President Muhammadu Buhari appears deadly serious about his intention to stop the allocation of precious foreign exchange to food importation by promoting local production. But there are contradictions that must be sorted out.
Buhari’s newest initiative which could help stave off the hunger crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic (which necessitated massive lockdowns) and the crash in the price of crude oil is the resuscitation of the National Agricultural Land Development Authority, NALDA.
The authority was created by the former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida in 1992, had gone defunct due to our usual policy inconsistency.
Director-General of the revived NALDA, Paul Ikonne, recently unfolded the government’s plan to empower the 77,400-member Buhari Young Farmers Network in the 774 local governments within the next six months under a business model and in collaboration with the state governments.
There is nothing new about this program. Virtually every regime has created its own agricultural policy which was often abandoned even while the regime was still on the seat. The agricultural sector was recharged during the Goodluck Jonathan era. It was the success of that program that recommended the Minister of Agriculture in that regime, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, for election as President of the African Development Bank, AfDB.
The government not only abandoned the program but failed to initiate its own. It was the Central Bank of Nigeria under the leadership of Godwin Emefiele that reignited the agricultural sector through the Anchor Borrowers scheme in 2015 before the President gradually keyed in. Agriculture has now become an area of notable achievement by the Buhari regime.
The biggest headache besetting our agricultural sector presently is the unchecked menace of armed herdsmen in most parts of the country. These land-grabbing herdsmen have trespassed into people’s lands, set up camps in the forests, and are killing, raping, kidnapping people, and destroying farmlands.
The only way of showing genuine commitment to the success of NALDA and other initiatives in the agricultural sector is to flush out these bloodthirsty elements and make farming safe again in Nigeria. Who will like to farm his or her land knowing that the herders would bring in their livestock overnight to destroy crops? Who will want to go to the farm knowing that they can be killed, maimed, kidnapped, or raped?
The Federal Government must evolve a ranching policy that does not involve confiscating people’s land for the benefit of an ethnic group which will promote endless violence and no farming. We will waste money and yet go hungry.
The collaboration with the governors is a welcome development. It is only the governors, not the Federal Government, that can manage the land allocation to farmers in a manner that will be acceptable to the people.