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In agric, not much from outgoing governors of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo

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Ogun State Government’s hybrid tomato site, at Kotopo, Abeokuta, now moribund.

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The abundant agricultural potentials available in the South West region, according to stakeholders, is enough to transform the fortune of the region and its people, if proper attention is paid by states.

According to findings, majority of state policies on agriculture hinge on enhanced food production, expanded employment opportunities and sustained growth in strategic crop production and animal husbandry, but they failed to tap the opportunities, despite the huge resources they claim to have invested in the sector.

That they have not maximally utilized the potentials in the sector is to say the least, as they have failed to maximize the prospects.

For instance, states like Lagos, Ogun and Oyo State, whose governors will be exiting office later this month, though they have workable blueprints on the development of the sector, but it is more on paper, as the policies have failed to translate to abundant food production.

With estimated 7.2 million people, Ogun State is not only endowed with landmass, it is also an agrarian state, which should have taken advantage of its proximity to Lagos market to develop the sector.

Outgoing Governor Ibikunle Amosun-led administration came up with five-Cardinal Programme that made up the “Mission to Rebuild” Ogun State (MITROS).

At the onset of the administration the Governor said he sees agriculture as the fulcrum for achieving the much desired wealth creation, employment generation and attainment of self-sufficiency in production of the food for which the state has an economic advantage.

“In doing this, we embarked upon an Agro-Politan development strategy. This strategy provides multiple opportunities in agriculture and agri-business. It emphasises the localisation of the entire value-chain that agriculture offers, namely: Plant-Process-Store–Package–Market-Sell. This will ensure that millions of our citizens will be engaged in the agricultural value chain and will be able to prosper wherever they are. The MITROS rice project is one of the positive outcomes of this strategy. “

For now, The Guardian findings are that a lot was not achieved in the last eight years.

Aside the much-hyped MITROS rice launched in 2017, not much was heard of other crops. At a time, the state experimented hybrid tomato, through the use of greenhouse technology, in Kotope area of Osiele, but due to inconsistency, the technology has been idle since the first and only harvest.

In Oyo State, the outgoing administration, though promised to revolutionise the sector, through integrated farming, not much was harvested in yields and revenue.

Despite that climatic conditions favour the cultivation of crops like maize, yam, cassava, millet, rice, plantains, cocoa, palm produce, and cashew, with several government farm settlements in Ipapo, Ilora, Eruwa, Ogbomosho, Iresaadu, Ijaiye, Akufo and Lalupon, little is on ground as achievement.

In 2017, Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Olalekan Alli, said government had given out 320 tractors to all the 33 Local Governments to improve agriculture in their localities, with a promise to ensure that 10,000 farmers benefit from the Oyo/Dangote N9b partnership in rice production.

He added that it had commenced Pacesetter Farms in Awe, a replica of the Songhai Farm, where 210 hectares of land had been allotted to initial 1,000 youth farmers to boost the state economy.

With the presence of a good number of international and federal agriculture establishments located in the state, like the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), with vast cattle ranches at Saki, Fasola and Ibadan, and dairy farm at Monatan in Ibadan, a lot was expected from Oyo, with collaboration from the organisations, but that did not happen.

FOR Lagos State, though it has the smallest landmass in the country, put at 356,861 hectares, with about 75,755 hectares of which are wetlands, the state made a mark.

The outgoing administration conceived the Strategic Plan for Accelerated Agricultural Growth (SPAAG), setting aside 50,000 acres of land for farming, basically for production of tomato, rice, fish, and other crops.

Through its collaborative effort with the Kebbi State Government, it produced the LAKE (Lagos-Kebbi) rice, designed to crash the price of rice that hovers around N15, 000 to N17, 500 per 50kg then, by subsidising it at a market price of N12, 000.

Though the administration started well, in 2016, but 2018 and the last four months did not favopur Lake rice, which was conspicuously missing in markets, as it was not only unavailable for the Christmas and New Year period, it was also unavailable for the last Easter.

The common question of why Lake rice failed to maximize its opportunities is begging for answers.

A farmer who operates in Saki, Oyo State, Dokun Ayinla is saddened by the wasted opportunities of the governors, especially in Oyo. He said government got it wrong from the onset, in its policies and choice of appointees into the ministry.

“Putting round pegs in round holes should be standard, but when because of politics a square peg is put in a round hole, there will be disaster and there wont be any result, that is actually what is happening and incoming governors should take a cue from this.”

According to an agriculturalist, media analyst and a commercial farmer and food processor, Prince Wale Oyekoya, their failure is due to what he termed policy somersault and lack of political will.

He said: “They meant well by their policies, but they don’t have the political will to do the right thing by supporting the policies with adequate funding and putting the right person to oversee the affairs of such an important ministry like agriculture.

Oyekoya, fittingly fits the post in Ogun State, aside being a bonafide indigene and a technocrat, his vast experience in the sector qualifies him to turn around the fortune of the near moribund agric sector, if given the opportunity by the governor-elect, Dapo Abiodun.

An experienced and practicing farmer, he is also a Consultant. He attended the Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University, Huntsville AL USA, graduating with Bachelor of Science in Accounting/Agriculture.

Oyekoya was the Chairman, Agriculture and Non-oil Group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also serving Consultant to farms and state governments.

He said: “The sector could have created more wealth for the citizens, increasing the internally generated revenue (IGR) and employment, but the selfish interests deny the sector its successes. These states failed to provide enough funding, thereby making nonsense of the sector. The so-called MITROS rice revolution in Ogun State is a failure, where the government collected N4b from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to develop rice production, but citizens were deceived with the staging of phony bags of rice, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is investigating.”

Oyekoya, who also described rice production in Lagos State as a failure, said the state floated a foreign company to process rice in Imota, with billions of naira invested to procure the rice milling equipment, when there is no raw material to feed the gigantic mill, leading to the scarcity of Lake rice in local markets.

“There have been many agric elephant projects in these states and at the end of the day billions were wasted with nothing to show for it. What the incoming governments in the three states need to do is to revamp all the abandon projects by privatising them and give them tax break. Support the projects with good enabling environment.

“The incoming governors of these states have to increase the funding of the sector from two per cent to eight per cent if they cannot even meet the expectations of 10 per cent by the Maputo agreement to increase funding of the sector.

“They need to face the reality that there is poverty in the land and there is food crisis, a hungry man is an angry man and that’s why there are security threats all over the land.

He advised the incoming governments to choose technocrats; “those who know about farming, agro processing, export to be agric commissioners or Special advisers on Food security. Someone that has passion for the sector and not just a political appointee that does not know anything about agriculture or what the farmers are going through.”


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