By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
On May 29, 1999, Nigerians were elated with the return of democracy as former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, handed over to former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, which also all 36 State Military Administrators handed over to 36 former elected governors on the same day, and that marked a new dispensation of democracy in the nation’s political history.
It is now 22 years of democratic rule in Nigeria after that historic transition of power and system of government from long military rule to democratically elected government, which came with hope, optimism, aspiration and expectation by Nigerians for a better welfare, egalitarian society and rapid development in all sectors of the economy.
But it is of note that as the nation commemorated 2021 Democracy Day to mark 22 years of uninterrupted democratic rule, stakeholders in the agricultural sector examined and x-rayed performance, problems, and proffered solutions to current challenges in the nation’s agricultural sector.
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Remarkable improvement in agricultural policy and implementation — AFAN
The National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Arc Kabir Ibrahim, on assessing the sector after 22 years of democracy said there is remarkable improvement in agricultural policy and implementation.
Ibrahim said: “In the last 22 years beginning with President Obasanjo the various administrations of Umaru Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan have espoused the possibilities of Nigeria being able to restore the primacy of Agriculture in being able to shore up the development of the overall economy.
“From the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, ATA, to the Agricultural PP, we have witnessed and there is obviously a remarkable improvement in agricultural policy and implementation.
“The Buhari Administration has made remarkable investment in agriculture against several odds including COVID-19, banditry, kidnapping, herder/farmer conflicts and Boko Haram insurgency.”
However, the he called on the Buhari-led administration to bridge the existing gaps in the sector, “But it needs to support the defunct policy with a new one immediately in order to fill the yawning gap created by the gap between 2020, when the APP expired actually expired and now.
“It may not be very noticeable but it is a threat to the gains made which are definitely quite commendable but to be consolidated and sustained these gains need shoring up by a more focused leadership of the entire food system to really attain Food Security.”
The AFAN boss also advised government on the need to devote resources in order to achieve appreciable results in mechanization which will fast-track food production.
“Going forward the remaining two years of this administration should be devoted to properly run and ensure the provision of the much awaited mechanization, the restoration of security and still make further investments in all the cross-cutting areas to be able to impact the agricultural space sustainably.
“If the tempo to encourage Nigerian youths to embrace agriculture is sustained by incoming administrations beyond Buhari Nigeria will attain the much desired Food Security and youth employment.”
He also expressed hope if talk is made to walk, “I have every hope that Nigeria will be prosperous if we really and genuinely walk the talk in Agriculture sustainably.”
It has been 70% talk show, 30% action — GLOCHEED
The Director General, Global Centre for Human Development and Entrepreneurship Development, GLOCHEED, Rose Gyar, asserted that it has been 70 per cent talk show and 30 per cent action in implementing policies, programmes and projects in the agric sector.
Gyar said, “22 years of democracy has not yielded much in agriculture and agribusiness because it has been 70 per cent talk show and 30 per cent action towards revolution a ring agriculture sector from labour intensive to mechanized systems that would encourage youths and get them attracted to be players in the sector.
“However, efforts are made in this direction by government putting in place policies and programme to drive the process but the key players that are policy interpreters and programme implementers, have always frustrated the efforts through acts of corruption, lack of transparency and politicization of processes.
“It is sad that with all the propaganda about self-sufficiency in rice production in Nigeria, the ordinary citizen cannot afford to buy rice. Small scale millers are all over the states, they cannot optimally utilize their processing plants because of poor energy supply. If they must do that then the cost is shifted to the price for consumers as a result of high cost of production.
“Poor monitoring of interventions meant for small scale farmers as well as inadequate engagement with beneficiaries of such intervention to create a sense of responsibility and process ownership that would engender repayment of loans without coercion because the processes are compromised into political gratifications so not real farmers enjoy these interventions.
“Poor institutional capacities by the farmers associations to engage fruitfully and sustainably with stakeholders on behalf of their members for effective service delivery but preference to political patronage at the detriment of national development.
“The insecurity situation particularly the so much talked about farmers and herders clashes that have now degenerated into banditry, kidnapping and killings while at farms, rape of women by armed men in the farms etc, etc scares women from going to their farms. Absence of affordable farming inputs and inappropriate timely support from government has culminated into making agribusiness in attractive for inflow of investment from investors within and outside the country.
“All these contribute to the stunted growth of the agriculture and agribusinesses in our country. More lip service than action.
“With all the theoretical green revolutions and strategies, opportunities for market access and technological innovations available to be leveraged upon to grow the sector, the era of groundnut pyramid and cocoa boards, palm oil and cotton mills is much more renowned because operators in the sector, both state and non state actors were patriotic and nation builders.
“What we see these days in the sector are money mongers, looters of public funds and pretenders operating in the space for their personal gains while citizens are getting poorer and more impoverished by government policies and programmes.
“Even subsistence farming is no longer beneficial because the lands are no longer viable while inputs are beyond the reach of the common citizen.”
Gyar added that, “However, the following steps can redeem the situation; Government must deliberately establish partnerships with operators through platforms of genuine farmers and strengthen their institutional capacities cowards effective service delivery to members and as mechanisms for feedback on interventions for appropriate policy; Operators, that are farmers and processors and their leaders must demonstrate patriotism in their operations and relationship with policy makers and implementers to transparent for the benefit of citizens.
“Government must deliberately invest genuinely in sustainable supply of farm inputs, machinery and land clearing to support farmers access to such services at affordable rates; and all citizens must work together to stop banditry, armed robbery, kidnap, rape, violence against women, farmer and herders clash, communal clashes as a result of land disputes, etc to stop insecurity.
“For me, we have not done well in promoting the development of agriculture and agribusiness in our 22 years of democracy because we have not been able to sincerely harness the available resources in the sector for national development other than praise singing, sycophancy and deceit in passing out information in respect to the sector.”
Internal forces fight and frustrate agric sector development — SWEER Global Farms
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, SWEER Global Farms, Dr Thaddaeus Thompson, while responding to issues affecting the agricultural sector despite the little impact made on self-sufficiency in some value chains said the 22 years of democracy is not felt positively on food production, farmers profitability, food availability, accessibility, and affordability coupled with lip-service and unrealistic policies and programmes that run into billions of US Dollars.
“Marking 21 years of democracy should be celebrated around glamourous candles lights and fireworks, but unfortunately, Nigeria’s path to democracy has been among the bumpiest in the world.
“There are internal forces that work tireless against lasting democracy in Nigeria, and they are humans. Blame it on poverty and corruption, but there are forces at play who vowed to see democracy not happening in Nigeria. It is like Mother’s Day, some people will celebrate memorable days yearly, while for others it will be a nightmare revisited. The successful democratic countries are enjoying the fruits of their efforts to sustain democracy. What can Nigerians say about their democracy?
“A celebration of democracy is actually a reflection of the fruits of democracy. If not, then what is the point? Can we as a nation boast of our achievements? Nigeria’s democracy is sabotaged at all levels from the ruling class to street thugs. The solution to a lasting democracy lies within the premises of weeding out the bad seeds”, Thompson stated.
He further stated and queried, “What Nigeria has achieved in the past 22 years? Nothing but a continuation of self-governance, which by the way was handed over to us by the British since independence in 1960, and on democratic achievements, I don’t think so.”