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Senate panel meets Ogbe, Lokpobiri over failing agric sector

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Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbeh


• IGP seeks restraining order against chamber

A Senate panel yesterday met the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, and his deputy, Heineken Lokpobiri, over what it called growing unresolved problems in the sector.The meeting, which was convened by the Abdullahi Adamu-led committee on agriculture, raised concerns that the 2017 budget has not made meaningful impact on agriculture.

According to the Senate, the policies in the sector which require serious fine-tuning to put it on track have not been given due attention.The committee held that at a review of the 2017 budget, it was observed that many small and medium entrepreneurs whose services could have been useful in promoting agriculture were shut out by inappropriate policies.

The committee said it was worrisome that the 2017 budget for agriculture has not reached 20 per cent implementation.It condemned a situation where government could not subsidise the prices of agricultural products, thereby leaving the sector at the mercy of harsh market situation.

But, Ogbeh explained that the major problem facing the sector was the dearth of credit facilities for the farmers. He told the committee that interest rates had become too high in the country that no farmer could afford to raise funds from banks.

“How would a farmer cope with 25 to 30 per cent interest rates? The system is disappointing to the society because it does not make life easy” he said. “We risk having expatriates alone in agriculture business because nobody could raise the kind of money needed to run a successful business in the sector,” he said.

He appealed to the Senate to amend the relevant laws to allow for the setting up of N500 billion Agriculture Funds to facilitate the revival of agriculture.Ogbeh also asked the Senate to make adjustments in the law to allow the agriculture ministry to facilitate the exportation of yams and their derivatives, as well as the carcasses of goats to fetch foreign exchange for the country.

“We have been talking about minimum price for farmers, but this is only attainable if we could guarantee maximum output. We need to introduce a new measure system like kilos instead of bags and mudus,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain the Senate from probing him.According to the inspector general, one Senator Isa Misau, while raising a matter of urgent national importance between September and October 2017 accused him of mounting road blocks across the country to extort money from unsuspecting motorists. He said Misau also accused him of collecting billions of naira as illegal fees through security protections given to corporate organisations, eminent citizens and oil companies.

The IGP also wants the court to restrain Senate President Bukola Saraki from receiving and discussing any report submitted to it by the said committee. No date has been fixed for hearing in the matter.


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Heineken Lokpobiri

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