The Secretary General, Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Professor Yakubu Ochefu has called on Nigeria’s Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, take advantage of developments and trends in technology and innovation in agriculture.
He made this known during his keynote address at a one-day national conference organised by the Department of History and International Studies, Federal University Lokoja to mark the fifth convocation ceremony of the university, and to celebrate the scholarship and philanthropy of Professor Toyin Falola. The event was held at the university’s auditorium, Adankolo Campus on Wednesday, November 10, 2021.
For Professor Ochefu, in Nigeria’s fight against armed banditry and insurgency, “We can only lend our voices to what many others have suggested in the past. The Nigerian state must be seen as willing and able to instill a sense of justice to the underlying issues that drive people to take up arms against each other and the state.
The nexus between ancestral owners of lands /migrants/settlers has to be couched in a legal constitutional framework to address the perspectives of each group. Addressing the question of who are the combatants; who trains and arms them? Who provides security and judicial cover for them? As you may bear witness, how many persons have been successfully prosecuted in this country in crimes involving communal crisis?”
In providing solutions to the issues raised, he stated that “fodder and other grasses are big businesses that the region should begin to develop seriously. An eminent son of Benue State, the late Professor Agishi had his colleagues at ABU develop Signal Grass and Verano Stylo as fodder and successfully demonstrated how they could be used to manage the relationship between farmers and herders.
“The region should leverage on some of the experiences of other African countries that have been on this path before and how they managed the problem. We can take advantage of developments and trends in technology and innovation in agriculture especially in terms of new ways of feeding farm animals. We must invest in livestock genetic technologies and the use of radio frequency identification for range management.”
Earlier in his address, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Olayemi Akinwumi celebrated the scholarship and philanthropy of Professor Falola, saying it had become incumbent to harness the potential in the don.
According to the vice-chancellor, “putting up a conference to celebrate Professor Toyin Falola’s contributions to scholarship in Africa is a worthy and noble course. In contemporary Africa, Toyin Falola has more than any African scholar put the narratives of the African story on global discourse and map. He has raised and nurtured young African scholars through numerous conferences organised within and outside the continent. Toyin Falola is a detribalized Nigerian, a great scholar and prolific writer whose wish and hope is for a united Nigeria where potential are harnessed for the development of the continent.
“You will agree with me that, in the last decade, the Nigerian State has been besieged by devastating activities of insurgents, armed bandits, and violent non-state actors. In what appears to be a free-for-all, the entire country seems to be enmeshed in a theatre of violence, with an intensity that is unprecedented since Nigeria’s return to civil rule in 1999.
“Among other factors, this phenomenon has been compounded by the unchecked proliferation of arms, the porous state of the country’s borders, the seeming lack of political will to bring perpetrators to justice, and the incessant agitations for resource control. From the available literature, this phenomenon has become more manifest in Central Nigeria due to the desertification of the North East, leading to migrations to the area.
“The complexity of the situation is worsened by the ethnic composition of Nigeria, ethnic-politics for resource control and ethno-religious determinism, the ripple effect of which is the general insecurity of lives and property with its attendant effect on the education and economy of the people, and the gross violation of the rights of women and children, most of whom are either sexually abused or killed. In many ways, Central Nigeria is significant in the annals of Nigerian historiography.
“Apart from being the convergent point of Rivers Niger and Benue, and the passageway from southern to northern Nigeria by road, Central Nigeria is critical to food production in the country. Given the region’s importance and the seemingly unending nature of the crises, the conference hopes to interrogate these boggling issues from multidisciplinary perspectives and their implications in the Nigerian State. The conference will provide a platform for scholars to interrogate the trajectories of these developments and their implications in the Nigerian State.
“Therefore, dear conference participants, you are welcome to the Confluence City, and particularly, Federal University Lokoja. It is my hope that the interactions and outcome of this conference will provide steps to the Nigerian government in resolving one of the most disturbing challenge that have confronted the nation.
“And finally, our University is a growing University desiring partnership on the global stage. Therefore, we want to leverage on the generosity and philanthropic kindness of Professor Toyin Falola to see the potential of our students and budding young scholars and consider Federal University Lokoja as an affiliation to the University of Texas at Austin. It is the hope of the University Community that your presence will benefit our students and academics through post-doctoral opportunities, among other exchange linkages.”