Nigeria’s agricultural sector seems to be taking a turn for the better with the various policies introduced by the current government, some of which were vigorously implemented last year.
The government argues that the activities in the sector last year were channeled at improving the lives of average Nigerians.
PREMIUM TIMES does a review of agricultural activities in 2019 .
Rural Grazing Area (RUGA).
As an immediate solution, the federal government waded into the perennial farmers-herders clash, thus the idea of ‘Ruga’ was initiated.
It was to make the herdsmen sedentary thus enabling them to practice ”a settled form of pastoralism”, increase productivity and address their conflict with farmers.
Ruga was projected as a fresh idea to create the infrastructure that encourages restricted pastoralism, which many have demanded as an alternative to the highly risky open grazing.
The Ruga was announced by the federal government to enable willing states to contribute large areas of land to the federal government for construction of animal husbandry settlements.
The presidency had said 12 states indicated willingness to be part of the programme.
The Ruga programme was, however, criticised by many Nigerians with many state governors opposing it.
President Muhammadu Buhari on July 3 suspended the controversial Ruga programme.
The controversy generated by the Ruga programme exposed a dearth of capacity for policy communication and stakeholders’ engagement.
National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP)
The National Executive Council headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo had also developed the NLTP as a long-term solution to the perennial herdsmen and farmers crisis.
NLTP is a programme of the federal government designed to run from 2019-2028 in partnership with state governments, to be executed by the National Economic Council.
An initial N92 billion will be targeted at providing grants for the development of the country’s livestock sector by setting up ranches and developing grazing reserves and to be implemented in seven pilot states of, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba, Zamfara Adamawa, Benue and Kaduna.
After the Ruga controversy, the vice president, who is the head of the NEC, said he was not part of Ruga and that it was separate from the NLTP.
Power changed hands at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, when President Buhari appointed new ministers for his administration.
Mr Buhari appointed Sabo Nanono as the minister of Agriculture on August 21, 2019. He succeeded Audu Ogbeh of Benue State.
Mr Nanono, an indigene of Kano, studied Business Administration and had been involved in agriculture since 1973
Another major event was Nigeria’s decision to partially close its borders in August.
The closure was then confirmed by the Comptroller-General of the Nigerians Customs Service, Hameed Ali, in October.
He said all goods were now banned from being exported or imported through our land borders and that is to ensure we had total control over what comes in.
A major reason why the borders were closed was due to the lack of compliance of Nigeria’s neighbouring countries to the rules governing cross-border trade.
The closure affected both Niger and Benin Republic economically because of their inability to export into Nigeria hence leading them (the neighbouring countries) to form a tripartite committee.
The committee, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, was put together to “address the inadequacies and lack of implementation of the numerous agreements and memoranda of understanding entered by the three countries to check smuggling and other crimes at their common borders.”
In October, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emiefele, said closing the borders was “yielding positive economic results for the country.”
Nigeria now seems to be benefiting from it, while neighbouring countries are suffering economically.
President Buhari had said the borders would not be re-opened until at least January 31, 2020.
The border closure is believed to have led to an increase in local production of some food like fish, poultry and rice.
Forex on food and milk importation
President Buhari on August 13 directed the Central Bank of Nigeria not to provide foreign exchange for the importation of some food items, saying his administration has achieved ‘food security’.
“Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country,’’ the president was quoted as saying.
“We have achieved food security, and for physical security we are not doing badly,’’ he added.
President noted that some states like Kebbi, Ogun, Lagos, Jigawa, Ebonyi and Kano had already taken advantage of the Federal Government’s policy on agriculture “with huge returns in rice farming, urging more states to plug into the ongoing revolution to feed the nation”.
President Buhari said he was particularly delighted that “young Nigerians, including graduates, had started exploring agric-business and entrepreneurship, with many posting testimonies of good returns on their investments.”
Also, the CBN also banned FOREX access to milk importers.
The apex bank has now directed Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in the country to stop the processing of milk and its related products on “Bills for Collection basis,” which allowed the importer to buy on credit.
In a circular addressed to DMBs, the apex bank also announced that henceforth, the mode of payment with regard to the importation of milk and its related products must be on the basis of Letters of Credit (LC) only.