Population explosion caused by farmers’ increasing procreation, says Lokpobiri
• Blames rice smuggling on ECOWAS protocol
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri, has said farmers who leverage on the successes of the agricultural revolution to marry more wives and make more children, were responsible Nigeria’s rising population.
He argued that the development has made Nigeria’s population to overshoot United Nation’s projection, which estimated Nigeria’s population to hit 200 million by 2020, adding that the country’s population is already hitting the 200 million mark even before 2020.
The minister, who stated this at the weekend in Abuja, also disclosed that more farmers now undertake pilgrimages to Mecca as a result of increases in their expendable incomes from agriculture.
“I discovered that some states now have many more rice millionaires and as they get more money from rice, they also add more wives. They are able to go for pilgrimage, because it is the wish of every Muslim to visit Mecca. And so, 99 per cent of those who went on pilgrimage to Mecca are either rice or cassava farmers,” he said.
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma had blamed the nation’s growing unemployment rate on increasing population, saying President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had lived up to its promise of creating jobs, but that the quantum of people entering the employment market each year worsens the unemployment data.
Lokpobiri, however, observed that the growth of the nation’s population was of serious concern to the Federal Government, because it was also responsible for the malnutrition in the country.
Meanwhile, Lokpobiri, also argued that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on free trade was frustrating government’s effort to curtail rice smuggling into Nigeria, adding that Benin Republic has been taking advantage of the free trade protocol to smuggle the product into the county.
He lamented that Benin Republic allows Taiwan to dump foreign parboiled rice in their country from where they re-bag the products and smuggle them into Nigeria, taking advantage of the ECOWAS protocol, which allows access to free trade in the sub-region.
While receiving the new country representative of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Ms. Ndine Gbossa, who visited Nigeria, he said: “The challenge we have with our neighbours is that because of the extant ECOWAS protocol, other countries dump their rice in their region from where they re-bag them and bring them into Nigeria.”
Speaking, Gbossa disclosed that the Executive Board of the fund recently approved additional financing for Nigeria in its Value Chain Development programme to the tune of $89 million, which brought the total investment in the programme to $228 million.
The fund, she revealed, was to support rice and cassava production, in addition to another $60 million for supporting Niger Delta Youth called the Alive for Niger Delta fund.