definitely that is not going to be possible”, he wondered.
In other world class Research Institutes like EMBRAPA-Brazil, ICAR-India, majority of our lawmakers have visited there with the aim of making the ARCN better, unfortunately, the Council hitherto could not produce the required capacity of Leadership to realize this dream.
In 2019, the Senate drove away the ARCN when they went for budget defense, because the ARCN was said to be operating a defunct Management without required capacity of Leadership.
“So, with my coming, we restructured the place and tried to see how we can boost capacity. We initiated a programme where we are to have a museum just like it happens in EMBRAPA and others, so that all the 26 Institutions that are under the Council would have their profiles mounted in our office complex”, Professor Sharubutu said.
The reason for this is that the first point of call for anybody who want to conduct research in this country is supposed to be ARCN, so the Council can look at their research interest and direct them to the appropriate Research Institute that is going to be of benefit them.
“We have built an extended arm to the office complex in the Council from the meager resources allocated to us in 2019 Budget. The building was designed to accommodate twenty one (21) office accommodation for staff; a National Museum; a National Radio to reach out to farmers on research innovations and technologies nationwide.
“Hitherto, going on Monitoring and Evaluation by staff was more of jamboree without any outcome report to show for it and a platform to syphoning funds, but we have developed a template like in the National University Commission (NUC) for more realistic monitoring and desired output”, he said.
Professor Hamidu Sharubutu said “for now, he (Minister) has given one serious directive that all our research findings must be moved from the shelves, that he wants to see them on ground, and we have successfully submitted a proposal to him on each of the research institutes, we have been able to look at their potentials, what seed they have generated, how much they have in stock, what tractors they have, what are their capacities, and we have submitted that to the Minister.
“I think what the Minister want to do is to key into how we are going to alleviate the problem of post COVID-19 pandemic because people are not likely to be encouraged to go to farm and we are not likely to import foreign seeds in order to boost our agriculture. Therefore, the Minister asked me on what we can do as Research Institute, I told him we have developed improved seeds and gave the total number of the details from the various Research Institute under our purview.
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“Hitherto, it was leadership crisis we had in all the Research Institutes, but you don’t hear them now, everything have been settled because we followed due diligence and transparency in order to get competent leadership in our research Institutes”.
Speaking about Professors who left the Council, he said “the first thing we have to do is that there is a clog in the wheel of progress here, those that don’t want to improve their capacity, have frustrated many Professors out of the Council, preferring a Sociologist to take over from a renowned scientist through collusion and manipulation of co-conspirators”.
On the allegations of corrupt practices against him, when he was the Provost of Federal College of Animal and Production Technology, Vom, Professor Sharabutu said “I saw those allegations on the social media, and I think specifically, what they were saying was that I have a company, and that I was giving contract to my company.
He said, “let me put the record straight, when I came on board, the College’s first capital grant was N32 million, the second one was N7 million which was grossly in adequate for any meaningful development. So I said we must look for revenue, and we took a decision as a management to run what we call College of Animal Health Consultancy Service and we went for registration. We were told that an object cannot register a firm; you need to have human beings to register, so the Bursar became one of the directors, I became one of the directors, and then the entrepreneurship officer became one of the directors.
“Immediately we registered that company, we put a clause there that this company is solely owned by the college and I can tell you that is the beginning of our breakthrough, because all constituency projects was handled by the consultancy firm because it was agriculture related, and our area of competence. We decided to handle those projects like training in abattoir, design and construction of abattoir, lecture; in fact we are registered with the Central Bank of Nigeria to be running programmes for their loan programs.
“So, I was even perplexed when people ascribe the company to myself, but what people need to know is that if you have a company, the dividends of that company is supposed to come to you, I want people to go through my bank account and see if any money from that company had come to my account”.
“It was through that company that we were able to boost our revenue. We constructed a whole department, all the vehicles that are been utilized now (from the provost vehicle to those of head of departments were all bought by that company, about 13 vehicles)”.
“We were able to build 2 classrooms, Fisheries department, Extension, we were able to build a complex made of 2 large halls, a computer centre with 2 offices by that same company”. “If you go there, you will see modern desks that were bought by the company, I did not meet a college with a guest house, I bought a guest house worth about N17 million using proceeds from that company for the college not for me, my accounts can confirm it.
“All these accusations are product of ‘push him out of the way’. The target is that we must continue running this place the way we want, but this one that came to perfect this place, get him out of the way so that we can continue with our nefarious practices, so it is a battle for leadership (leadership tussle).