For Nigeria to attain food security, maximise its agricultural value chain opportunities and create jobs for its teeming youth population, it must first address lingering problems limiting productivity and eliminate corruption in its intervention programmes, farmers say.
The farmers, who reacted to the recent declaration of President Bola Tinubu’s blueprint for attaining food security and the declaration of state of emergency, urged the federal government to exclude the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from the control of any intervention fund for the sector.
Tinubu plans to deploy savings from the fuel subsidy removal into the agricultural sector to revamp the sector and also grow its contribution to 70 percent in the long term.
But farmers in Africa’s biggest economy noted that for this to happen, intervention programmes must be transparent, properly implemented and institutionalised in the Bank of Agriculture to ensure real farmers are beneficiaries to drive impact.
“The control of CBN in interventions must be removed if truly this administration wants to record success. It must also eliminate corruption in its programmes,” Jude Obi, president of the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria, said in a response to questions.
“The administration must address lingering problems limiting productivity. Without this, it will just be like the other plans we have had in the past,” Obi said.
The apex bank has been heavily criticised for poorly managing the Anchor Borrowers Programme – the principal initiative of the last administration to attain food security.
The failure of millions of farmers to repay loans extended to them by apex underscores the weakness in the intervention initiative with the country’s yield per hectare still low when compared to its African peers.
“I sincerely hope that the President’s plan will bring about the attainment of food security,” said Ibrahim Kabiru, national president of All Farmers Association of Nigeria.
Kabiru urged the government to reappraise the CBN intervention programmes for the sector to ensure transparency and proper implementation.
Intervention programmes should be institutionalised and managed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with various farmers’ associations, not with the apex bank, he said.
Addressing lingering issues
Successive governments have pushed forth several agricultural intervention programmes and policies in the quest for food sufficiency, but many have yielded little or no result, making them fall short of expectations.
Most policies and programmes have constantly focused more on supporting farmers with finance – which has been marred by a high rate of corruption rather than addressing lingering issues such as insecurity and infrastructural gaps among others that have continued to limit productivity for decades.
Nigeria’s food system today faces enormous challenges that make it difficult to provide affordable and nutritious food to the majority of the population.
“Nigeria has been given subsidies on fertiliser all through its life span yet it has amounted to nothing. This is principally because the government has failed to address issues of insecurity, low mechanization, and poor storage facilities among others,” Obi, who is also a lecturer at the Department of Soil Science at the University of Uyo, said.
However, Tochukwu Okafor, a senior lecturer at Baze University Abuja, said the country cannot tackle its food security problem without addressing its debt problem.
“The food security problem is supposed to be tackled towards addressing inflation and you can tackle inflation by first dealing with your debt problem. If you don’t, the interest will keep accruing,” he said.
He advised the government to channel the fuel subsidy funds towards paying off the country’s debt, tackling inflation, and ensuring a sustainable solution to the foreign exchange crisis to ease the importation of agricultural products for farmers.