Despite the fact that Nigeria has had about 52 ministers of agriculture since independence, according to a 2020-publication of Daily Trust newspapers, including those of ministers of state for agriculture, implementing different programmes and policies, the agriculture sector has not fared better when compared with what the country used to experience before the oil boom of the 1970s. Looking at how agriculture is still yet to become Nigeria’s main focus for the sustenance of its economy, agricultural experts are mounting pressure on President Bola Tinubu to appoint qualified professionals as ministers of agriculture, instead of politicians.
This concern is coming owing to the choice of appointments by previous administrations, which had not brought monumental changes to the sector over the years. Previously in the history of Nigeria, politicians such as Mustapha Baba Shehuri, Adamu Bello, Abba Sayyadi Ruma, Sheikh Ahmed Abdullah and so on, had had more appointments than experts like Akinwumi Adesina, an agricultural economist into this leadership role of the agriculture ministry. In a recent interview, these agricultural experts pointed out some crucial matters that require attention from the incoming Nigerian government in the agricultural sector while stressing on its capability to generate greater income for the nation.
The Coordinator of Nigeria Agri-Business Group (NABG), Emmanuel Ijewere emphatically stated that farmers and agro-producers don’t need to be pitied, but rather be given an enabling environment for them to operate optimally as capitalists. “First and foremost, under no circumstance must a politician be made a minister of agriculture. Secondly, the new government must realise that agriculture is a business”, he said. The NABG Coordinator added, “Thirdly, all agriculture in Nigeria happens in the local government areas. Not many agricultural activities happen in the central area of Abuja or in Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos”.
Ijewere noted further that agriculture is a local practice, thus making it fall under the purview of local governments while grassroots development must be given more attention and resources. He advised the government to desist from giving subsidies to farmers, as some people defraud both farmers and the government through such schemes. He stressed that the government must work on its partnership with organisations such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in a bid to tackle the issue of food security in the nation. Also speaking, the President of All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Mr. Kabir Ibrahim, said there is need for the government to carry farmers along, especially in the decisions that affect them. He noted that this would boost the productivity of farmers as well as make more food available for the Nigerian population.
He also called for the reformation of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), while the current agricultural policy should be properly implemented and the National Food Reserves Agency should be resuscitated. He alleged that the incompetence of the outgone leadership in the ministry, had delayed the resuscitation of the ministry. Reviewing the scorecard of the previous administration in the sector, Ibrahim said “The policies of the former administration have not been that bad, but implementation was the problem. So, what is expected is that the current President should appoint the right people to manage the activities of the various ministries, departments and agencies that have cross-cutting issues with agriculture. “This will ensure that people are not working in silos. Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention should be such that it is appraised to reach the actual farmers, not as it is today”, Ibrahim stated.