As the President Mohammed Buhari-led government settles down to revamp the nation’s agricultural sector, the four special committees inaugurated for this purpose have called for a total overhaul of the sector, Ruth Tene Natsa, writes.
The four special committees inaugurated by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sonny Echono, on July 13, 2015, over the revitalisation of the agriculture sector have submitted their reports which called for the total overhaul of the sector.
The committees are the storage and agro processing facilities; resuscitation of cotton, textiles and garments; development of grazing reserves and stock routes nationwide; and revitalisation of agricultural extension services in Nigeria.
Submitting their reports to Echono, the committee on the resuscitation of cotton, textiles and garments, headed by Dr Damilola Enaiju, recommended that N37.20 billion should be injected into the industry between 2016 and 2019. It also suggested the exploitation of the existing N100 billion CTG Fund, domiciled with the Bank of Industry, which has now been converted to equity. The committee stated that the fund will resuscitate the working capital/retooling of about 80 closed mills as well as 23 closed ginneries. The proposed N37.20 billion, the committed said, should be used to support all sections of the cotton, textile and garments sector. It also recommended financial support for the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) to enable it deploy biotechnology (BT) cotton in confined fields at trial level while the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) introduces BT protein in existing varieties as well as produce of double haploid cotton.
On cotton seed multiplication and seed supply, the committee recommended a virile and systematic breeder foundation and certified seed regeneration system while mandating the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) to always certify and regulate the cotton seed industry. Part of the recommendation of the committee on ginnery development was for operational ginneries to work with the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and Bank of Agriculture (BOA), through the growth enhancement support scheme (GES), to increase the quantity and quality of seed cotton and lint.
The committee stipulated policy support in terms of federal, state, local governments and private sector patronage of made-in-Nigeria fabrics.
The committee on grazing reserves and stock routes nationwide, chaired by Professor B.Y. Abubakar, as part of its recommendations called for the establishment of a National Livestock Development Authority that would have the mandate for the implementation of a national livestock breeding policy while also pushing for the development of grazing reserves and stock routes. It also advised the government to have a national programme on grazing reserves and stock routes development; to strengthen existing conflict resolution and prevention mechanisms; and embrace the diversification of the agricultural sector with more attention and emphasis on the livestock sub-sector.
The committee on the revitalisation of agricultural extension services lead by Mr Oloche Edache, on the other hand, urged the federal government to set up the necessary mechanism for the formulation of a national policy on agricultural extension and advisory services that would as a matter of urgency focus on sustainable, knowledge-based, market-oriented and ICT-driven value chain extension system. The committee also urged the government to consistently fund agricultural extension advisory services across the country and strengthen the Federal Department of Agricultural Extension.