Lawan, Senate
Ahmad Lawan

Says 2021 Budget should provide job opportunities for youths

By Henry Umoru

ABUJA – THE President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, warned yesterday that Nigeria as a country, will not escape another ciitizens’ restiveness in the form of #EndSARS protest if it failed to effectively address the issue of youth unemployment.

Speaking when he formally declared opened the 2021 budget defence for the Ministry of Agriculture before the Senator Abdullahi Adamu, All Progressives Congress, APC, Nasarawa West led Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Lawan said that some youths  genuinely expressed their anger in recent #EndSARS protest and successfully gained government’s attention.

Recounting the events of #EndSARS, the President of the Senate who warned that a good number of them who may not have had the opportunity to vent their anger are in the rural areas, said that there was the urgent need to meet them in their needs.

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Recall that youths across the country had last month protested against the disbarded  Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and bad governance where the protests took different dimensions as people were killed, injured as well as wanton destruction of property.

Lawan who  advised that there was need to be more practical with budgetary allocations for the Ministry of Agriculture to create jobs for many of the youths, said  that the 2021 budget which is yet being processed by the National Assembly should be mindful of the youth unemployment in the country, adding that the government must make practical steps in its national budget to meaningfully engage the youths.

The President of the Senate said, “Recently, we had some of our youths protesting genuinely. They were seeking the attention of leaders and they got the attention of leaders. So our budget especially for 2021 should be mindful of what we do to provide employment opportunities for these youths.

“They protested because they could do so, there are so many other people who may not be youthful but are also in the same need and they didn’t protest. Let’s meet them where they are. We don’t have to wait until they also start to grumble or protest. We should be proactive, we should reach them and most of  them are in the rural areas and give them what we can and what they need to some extent within the purview of our resources and keep them there to lead a productive life and that is the only way that we can make a difference in the lives of the people.

“And for us, elected people, we are going to be accountable. If we escape this one, the other one is inescapable and I am sure people will know what I am saying.”

Lawan who noted that with practical and radical approach, Agriculture sector would change Nigeria’s fortune,  described Agriculture sector as the “mother of all sectors” in the Nigerian economy and urged all stakeholders at all levels of government to accord it more attention.

Lawan said, “This sector, without prejudice to any other, is enough to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria. This sector can do something that oil has not been able to do. But why hasn’t it been able to do so? We need to be very practical and radical. I believe that the way we are going, will nor take us to the El-dorado but there is every potential, every possibility and there are so many experts here and that other countries have made it through the sector.

“Every time we talk about diversification of the Nigerian economy, the first sector they mention is the agricultural sector. So it means this sector needs to be given all the support that is possible. Oil cannot give jobs to the youths that we have, only few people and mostly white collar jobs but we know that this sector can give everybody a job.

“And it has all the potentials to create the wealth that we need to have a fairly meaningful life for everyone. So we need to apply ourselves fully to operating this sector. And of course, like we all know, government alone cannot make it happen. It is not possible. Government can come up with the necessary and desired policies but those that will make it happen are the private sector. So we need to put our heads together.

“How I wish we could provide 50 per cent of the budget to the agricultural sector because if it were possible that is one way of taking us as fast as possible but we can’t because the resources are scarce these days for so many reasons including lack of sufficient revenue from our oil sales and the IGR from the MDA’s is also very little. But I still believe that we need to do better for this sector because to do better for the agricultural sector is to do better for Nigerians. And what can be better for a government than to do better for its citizens?

“We need some resources,  but it is not only giving money and resources but how we apply resources. There were days when our problem was not money but how to spend it. Now our problem is money because we know how to spend it but we don’t have the money. We have grown wiser. But the little that we can marshal we have to make sure that we use it efficiently and prudently.

“So, I believe that this sector is the mother of all sectors in our economy. I agree totally with Mr. President when he said we should grow what we eat and eat what we grow. I think we have gone so far on that we have stopped the importation of rice but we can do much more because we have the potential across the country to grow anything. Is it not time that we start to think of maybe one crop per local government? So we need to come up with better strategy of engaging everybody and stakeholder.

“I would like to at this point advise that whatever programme we have in this sector, we need to bring everybody to the table to avoid possible duplication of resources and working at cross purposes. Do there are a lot of efforts everywhere but maybe they are done in disparate and uncoordinated manner. Do we need to bring everybody to the table.

“I believe that we need to not only look at what we did in 2020 but approach the 2021 in a ver practical way.”

Earlier in his remarks, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono said that one major challenge confronting the sector is price of commodity going up, but now coming down.

The Minister of Agriculture admitted that the current budgetary allocations for the sector has been meagre; he said the sector recorded meaningful progress in 2020 and remains one of the fastest growing sectors in the country.

Speaking, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Abdullahi Adamu said that the budget remains absymally low; calling on government to come up with policies that will stimulate agriculture revolution.

He said, “I enjoin you to build long lasting structure that will ensure we grow what we eat and we eat what we grow.

“In 2021, the sector witnessed a slight increase with a total  allocation of N139,458, 322,208.00

“Over the years, the sector’s allocation has been abysmally low, a far cry from the Maputo declaration which states that a country should allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budget to the agricultural sector. This year’s budget proposal only allocated 9.2 per cent to the agricultural sect.

“The sector’s N139,458,322,208.00 is broken down as follows: Personnel – N68,031,135,074.00, overhead – N3,186,608,895.00, capital – N110,240,253,439.00.”

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