Nanono vows to trace missing funds
By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
Confusion and uneasy calm now pervades the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, following revelations that the N13 billion fund released by the Federal Government for the take-off of the now suspended and controversial RUGA scheme may have disappeared from the coffers of the Ministry.
Accusing fingers are, however, being pointed at the immediate past minister of agriculture and rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, a former permanent Secretary of the ministry and former director of livestock department, all of whom held sway at the Ministry at the time the fund was released.
Investigations by DAILY ASSET revealed that the N13 billion earmarked for the implementation of grazing settlements pilot schemes in 12 states of the Federation mostly affected by the herders-farmers crisis was released in October 2018, to the Ministry.
A source at the Ministry told DAILY ASSET that the fund was approved by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, at the twilight of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term.
Our source said that the Ministry based it’s request on an existing N200 billion earlier approved by the National Economic Council during the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
It was learnt that after receiving the fund, the Ministry was said to have approved contracts for the RUGA settlement and payments were made to some of the contractors.
The contractors were, however, shocked to find out that land was not earmarked in some of the selected states for the pilot scheme of the RUGA settlements.
In Benue State for instance, Ogbeh was alleged to have sold his private lands to the scheme in the Benue South Senatorial District. The contractor was mobilised to site but did nothing other than erection of a project sign post.
Ogbeh’s efforts to acquire additional lands and transfer to the scheme were said to have been met with stiff resistance from members of the community, who claimed the land in question belonged to a deceased person.
Investigations further revealed that the contracts were not approved by the Federal Executive Council as required under the Public Procurement Act.
Opposition by the public to the RUGA policy, led to it’s suspension by the Federal government.
In spite of the suspension, the mobilisation paid to the contractors has yet to be refunded, just as the job has not been executed, our source maintained.
Investigations revealed that the entire Fund has disappeared from the coffers of the Ministry, raising fears that some highly placed officials at the helm of affairs at the Ministry may have made away with the money.
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry was said to have left on transfer to another Ministry and the Director of Livestocks resigned, while the Minister also left the cabinet at the end of the first tenure of the Buhari administration.
The new minister of agriculture and rural development, Mr Sabo Nanono told DAILY ASSET in an interview that he has no details about the N13 billion because he was still receiving briefs from the ministry, assuring that he would find out how that money was spent.
Nanono said, “I have not even come to that. I am just barely two weeks in the ministry and I am still receiving briefings. So I don’t know anything about it.”
When asked if he will investigate how the fund was spent, the minister said, “Yes, of course! I will get to the root of it.”
Ogbeh had in the last four years in office as minister of agriculture and rural development made several efforts at introducing programmes aimed at addressing the herders-farmers crisis such as Cattle Colony, Grazing Reserves, Ranches and the most controversial Ruga programme but none was successful.
Recall that President Buhari had in May 2019, approved the RUGA programme barely a week to the end of his first term.
The then Minister of Agriculture, Ogbeh, despite explanations by the presidency that the Ruga was not meant for cattle herders, but other animals breeders could be settled in the RUGA settlements with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products, it was totally rejected.
Sokoto, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Taraba, Katsina, Plateau, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger states have indicated interest in developing the Ruga programme despite its suspension.
Benue State had initially been listed as an interested pilot state, but Governor Samuel Ortom publicly denounced RUGA settlements after the Federal Government appeared to ignore its objections and tried to implement the plan in the state.
However, last week, the federal government came up with the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) which it explained was quite distinct from the RUGA scheme.
In response to the outrage caused by the RUGA settlements, Vice President Osinbajo, who chairs NEC, has publicly dismissed claims that the plan was associated the with NLTP.
“On the National Livestock Transformation Plan, 13 States are already in the process of implementation of a plan to transform the livestock production system in Nigeria along market-oriented value chain while ensuring an atmosphere of peace and justice.
“The States are Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Kogi, Kwara, Ondo, and Edo.”
NLTP is a N100 billion initiative that champions ranching as the way forward for cattle rearing in the country.
The plan, presented by the National Economic Council (NEC) in June 2018, recommends that cattle herders are expected to be registered with cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme.
The funding of the plan from the federal government and state governments is expected to last for the first three years in the pilot phase for a total of N70 billion, while private sector interests and investments between the third and tenth year is expected to be in excess of N100 billion.
Meanwhile, DAILY ASSET has noted that the Federal Government has allocated N3.2bn in the 2019 budget for the development of national grazing reserves, promotion and development of beef production as well as other livestock programmes.
The amount is contained in the 2019 budget, which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 28.
Specifically, the amount is contained in the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. A breakdown of the amount showed that N2.4bn was specifically allocated to the development of national grazing reserves.
The federal ministry of agriculture 2019 budget also indicated that budget showed that N212 million
was allocated to the promotion and development of beef production.
Also, a provision of N380m was made for motorised boreholes in Kano grazing reserves by the Federal Government.
Another N139 million was allocated for training of youths in the installation and maintenance of solar-powered street lights to livestock and other farms while N60 million was budgeted as agricultural grants for women and youths in livestock farming.
About N8.5 million was proposed for the development of pastures in grazing reserves in the 2019 fiscal period.
VCDP Holds 3-Day Enterprise Training for Agri-businesses
From David Torough, Makurdi
In a bid to mainstream nutrition sensitive intervention and harness potentials along commodity value chain while empowering youth and women, the Federal Government, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Value Chain Development Programme (FG/IFAD-VCDP) held a 3-day youth enterprise training for Agri-businesses at the IFAD-VCDP premises, Makurdi, the Benue State Capital.
The six session training equipped participants with practical knowledge on how to process Vitamin A Cassava to snacks (Combo-bite, bread, chinchin, queens cake, Cassa-flakes), Processing of rice flour as substitute for baking flour, Processing of cassava peels to animal feeds as well as de-stoning and packaging of milled rice.
There was also an intense training for some youths on knapsack application and calibration as well as an entrepreneurship class for establishing a One-Stop Agro input shop.
According to IFAD-VCDP Rural Institution, Gender and Youth Mainstreaming Officer (RIGYMO), Mrs Sandra Agber 41 male youths, 39 female youths and one adult female were beneficiaries of the training.
She revealed that, the need to engage and empower youths and women to be self-employed in a sustainable manner and to add value to agricultural produce was the primary justification for the training.
Mrs Agber disclosed that though the training is a youth empowerment programme, women were prioritized in line with VCDP’s gender mainstreaming initiative hence the high number of female participants particularly in the rice and cassava processing trainings.
In his remarks during the opening ceremony, VCDP State Programme Coordinator, Mr Emmanuel Igbaukum charged the participants to take the training serious as VCDP is poised to continually supporting its farmers to maximize output as well as harness all potentials along agriculture commodity value chain.
He disclosed that participants would be given start up kits to support their various enterprises.
Two participants, Babara Yaaya and Veronica Chigba, who were trained on rice processing and One-stop agro shop establishment respectively, in their separate remarks at the end of the training appreciated IFAD-VCDP for their unceasing support to farmers and agripreneurs in the state and prayed God to give them the strength and resources to upscale these interventions.
NASCO Has Empowered Millions of Farmers in Nigeria – Lalong
From Jude Dangwam, Jos
Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong has said Nasco Food Limited has empowered millions of farmers in Nigeria in the last 57 years of its existence as it targets to cover the West African Sub-region.
He said with the coming on board of a multi-billion Naira investment new Cornflakes Plant supported by the Bank of Industry through First Bank of Nigeria Plc is a positive indicator that Plateau State has indeed regained the confidence of investors as a viable destination for both local and foreign capital inflows in the country.
Lalong stated this yesterday during the inauguration of the new NASCO Cornflakes Plant, held at the NASCO Food Ltd Industrial Area, in Jos, the Plateau State capital.
He said the development cumulatively now integrates into the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s drive to develop the agriculture commodity supply chain, for which maize has been recognised as one of the most important commodities; adding that the overall goal of the initiative by NASCO is the creation of jobs and wealth for Nigerians.
“It is instructive to note that since NASCO began its operations 57 years ago, millions of Nigerians from the post-independence generation to young Nigerians today have all been able to share almost identical experiences from having used the different product categories which NASCO has come to be known for.”
Governor Lalong further disclosed that “NASCO’s adoption of the policy of back-ward integration in sourcing maize as its chief input for the production of cornflakes had empowered thousands of farmers on the Plateau and across many locations in central Nigeria. This had directly impacted on the volume and quality of the maize that its suppliers were cultivating”.
He however lamented that Plateau State is not yet a highly industrialised State that can create opportunities for employment to the teeming youths which over the years are limited to “government MDAs, few NGOs and CSOs, a handful of Financial Institutions and the relatively small number of SMEs operating in the state.
“This means there is a great need to invest in companies that have the capacity to scale up in the way that NASCO has done, in order that we can increase employment opportunities and improve the revenue generating potential of the state,” Lalong added.
The Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Nasco Group in Nigeria
Attia Nasreddin said NASCO has been a household name not only in Plateau State and Nigeria, but across the African continent having been around for almost six decades and identified as an icon of quality.
He hinted that the new multi-billion naira plant is expected to double its production capacity by increasing its supply chain and extending as well as widening its reach to more households in Nigeria and throughout the ECOWAS sub-region of Africa.
Nigeria Has Over 10,000 Species of Traditional Medicinal Plants — Mamora
Minister of State, Health, Sen. Adeleke Mamora, says Nigeria is endowed with over 10,000 species of medicinal plants.
He also said the country had good arable land and climatic conditions for harnessing the potentials of the plants, for health, social, economic and other benefits.
Mamora said this in Abuja at the opening of a conference on Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM).
The conference was organised by TCAM, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the World Health Organization identified medicinal plant as the whole or part of a plant that contains bioactive substances that can be used for therapeutic purposes or serve as precursors for the synthesis of drugs.
Nigeria has a full-fledged TCAM Department in its ministry of health responsible for the formulation, review and implementation of policies and guidelines for research, development and regulation of herbal medicines.
The country launched the Traditional Medicine Policy in 2007, which has as its key objective, harnessing the potentials and economic benefits of TCAM.
The country also has a compendium of medicinal plants, the Nigerian Herbal Pharmacopeia (NHP), first published in 2008 and currently under review.
The compendium contained medicinal plants used for the safe treatment and management of various diseases.
Mamora said the conference should promote the cultivation and utilization of medicinal plants as raw materials for the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries.
He said this was to create short, medium and long-term value chain and attract agricultural and manufacturing loans.
The minister said this was important, as Nigeria and other African countries currently benefitted minimally from the global herbal medicine market projected at seven trillion dollars by 2050.
He said the market had been dominated by China, India, US, Germany and Thailand.
“Significantly, the cultivation of medicinal plants and commercialisation of herbal medicines will attract huge economic benefits to Nigeria.
“Especially in the following areas: increase foreign exchange earnings and wealth creation, alleviate poverty through the creation of job opportunities in areas of cultivation and conservation of medicinal plants in Nigeria,” he added.
He assured that the ministry remained committed to developing and promoting traditional, complementary and alternative medicine in Nigeria.
He said stakelders had initiated sensitisation programmes and activities to promote the cultivation, commercialisation and use of indigenous medicinal plants in the country.
It “facilitated the passage of the TCAM Council Bill into Law, to effectively coordinate and regulate TCAM practice in the country.
The stakeholders also “inaugurated an Expert Committee that is currently working out modalities for the take-off of TCAM Institute for the training of TCAM practitioners in Nigeria”.
Prof. MacDonald Idu, a professor of Phytomedicine from the University of Benin, in a keynote address, said if properly harnessed, the value of traditional medicinal plants in Nigeria would hit N1 trillion by 2025.
He put the current market value of traditional medicinal plants conservatively at about N200 billion, regretting that not much attention has been paid to harness the sector.
“We talked about $200 billion. It is conservative. I’m serious. Other forms of literature that I have also read, we are going to hit about N1 trillion by 2025. I know what that means. That’s a lot of money” he said.
Idu said Nigeria must show commitment towards diversifying the economy.
“Nigeria I’m sorry, we don’t walk the talk. We talk a lot, but we don’t walk the talk. So my point of interest is to drag the hearts of our people to realise that we should diversify our economy.
“We don’t have any reason to be poor. That’s the real truth. We don’t have any reason to import everything that we need to survive. It’s already here. Why do you have them here?
“So, I believe that if we’re able to set up that platform again, and then we’re able to organize ourselves and organize the traditional medicine practitioners and producers, we should be able to raise enough money for this country to move forward,” Idu added.
Earlier, the First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, expressed regret over the low level of utilisation of the over 10,000 species of medicinal plants in the country, in spite of its huge need for the production of drugs, cosmetics and other essential products.
Buhari expressed the present administration’s commitment to boosting the commercial cultivation of such plants for the health, economic and social benefits of the people.
She said it would also open new areas for wealth and job creation for the teeming youths of the country.
The Conference is expected to bring together experts and other stakeholders in various fields of TCAM to brainstorm on the importance of indigenous medicinal plants to healthcare delivery in Nigeria. (NAN)
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