• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Otti woos CSS global farms to Abia

No celebration of one year in office but project inauguration – Otti

…As state sponsors first set of 300 farmers for training in Nasarawa

Governor Alex Otti of Abia State has appealed to the management of CSS Global Integrated Farms, Nassarawa State, to consider establishing a farm in Abia State with a promise to provide them with land and Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), delivered within 30 days.

He observed that mechanised agriculture is one of the solutions to the current food crisis faced by Nigeria.

The Governor made the call, Thursday during a capacity building training for the first batch of 300 candidates selected for agricultural training at CSS Global Integrated Farms, Nassarawa State.

He stressed the role of agriculture in not only addressing food security, but also in curbing unemployment and fostering socio-economic stability.

While underscoring the need to embrace agriculture for food sufficiency, Otti said that a whoping N7.8 trillion was spent by the Federal Government on food imports over the past six years.

He pointed out that Nigeria is blessed with abundant arable land and as such should not be burdened with huge import bills, stressing the need for a paradigm shift and for stakeholders to take the issue seriously.

“It is a shame that a country of over 200 million people with so much arable land, reputed as largest producers and cultivators of food items spend so much money importing food.

“Statistics show that in the last six years, this country has spent about 7.8 trillion Naira to import food.

“In 2021, we spent about 1.9 trillion Naira. In 2022 and 2023, we spent about about two trillion Naira, each year, importing food. So, to put it in contest, our budget for 2024 is somewhere around N28 trillion; N27.5 trillion and then upgraded to about N28 trillion.

“Don’t also forget that this kind of numbers were not seen between 2015 and 2019. The budget numbers were hovering around 7-10 trillion Naira. So, when you spend over 11% of your total budget importing food, it is a big shame, particularly when you are blessed with land.

“If you contextualise it further, when you look at the total import bill, including technology, manufacturing, and every other thing, it (Budget) is somewhere around N20 trillion. It’s over 10% of the total import bill.

“The World Bank says between 11 to 12 percent of Nigeria’s total import bill is on food. If you understand these numbers, then, you’ll know that what we are doing here (capacity training) is not a joke and you’ll take it serious,” Otti stated.

The Governor, while noting that the two weeks agricultural training is aimed at enhancing local food production, urged trainees of the programme to be good ambassadors of the State as well as leverage the opportunity and equip themselves with the knowledge and skills to spearhead agricultural transformation in the State.

He reassured participants of the programme of comprehensive support, saying that the Government would cover all expenses from inception to completion of the agricultural training.

Otti, who thanked John-Kennedy Opara, a professor and founder of CSS Global Integrated Farms, for his support to the present administration, expressed commitment to ensuring the success of the agricultural training programme.

Opara, in a presentation titled; “Agricultural Development and Food Security – The Path to Human and Capital Resources Development”, said that God had destined Otti to lay a solid foundation in Abia, upon which his successors will build.

He said that Abia of today is no longer number one only in alphabetical order, but in action because of the presence of a visionary leader in the person of Governor Otti.

Opara, called on leaders to give agriculture priority attention in the midst of biting economic hardship, noting that Abia can overtake the likes of Israel in food production and export and can feed the whole of West Africa.

He said that by the training of the first batch of 300 Abians in various agricultural value chains that Otti is empowering the youths to be creators of wealth and employers of labour, thereby ending joblessness, hunger, criminality and poverty among the youths.

Monica Ironkwe, State’s commissioner for Agriculture, explained that the 300 beneficiaries were carefully selected from different political wards in the State, to be trained in various agriculture value chains, adding that with the gesture and other proactive steps taken by the State Government that Abia would in the near future, feed the whole Nigeria.