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Unresolved issues of national livestock plan, rice production and food security


Many are the unresolved agro-economic policies that are not only germane to food production and sufficiency, herder-farmer crises and agricultural financing, but also to food security, malnutrition and sustainable employment opportunities. In January 2018, the herdsmen-farmers crises came to the climax with the recurrent killings in Benue, Taraba, Kaduna and other states. Apart from the loss of lives, the Federal Government estimates that Nigeria loses about $14 billion (N5.04 trillion) annually to the conflicts.

The killing spree thrown up a rather controversial idea from the Federal Government, anchored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, with the Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, saying, “We have to deal with an urgent problem, cattle rearing and the conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, and actually bring it to a halt …. Let us do our own duty by eliminating the conflict by creating cattle colonies.”

The ‘cattle colony’ policy
According to the ministry, the cattle colony policy would resolve the problems between herdsmen and farmers by designating vast tracts of land in each state as herding grounds.Herdsmen will use these designated herding grounds or “cattle colonies” to feed their livestock, and as a result, will not feel the need to disturb the fertile agricultural land that belongs to farming communities.

However, states retain the discretion to decline the Federal Government’s proposal for land allocations for the purpose.The government said then that 16 of Nigeria’s 36 states had already agreed to host cattle colonies, but the opposition to cattle colony policy was vehement, widespread and had different interpretations and insinuations. The Nigerian public’s initial reaction to the announcement was one of disinterest and confusion, as millions of Nigerians seemed not to understand what a “cattle colony” was.

Many communities realised that implementing the policy could lead to disasters and land conflicts more devastating than the problem Nigeria was trying to fix and, hence, rejected it.“What is cattle colony? We have been colonised by the colonial masters, and now we will be colonised by cows,” Yusufu Akirikwen, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Taraba State, had sarcastically reacted to the policy.

The National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP)
Sequel to the approval of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) by the National Economic Council (NEC) in the frantic efforts to address the farmer/herder crises in the country, there have been mixed feelings and insinuations that the plan is a change of nomenclature from the vehemently resisted proposed cattle colonies. Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, on January 17, 2018, disclosed while breaking the news to the state house correspondents at the end of a meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo that the approval was as a result of a memo presented by Chief Ogbeh.

In mid June 2018, the technical adviser to the National Economic Council (NEC), Andrew Kwasari, in Abuja, presented the National Livestock Transformation Plan, built on six key pillars: economic investment, conflict resolution, law and order, humanitarian relief, information education and strategic communication; and cross-cutting issues.The economic investment pillar would support and strengthen the development of ranches in seven pilot states for improved livestock productivity through breed (genetic) improvement and pasture production, in addition to efficient land and water productivity.

The government also said it would rebuild social capital at the community level to promote mutual trust, confidence building and consolidate the peace process, with regard to the conflict resolution pillar.The livestock plan showed that the law and order pillar would support the strengthening of legal frameworks for improving livestock production, peace and harmony.The fourth pillar, humanitarian relief, would focus on rebuilding and reconstructing of common facilities – worship places, markets and individual homes that have been destroyed.

The fifth pillar would aid information, education and strategic communication on the development of grazing reserves in the frontline states, and mitigate the consequences of these conflicts such as wanton loss of lives, destruction of property, including schools and facilities.Ten key states were identified as the frontline states to receive pilot interventions in line with the recommendations of the FMARD and NEC livestock conference. The states include: Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nassarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara.

The plan would include creation of large ranches in each of these states.
“A Ranch Design Plan has also been proposed in models of various sizes clustered in 94 locations in the 10 pilot states. The government intends to transition pastoralism to ranching in order to reduce the struggle for common resources,” Kwasari stated in his presentation of the plan.In terms of size, the proposed ranch size models include “Clusters 30, 60, 150 and 300 cattle ranch models in a location within the donated gazetted grazing reserves; and “a minimum 1,000-cattle breeder ranch in seven of the 10 pilot states.”

Is NLTP synonymous with cattle colony?
While disclosing the approval of the plan, Bagudu had said that “It is about creating conditions to launch the peaceful transformation of the Nigerian livestock ecosystem to add, at least, N2 trillion to the economy.“The approach is to invest in the livestock sector to provide ranches, mitigating the escalating crisis between pastoralists and farmers. The strategy would be supported by the development of an implementation plan, which Mr. President had already approved. That provides a guiding framework to states for implementing NLTP, which will be implemented in phases.”

Ogbeh had hinted, in an exclusive with The Guardian in late December 2018, that “The cassava farmer is a private farmer; he does not grow cassava for the ministry. Cocoa and rice farmers are not growing them for the government, but we help them.

“When the states rejected the proposal [cattle colony], the next question is what do we do? We have 451 grazing reserves in our record as far back as 1960, and about a half of them were on the gazette. They are still there despite encroachments. Of what is left, we have over 4 million hectares of land mainly in the north. There are a few in the Southwest, precisely at Akunu in Ondo State, and in Isheyin in Oyo State. I have been there. The governor of Oyo State is not too keen, but the governor of Ondo State is interested.

“What we must do now is reviving the remnant of the grazing reserves, and governors of about 11 states are willing and ready. We have tried to raise money for the project. We have secured a World Bank approval to get to work, and the Federal Government is putting together about N12 billion to start work.” From the foregoing, it is clear that the new livestock policy is a subtle form of the old and forceful cattle colony proposal, moving on the platform of the existing grazing reserves, which, of course, as admitted by the minister, have been encroached.

Efforts by The Guardian to speak with Ogbeh proved abortive as a text message to his mobile phone was not responded to and phone calls were not answered. Similarly, the Special Assistant to the minister, Dr Olukayode Oyeleye, said details of the livestock plan were not available to him. It is also clear that states are at liberty to accept or reject participation in the livestock plan. However, it is not clear that the policy would cover assistance to other livestock and aquaculture farmers.

The Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) and the Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN) said they were not aware of their incorporation into the livestock plan, for they were never consulted nor informed of such a plan.The National President of CAFFAN, Mr Rotimi Oloye, said he did not believe in any agricultural policy of the government because political leaders are always misled by civil servants, accounting for the failure of most policies.

The PAN said though it was scantily informed of the plan, the details and modi operandi were not known.This was disclosed by the president of the association, Mr Ezekiel Ibrahim Mam, in a telephone talk with The Guardian. He equally said a meeting has been scheduled with the Ministry of Agriculture on January 31, 2019.Similarly, Oyo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Prince Oyewole Oyewumi, , told The Guardian that the state was not involved in ranching plan and was not aware of the livestock plan.

The commissioner said: “Oyo State is not involved in the business of ranching and is not planning to set up a ranch in the state. The state government will continue to support the development of commercial agriculture, including crop farming and livestock development.”He added that interested investors would be encouraged to invest in agricultural practices in accordance with the laid down procedures and laws of the state.

Legal perspectives
A legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola, in an article in 2018, said without controversies, the Land Use Act empowers the governors of the states to acquire private land for public use, but a cattle colony or whatever name it is called is excluded.He said: “What constitutes public purpose is statutorily defined in Section 51 of the Land Use Act as: ‘51(1). In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires “Public Purposes” includes: for exclusive government use for general public use; for use by body corporate directly established by law or by anybody corporate registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act … which the government owns shares, stocks or debentures; for or in connection with sanitary improvement of any kind; for obtaining control over land contiguous to any part or over land the value of which will be enhanced by the construction of any railway, road or other public work or convenience about to be undertaken or provided by the government; for obtaining control over land required for or in connection with development of telecommunications or provision of electricity; for obtaining control over land required for or in connection with mining purposes; to obtaining control over land required for or in connection with planted urban or rural development or settlement; for obtaining control over land required for or in connection with economic, industrial or agricultural development; for educational and social services.”

Citing Wuyah v. Jama’a Local Govt, Kafanchan (2013) All FWLR (Pt. 659) and Stodic Ventures Ltd. v. Alamieyeshia (2016) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1502), the legal icon said the courts of law had held that governments cannot acquire land from a private individual only to make it available for the use of another private individual as this would not amount to public purpose.

“I would however say in passing that the public purpose for which the government can compulsorily acquires lands are clearly defined in the Act and do not include acquisition for the purpose of making a grant to a third party. In Chief Commissioner, Easter Province v. S.N. Ononye & ors. (1944) 17 NLR 142, it was held that the acquisition of land by the then Central Government of Nigeria in Onitsha for the purpose of granting a lease of it to a commercial company was not in public purpose within public Lands Acquisition Ordinance Cap. 88,” he had said.

Babalola had noted that “I do not see how any acquisition of land by any state government for the establishment of the cattle colonies would qualify as a public purpose. “Therefore, as herdsmen are, in reality, businessmen engaged in the business of cattle rearing for their own personal financial gain, I do not see how the provision of land for the grazing of their cattle, even at the payment of a fee, would satisfy the provisions of the law if the land is acquired from other private individuals.

“In stating the above, I am not unmindful of the provisions of Section 51(1)(h) which permits acquisition ‘for obtaining control over land required for or in connection with economic, industrial or agricultural development.’” This, in Chief Babalola’s estimation, contemplates a situation in which the land is acquired for use by the government for agricultural development. “What is, however, clear from the stated intention of the government is a plan to make the land available for the use of the herdsmen and their cattle,” Babalola had stated.

Food production level
Food production level in Nigeria is not at the same pace with the population growth. The FAO had claimed in one of its reports that over three million Nigerians are extremely hungry, and a World Bank report says the country is home to over 85 million extremely poor people, unbecomingly making Nigeria a country with the largest poor.Voicing the position of the Federal Government, Ogbeh has constantly maintained that Nigeria is 90 per cent rice-secure, with a production deficit a little above one million tonnes.

“On rice production level, there were only 5 million farmers who were members of farmers’ associations when we came in, but today, there are nearly 13 million rice farmers. The output of rice this year [2018] is almost 6 million metric tonnes, but our consumption is nearly 7.2 million tonnes,” he had said.

However, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said Nigeria is still the largest rice importer in Africa, importing on average about 2.6 million tonnes per year, affirming the controversial US Agency’s report that importation of rice since 2016 had been massive despite the agro-economic diversification push of the government.

“Despite the above-average 2017 production, import requirements for the 2017/18 marketing year are set at 7.8 million tonnes, with an increase by about 7 percent compared to the previous year and about 6 percent above the average due to higher demand for human and industrial use. However, field reports indicate that the country’s capacity to import cereals (mostly rice and wheat) will be limited due to insufficient foreign exchange availability,” FAO said.

The organization said wholesale prices of coarse grains increased seasonally between May and April 2018, saying in Kaura market, prices of millet increased by 13 percent due to strong demand and prices of maize increased by 9 percent due to sustained demand from the poultry industry.In the northeast, the UN organisation said, prices were more elevated than in the other markets of the country due to the persisting conflicts. In some markets, including Marte, Abadam and Guzamala in Borno State, most trade activities remain interrupted.

Regional Coordinator of Africa Rice Centre, Ibadan, Oyo State, also affirmed the rice production figure of about five million metric tonnes per annum. The centre said the deficit gap was closed through smuggling of the product through the land and river borders. Akin Olonihuwa, a former provost of the Kabba College of Agriculture, Kogi State, however, said the production figure flying around on the drop in importation of rice is false, saying, “The gap between local production and consumption is simply filled by smugglers. Visit any market in Nigeria and you will observe that local rice is not up to 10 per cent of total rice in the market, the remaining over 90% is foreign rice that has entered the country without custom duties being paid. Our rice policy is good if we continue but we are not there yet.”

The declining production level is said to have affected the Lagos and Kebbi states rice production partnership, tagged LAKE Rice, as well. The Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Olayiwole Onasanya, however, insisted that the brand of the rice is available at distributors’ outlets. Giving the breakdown of the rice production and inflow into the state, Mr Onasanya, said 20,221 bags of 5okg; 2,399 bags of 25kg; and 12,000 bags of 10kg of LAKE Rice had been delivered to the state.

From December 2018 to March 2019, the Kebbi State government is expected to deliver a total of 50,000 bags of 50kg rice; 20,000 bags of 25kg; and 42,000 bags of 10kg of the rice, totaling about 3.04 million metric tonnes of rice.Explaining how the rice is distributed, the permanent secretary said during the festive periods, the Lagos governments sells directly to the consumers and to distributors to ensure adequate circulation, at the same prices of N12,000 per 50kg-bag; N6,000 per 25kg-bag and N2,500 per 10kg-bag.

2018 Agric GDP
Despite the agro-economic realities and challenges, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) disclosed in December 2018 that the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 1.81% (year-on-year) in real terms in the third quarter. Compared to the third quarter of 2017, which recorded a growth of 1.17%, the NBS said there was an increase of 0.64% points in the quarter under review. “The second quarter of 2018 had a growth rate of 1.50%, showing a rise of 0.31% points. Quarter-on-quarter, real GDP growth was 9.05%.

“In the quarter under review, aggregate GDP stood at N33,368,049.14 million in nominal terms.“This performance is higher when compared to the third quarter of 2017, which recorded a GDP aggregate of N29,377,674 million thus, presenting a positive year on year nominal growth rate of 13.58%. “This growth rate is higher relative to growth recorded in the third quarter of 2017 by 2.88% points and higher than the preceding quarter by 0.01% points with growth rates of 10.70% and 13.57% respectively,” it said.

Agricultural finance
Agricultural financing for small and medium-scale farmers have been challenging on the grounds that banks and other financial institutions feel insecure with farmers who, in most cases, have no collaterals, and farming requires loans with some special treatment because of the interregna between planting and harvesting.

A southwest regional manager, agriculture financing, at one of the oldest banks in Nigeria, affirmed that Nigerian farmers, especially the rural ones, lack access to reliable and affordable finance, and most of them do not know how to process the loan. They also lack the structure of a formal setting to go through the rigours of the risk assessment criteria of most financial institutions.

“On the average to access any facility, the basic requirements include a comprehensive business plan (in some cases feasibility study) demonstrating the viability of the project and also the capacity of the project to repay principal and interest to the lender. The lender also wants to be collateralised, secure and or comforted,” said the anonymous agric financial specialist.

As part of the solutions, he suggested that education is important in every facet of the farmer’s business.“To simplify is to educate. The promulgation of farmer’s school is essential to enhance the farmer’s understanding of what is required at every stage of their venture. Financial literacy is important to demystify the complex procedures and open doors of opportunities to the farmer.

“Most of the initiatives targeted at de-risking agriculture are not gazetted and they serve more as comfort to the bank rather than security. The banks, despite having the assurance from these agencies, still require full collateral cover for the facilities. The Federal Government should do more to empower these agencies.

“Collateral register is one good initiative in the right direction, but farmers in the rural areas do not have access to information. The use of extension officers to educate and inform the farmers on new financial requirements or development will also ease the complexity of accessing funds from the bank.”He, however, advised that “If the farmers can go through the rigours of land preparation, ploughing, harrowing, weeding, planting and entire process of operations with courage and patience for their yields, they should also see financing as an important aspect and integral part of the process and be ready to go through some basic processes.”

He said programmes such as Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme fund should be reviewed and enhanced to incorporate rural farmers, and the government policies to persuade commercial banks to develop agro-friendly loan templates would go a long way to ease the complexity of accessing agribusiness facilities.The government, as articulated by Ogbeh recently, said that the Bank of Agriculture would be re-positioned, and that 40 per cent of the shares would go to farmers with the aim of bringing the interest rate to five per cent on agriculture loans.

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