Agricultural sector experts have strongly recommended that President Bola Tinubu appoint a qualified professional as the minister of agriculture instead of a politician.
During separate interviews with The PUNCH, they highlighted crucial matters that require attention from the incoming Nigerian government in the agricultural sector while stressing on its capability to generate greater income for the nation.
“First and foremost, under no circumstance must a politician be made a minister of agriculture. Secondly, the new government must realise that agriculture is a business,” the Coordinator of Nigeria Agri-Business Group, Emmanuel Ijewere, told our correspondent.
Ijewere described every farmer as a capitalist, stressing that farmers were not government employees.
“Don’t feel for them. They are hardworking people, but just give them an enabling environment,” he stated.
The NABG coordinator added, “Thirdly, all agriculture in Nigeria happens in the local government areas. Not many agricultural activities happen in the central area of Abuja or in Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos.
“Agriculture is a local practice, therefore, local governments must be encouraged to do what they are supposed to do it to become developmental organisations.”
He said the government should desist from giving subsidies to farmers, as some people defraud both farmers and the government through such schemes.
According to Ijewere, the new government should focus on creating enabling environments for farmers and other agro-producers in the industry.
“The fourth thing I will say is that the government should stop using the word subsidy. Farmers are cheated by using the word subsidy. Monies are stolen from the treasury and they pick people who know nothing about agriculture and share the money.
“Rather, the government should create an enabling environment. For example, how many farmers in a particular village are producing yam? How can they be helped to produce more?
“The IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture), which is a research institution, said that within 24 months it can quadruple the amount of yam we produce in Nigeria because of the way seedlings are now produced.But this cannot get to the farmers in the villages as required.
“So, the IITA, which is a big organisation, needs to work with the government to create an enabling environment by training people in local government areas to achieve things like this,” Ijewere stated.
On his part, the President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kabir Ibrahim, said the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should be reformed, while the current agricultural policy should be properly implemented.
“We think the FMARD should be reformed by putting people who know what to do to drive the processes. The new agricultural policy that should last till 2027 should be implemented judiciously and transparently.
“The National Food Reserves Agency should be resuscitated as the former President instructed. But because of the incompetence of the out-gone leadership in the ministry, it was not resuscitated. Also, currently, we do not have a food strategy plan and if there is a famine, where do we get buffer stock?” he stated.
Ibrahim said farmers should be carried along in all decisions that affect them.
“The President said that he was going to create hubs in all the zones of the federation. He also said he was going to build storage, which means that he does not know that we have dry storage.
“So, I hope he is referring to cold storage to avert or minimise post-harvest losses. He should supervise it and follow it up to ensure that it is done. He is also making policies that will make food more affordable to the general population of the people,” he asserted.
The AFAN president also called for the creation of an enabling environment for farmers in order to enable them to optimise their productivity.
“The policies of the former administration have not been that bad, but implementation was the problem. So, what is expected is that the current President should appoint the right people to manage the activities of the various MDAs that have cross-cutting issues with agriculture.
“This will ensure that people are not working in silos. Also, the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) intervention should be such that it is appraised to reach the actual farmers, not as it is today,” Ibrahim stated.