Ogbeh commends ATA innovation, bemoans corruptions

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THE Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has‎ commended his immediate predecessor, Prof, Akinwunmi Adesina, for the Agricultural Transformation Agenda innovations he introduced into the nation’s agricultural system, during his remarks at the inauguration of the 2015/16 Anchor Borrowers’ Dry Season Rice Planting Programme sponsored by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State.
The Minister who promised to deepen these innovations however, bemoaned that in spite of the good intentions of the former minister, “corruption still crept into agriculture under him. He cited examples of people who supplied sharp sands as fertilizer while fake seeds were sold to farmers, adding that there were companies dealing with the ministry with no traceable addresses.
Ogbeh vexed with these sharp practices, said many struggling farmers lost their investments and therefore, warned that the present administration would not give room for situations like that. He added that under this administration such will never happen again as security agencies will now be used to check fraudsters.
Furthermore, the minister who said that the ministry will no longer allow the elite to play pranks on farmers‎, reiterated that Buhari was very concerned about the incessant conflicts between farmers and grazers, saying that a new approach to grazing would be introduced.
Earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech during the ceremony, said that Nigeria cannot continue to spend huge sums on the importation of foods that farmers in the country can produce and observed that the importance of agriculture in the economy of the country could not be overemphasised as it provided the foundation on which the country’s economy was built prior to the discovery of oil.
The President said prior to the advent of oil, our country‎ survived on agricultural production with huge economic potentials from our palm oil, groundnuts, cotton, and rubber plantations, adding that during this period, the economies of our sub-region were built ‎on agricultural activities and our gross domestic product grew steadily.
Buhari explained that the discovery of oil was expected to complement our agricultural productivity, but we allowed oil to almost completely‎ replace it. He further said that the current trend in the international oil market has brought to the fore the urgent need to diversify both the productive and revenue bases of our economy and conserve our foreign reserve by limiting our appetite for importation of goods that we can easily produce locally.
The president who stressed the need for the urgent diversification of the nation’s economy in view of the dwindling revenue from oil occasioned by the fall in oil prices in the international market, buttressed that the means available to government at all levels are limited resources and hence economic diversification is no longer an option for the nation but the only way to reclaim economic momentum and the drive to prosperity
PMB, thus reiterated that one way to do this is to go back to land and develop our agricultural production, adding that the CBN’s anchor borrowers’ programme could create millions of jobs for the youth across the country, as he expressed optimism that the scheme would uplift the quality of life of peasants and small holder farmers in the country.
‎The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, during his speech, said that the apex bank was concerned about the high foreign exchange spent on the importation of food items that could be produced in Nigeria and that it was the concern that informed the decision of the bank to set aside N40 billion from the N220 billion Micro,Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund for farmers at a single-digit interest rate of 9.0 per cent.
Emefiele, however, revealed that agricultural commodities and food import bill had averaged more than N1trillion in the past two years.

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