By Atabor Julius
Kogi state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s commitment to deliver the dividends of democracy to his people is not in doubt. Today, he is using the platform provided by democracy to impact positively on the lives of his people through the provision of basic needs such as food, welfare, protection of lives and property of citizens, amongst others.
While marking this year’s democracy day celebration in the state recently, his government distributed 500 bags of rice and N50,000 cash donation to each of the 237 political wards in the state as part of its welfare package. The government also paid all the cleared workers and pensioners at the just concluded staff screening exercise as well as political appointees their monthly salaries up to date to ensure fruitful celebration of the democracy.
In an interview with the state’s commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Kehinde Oloruntoba during the Democracy Day Celebration, he enumerated wide range of strategies including using modern methods of agriculture to make the state excel in this very important sector which engages majority of the state’s population.
On the present administration’s programmes for the state as it affects their welfare and the security of lives and property, the commissioner disclosed that Gov. Yahaya Bello had declared state of emergency on agriculture and made it clear to everyone that he wants to use agriculture to diversify the economy of the state, to create jobs, create wealth, reduce crimes and criminality and most importantly create food security for the state.
According to Hon Oloruntoba, the governor earlier in the year organised a session with all the stakeholders -farmers, student groups; youths, civil servants, where he briefed them about his plans to develop the state. “They told him their challenges while he informed them of his plans and programmes which have been developed and tailored towards the feedback. The important feedback that came out of the session was that we have not been doing much of the farming in this part of the country and the reason being that it costs a fortune to clear the land and the people does not have such money and it has become expedience for the government to come in to clear the land for those who are interested in farming.”
He continued: “Based on this exigencies, his Excellency in that engagement gave directives to the Ministry of Agriculture to mobilise to the 21 LGAs to prepare lands for those who are ready to farm . We have to do that to make farming easier for our farmers as the greater cost for farming is spent on clearing the land,” he said.
“Another issue that was glaring from that engagement was that after clearing the land farmers need money to procure inputs, which he had already approved agriculture loans for farmers to buy seedlings, as improved seedlings have become the norms for farmers.”
He added: “We cannot leave our farmers to be planting the old seedlings which its yields are very poor. For instance, the yield with the traditional seedlings per hectare compared to the improved seedlings, the difference is huge. Farmers used to get two to three tons per hectare but with the high breed seedlings on the same hectare, it could be up to 10 – 11 tons., so we are going to buy improved seedlings for farmers , we are going to buy herbicides, so that we may not have outbreak of epidemic through pest diseases , this are are some of the things we have mapped out .
“But most importantly there is a programme of the Federal government called Anchor Borrowers Scheme , which is funded by the CBN .He said” we are going to engage our youths as many as possible, using the window, the CBN is going to provide all the inputs, after the state has Anchored the programme, then we have to up stake the farmers, , as we buy off the produce , net off ,pay the CBN their money and they now have the balance to themselves and it is revolving.’
The governor said that before the end of 2017, the state would have taken care of more than 100,000 farmers .”
The commissioner also dwelt on how intending farmer can tap into the Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme saying that” government has decided to do it very simple, not everyone has land, but we are from one local government area or the other. for instance , We will go to the 21 LGAs to clear the lands we will liase with the traditional rulers and the Local Government Administrators and farmers unions AFAN, IFAM etc. and we will ensure that only indigenes benefits from the cleared lands , no matter whether you are the owner , the moment you are from the LGA we will earmark a hectare per farmer., no matter whether you are the original owner as long as you are from the LGA you benefit. It is a commonwealth of the people. The land belongs to the government, however we shall carry along the traditional rulers and where there is tree crops we will pay compensation so that we dont deny some people of their means of livelihoods and where we don’t have this challenge, of course we shall first give considerations to the indigenes.”
As for participating in the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, he said a register has been opened at the Ministry of Agriculture where “ we will take your data send it to the CBN, they have a way of verifying and once they send your name back to us as being successful, we will take you to where the land that was cleared and allocate a hectare to you, as the CBN will start anchoring you by giving you inputs you need.”
Speaking on fertilizers distribution to ensure bumper harvest the commissioner gave an assurance that government will deal with farmers directly in this regard. “We don’t want middlemen . we are taking the issue of fertilizers very seriously.. It may not be at every LGA , but we have warehouses across the three senatorial zones of the state.We will be putting fertilizers in those warehouses where farmers goes directly , pay the money and pick the products. so far the state has procured 15 ,ooo metric tons of fertilizers which have been subsidised as a bag cost N5,500 as against the former N8,000 and above.. .it has been subsidised and people that the CBN would be anchoring will be given the inputs , but it will form part of our cost , while selling the produce , you net off . it should be available in all the warehouses across the state where farmers can go to and be given an Account Number , make the payment , bring the teller , and off to the zone and pick them up. We are going to be working with the traditional rulers, farmers Associations , such as AFAN , IFAM so that they can identify who those farmers are and we frown at bulk purchases .”
The commissioner is excited that Nigerians are doing better now in” agriculture as some of those things we used to import are being produced locally. we are gradually attaining food security and with time , Nigeria will start food exportation.”
The commissioner finally advised farmers that now that the raining season has started, they should endeavour to make use of it by planting necessary crops. “Let us go back to the farm, Nigeria’s economy was sustained in the past by farming activities. At that time you heard of ground nut pyramids in the North, cocoa in the West and palm oil in East. The regions were buoyant and strong; all these have gone down with the discovery of crude oil. we have become so lazy, because all we do is sit down and expect free money from the central government.
“We want to change that and thank God for the recession, it is reawakening our consciousness. let us go back to Agriculture. we need not to be hungry as we have the natural resources needed to farm. We have arable lands, water everywhere, we don’t have cause to be hungry, he stressed.”