Nigerian traders fault two per cent budget for agric
The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) has said it high time government matched its words with actions by allocating greater funds to the sectors, like agriculture, where it has always promoted as pillar for growth.
According to the group, if truly government means to drive the economic diversification agenda, it should start by ending the perennial under-funding of the sector, which has remained the same over the years.
The Secretariat President of NANTS, Ken Ukoha, told The Guardian that while it is commendable for the seemingly early budget presentation and ambitious projections in the sector, these do not tally with the two per cent of total budget package for the sector.
In the proposal, there are plans for the development of 33,000 hectares of irrigation land and to develop more in Enugu, Anambra and Jigawa, which is highly commendable in efforts to improve the productivity of our farmers and reduce the farmer’s dependence on rains for agricultural production.
But the group faulted the allocation in the 2018 proposed budget at N172.8 billion, although a 22 per cent increase from the 2017 budget, which was about N135.5 billion. Citing the Maputo/Malabo benchmark of 10 per cent, he said that the group is now determined to sustain its campaign against such negligence by government and called on governments at all levels to intensify efforts at ensuring that investment to the agricultural sector improves in terms of quantity and quality, and particularly in favour of small scale farmers.
Ukoha also appealed that while the government considers increasing the budget amount, the impact of the activities in the sector on small-scale farmers, who are the major players should be paramount.A further analysis of the sector’s proposal showed that the ratio of capital-to- recurrent expenditures is 69:31, which appears commendable given that more funds are allocated for development projects.
However, it is observed that overhead cost increased from around N30 billion in 2017 to over N50 billion in 2018, a development that belies the favourable capital votes.Similarly, the budget for personnel cost particularly for the ministry’s headquarters increased by over N1 billion in the proposed budget, hence the need to reduce long bureaucracies and overhead costs now that no major recruitments has been done, and our funds are basically borrowed.
“We strongly counsels that the implementation of agricultural programmes should take a bottom-up approach rather than a top-bottom approach, which is the case at the moment.“For instance, in the current proposed budget, over 57 per cent of the fund to the sector is allocated to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), leaving the other 45 implementing Departments and Agencies, including the three Federal Universities of Agriculture to share the remaining 43 per cent.
“As stakeholders in agriculture and a friend of the ministry, we believe that the bulk of the agricultural activities happen at the Local Government Areas, not in offices in Abuja, and therefore, say that this sharing formula should be reviewed in favour of the implementing Agencies (Parastatals).
“We also recommend that a local agricultural development plan should be implemented. This is premised on the fact that the fundamental role of the main Ministry is to supervise and regulate the activities of the implementing Agencies.
“We further advise that the various research institutions under the ministry should be allocated more funds to carry out their activities. Besides, there should be proper engagement and collaboration of these research institutions with stakeholders so that research outcomes can trickle down to end users and not remain in the shelves,” he said.
He therefore, request the National Assembly to give an unalloyed priority to the budget deliberations and get it expedited passage within the year so that Nigeria can return to the regular financial year and begin early budget implementation
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