What many people fail to grasp is that the business of the Nigerian farmer should be of concern to the entire nation. Yes, you heard me correctly, I said farmers! The folks who are [largely poor, largely rural and in every sense very patriotic Nigerians] working on our countryʼs land resource and taking on the Responsibility for churning out the agricultural value on which our country is so heavily dependent.
If I can extend that
thought-line I would say that what happens in the nationʼs agricultural sector, as a whole, should be of utmost concern to the entire Nigerian populace. The simple reason for this is that the sector, and the players therein, matter way more than weʼd like to admit and the treatment meted out to them, comes back to haunt us.
It needs to be emphasized that Nigeriaʼs current food deficit status, poor local manufacturing feedstock supply reality and ultimately high level of
unemployment and poverty is a direct fall-out of our penchant for ignoring the agricultural sector and its key actors – the farmers. Again I say that they are responsible for the food we eat and a large part of what our industries use to provide us value-added products. Hear it again too and maybe get it right this time, that the state of our economy is a direct reflection of the treatment served to the agricultural stakeholders.
Without going to matters that not too many people
can relate with, let me simply point to the agricultural budget of the Federal Government. The 2019 Appropriation Bill has recommended a total sum of N138bn (One Hundred and Thirty-Eight Billion Naira) to the sector. Of this figure, N80.2bn is for capital projects while N57.6bn is proposed for recurrent expenditure. As a percentage of the total budget, the above figure represents about 1.56% – it stands at 2.2% in the current budget of 2018. It is my considered view that this is an unserious figure to appropriate for
the Nigerian agricultural sector. Before you go up in arms against this position, hear me tell you that I am only re-echoing the view of the Federal Government itself [in this regard].
Come back memory lane with me. It is July 2003. Gathered in a hall and constituting the 2nd Ordinary Assembly of the African Union, Heads of State of African countries [Nigeria inclusive] exchanged views on the need to grow the continentʼs agricultural sector. They came to one
major conclusion: there was an urgent need to prioritize budgetary allocation to the sector. It was agreed that an amount standing at 10% of the overall yearly budget, be the minimum that any African country would thereafter devote to the agricultural sector, under what they termed the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP). This took place in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, hence the coinage; “Maputo Accord”. Nigeria voluntarily signed up to
this pact, recognizing the importance of agriculture to its overall economic well-being.
So why, if I may ask, is the Nigerian Government starving the agricultural sector? The outcome of a recent oversight tour undertaken by the Agriculture Committee of the Nigerian Senate reveals that agricultural sector MDAs have received just about 10% of the amounts appropriated for them under the outgoing fiscal year. So, for instance, the Agricultural Research
Council of Nigeria [same applies to all the Research Institutes under its supervisory purview] was basically reduced to a salary paying entity, despite the profound role it plays in advancing the quantum and quality of the countryʼs agricultural productivity. I enjoin you to allow your mind run wild as to the implications of this on the larger economic state of affairs and it will immediately become clear that we have an undeclared state of emergency.
Letʼs face it, Nigeria is in
very dire straits. We are persistently confronted with bleak estimates signaling that about 86 million of our countrymen groan under the firm grasp of poverty. [Statistics show too that farmers account for the most impoverished subset of Nigeriaʼs demography] and while this does very little to attract the younger population to agriculture, the more immediate reality is that food security in Nigeria has been compromised. Is it therefore surprising that the sector which grew by
3.0% in the first quarter of 2018, dropped to 1.19% in the second quarter and only managed to return 1.91% growth in the third quarter?
What Nigeria needs is double digit agricultural growth to guarantee food security and economic vibrancy. By December 2018, the nationʼs annual inflation figure had risen to 11.44% from a hitherto castigated 11.28% in November of the same year. Interestingly, these price advancements center around the core output from agriculture –
food! So, while many might choose to play the ostrich, let me be true to my role as an advocate for Nigeriaʼs agriculture and say that we are getting paid back for starving our most important value creating economic vehicle.
A research carried out by Bassey Ebi and Amaraihu Christoper is apt as a pointer to the self destruct mode that Nigeria has engaged by inhibiting the agricultural funding supply lines. In their July, 2018 paper titled: “Agricultural
Expenditure, Maputo Declaration Target and Agricultural Output: A Case Study of Nigeria”, the pair deployed proven statistical methods to conclude that there is correlation between agricultural budgetary expenditure and agricultural output. More interestingly, they found that “increasing agricultural expenditure to 10% of the total budget in line with Maputo Declaration would have increased agricultural output by 11-times greater than the impact of what is actually spent on
This second part is super important and our policy framers and executors need to pay attention. In basic terms, it means that if you comply with Nigeriaʼs Maputo commitments, the money that this will cost you will reproduce itself eleven times.
So, in all honesty, it is in Nigeriaʼs best interest to change her compliance status vis a vis the Maputo Accord and every citizen owes him or herself a duty to demand this from the Government. Working together, letʼs put
an end to the starvation of our agricultural sector.