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Sustaining Nigeria’s economic growth hangs on improving agricultural revenue, says expert

Prince Joe Okojie, a former aide to Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo, has said that Nigeria’s sustained economic growth hangs on improving the revenue generated from its agricultural sector.

Okojie, the immediate past special adviser on Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security in Edo, urged government at all levels to prioritize improving agric productivity, thus increasing revenue from the sector.

He said that the COVID-19 pandemic had presented opportunities for the country to restore the glory of agriculture as an economic mainstay in the country, especially in Edo.

He said that Edo had prioritised revenue diversification and agriculture was playing a major role, with the governor roll out of several programmes.

The former governor’s aide lauded the proactive steps of Gov. Obaseki toward rejuvenating and improving the agriculture sector of the state.

“Over the years, we abandoned our land just because we have crude and everybody gravitated towards playing in the oil and gas sector and forgot our mainstay in the past before the discovery of crude oil.

“However, COVID-19 has taught us a good lesson that we have to look for alternative sources of income.

“During the first wave in 2020, almost all planes were grounded and most economies of the world were shut down; there was no need for crude, and that impeded on our income.

“So, if there is any lesson to be learnt, it is that we have to go back to our mainstay which is agriculture, making sure we are able to produce more to feed ourselves even if we are not thinking of export yet,” he added.

He also said that the fallout from the lockdown initiative to contain the virus and the EndSars protest shows that there is no better time to drive growth in the sector than now.

Okojie said that from the inception of Obaseki’s administration, he had put forward agriculture as one of the main areas of focus and he didn’t stop there but took steps to actualise it.

“He reclaimed all agriculture lands owned by the government like in Sube, Irrua among other places and brought all of them into a land bank and aggregated farmers to be working there,” he said.

Okojie said that if the state continued to scale up production at the current level, in no distant time, Edo would be self-sufficient in food production.

He also spoke on how the state had successfully engaged the youth in the programmes of the governor to boost product and improve livelihoods of people of Edo.

“Our primary focus is to draft the youth and women and we are doing a lot in the regard, and we have a programme with IFAD primarily targeted at youth and women.

“We also have Independent Farmers Initiative (IFI) programme that targets youth and women.

“The governor also has a programme for Libyan returnees where they are empowered in the aquaculture sector and some of them are in their second phase of production across the state,” he added.

He says Edo has partnered NIRSAL to provide technical support to farmers and also partnered with private firms to provide tractors and improved seeds to boost yield per hectare.

He notes that CBN is committed to funding up to 75 percent of investments required in the first phase of N91.8billion.

“The government is not trying to do business, but creating an enabling environment for investors to strive,” Okojie explains.

He also hinted that the first phase where 51,000 hectares of lands would be cultivated had commenced, while 45,000 hectares had been allocated and the farmers had received their Certificates of Ownership.

Okojie said that by end of February, those investors would start production.

He also said that before COVID-19, the governor had taken steps to open up access roads to ensure easy access from farms to markets.

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