BY PETER DURU, MAKURDI
The President of Nigerian Association of Women In Agriculture, NAWIA, Mrs. Ngizan Chahul has appealed to the Benue State House of Assembly to prioritize budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector to ensure sustainable growth and development in the sector.
She spoke at a one day Benue state Legislative Interactive Forum on 2018 Agricultural Budget and State Agricultural Policy Formulation organised by NAWIA and HEDA Resource Centre with Support from Oxfam Nigeria and TrustAfrica held in Makurdi.
Mrs. Chahul who commended the state legislature and the executive for ensuring the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition Law in the state said the law had reduced the incidences of herdsmen/crop farmers’ conflict that affected farming activities in the past.
“Furthermore,the on-going process for Benue state agricultural policy formulation has received legislative support which the Benue state Governor may soon sign into law, is a laudable step towards boosting investors’ morale in agro-processing and the creation of revenue opportunities for the Government, as well as employment for the Benue People, especially the youths.”
“The fact is that without a policy the agricultural sector will continue to suffer, but if we have it in place every other thing will fall into place and our state will be happier for it.”
Continuing she said, “today, the 2018 budget estimates have been presented to the Benue state House of Assembly, we would like to know the house committee position in debating for the increase in agricultural budget to at least 10% of the total annual state budget as contained in the Maputo Declaration.
“We all know that Benue State is the FOOD BASKET OF THE NATION. The state is expected to have the highest budget allocation to agriculture to enable the state sustain its appellation.
“Employment of agriculture extension officers, revival of moribund agro-processing factories in the state, research, establishment of the agro-processing zones in the state are some of the issues that the increased budget is expected to fund. If this is done, the smallholder farmers that we represent, will have a good market and stable income to improve their livelihood.
“We must also appreciate the state government for launching a unified standard measurement for most of the Agro-produce in the state, which has reduced the middlemen exploitations.
“We also appreciate the State Ministry of Agriculture for its proactive steps in improving agriculture ln the state.
“In a special way, we appreciate Oxfam Nigeria and TrustAfrica for their support Which has made this occasion possible.
Mrs. Chahul who lamented the level of post harvest losses recorded in the state, expressed optimism that the deliberation and actions taken by stakeholders in the sector would to a large extent improve the fortunes of state.”
On his part, the lead paper presenter, Mr. Justin Gbagir urged the state government to ensure improved commitment to the implementation of its annual budget to better the lot of farmers in the state.
“We need to see greater commitment to the implementation of the government policies as contained in the working document of the administration and by so doing we will record unprecedented growth in that sector.
“I must however state unequivocally that the situation at the moment is not encouraging but we hope that the government would do better if more funds is committed to the sector.” Gbagir noted.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee in the House, Mr. Adam Okloho said the House was working to ensure that the 2018 budget was realistic and implementable.
Okloho “if we do the right thing everything will fall into place. We do not really need a bogus budget that would not be funded with the meager resources at the disposal of the government because we could end up derailing.
“I must however say without contradiction that the 2018 budget has good prospects that will impact the state and the teeming farming populace.
“The Governor Samuel Ortom led government has a good dream for our people but we need funds to have it actualized.
“My pain is that corruption is also adversely effecting the implementation of budgets because Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government sometimes generate funds but fail to remit same to the coffers of government.
“We will take steps to ensure that such practices are checked and also ensure that the budget presented to the House is looked into to ensure that it is implementable and beneficial to the farming populace who are in the majority in the state.”
In his contribution, Chairman of the House Standing Committee on Agriculture, Mr. James Gbande stressed that the Assembly would thoroughly dissect and scrutinize the 2018 budget to ensure its implementability.
“We will do everything within available resources to ensure that the Agric sector had a fair deal in the budget.”
Gbande pleaded with stakeholders in the sector to show understanding, “because as we all know government is contending with limited resources given the economic situation but I can assure you that government will always do the needful to better the lot of our teeming farming populace.” He added.
Majority of the stakeholders who spoke at the interactive session appealed to the government to accord greater attention to the agricultural sector where the state enjoys greater comparative advantage to others states in the country and given its potentials to improve the economic fortunes of the state.