As delegates to the National Conference continued their debates on the Agriculture Committee’s reports yesterday, a delegate, Alhaji Mahmood Usman, blamed the Boko Haram insurgency partly on the neglect of the Lake Chad, a major source of water for irrigation farming and fishing in the North-east geo-political zone.
The delegate’s contribution to the debate on the report of the Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources said Nigeria did neglect the sustenance of the important water body when it allowed indiscriminate construction of dams on five rivers, which hitherto supplied water to Lake Chad.
He explained that it was due to the neglect that droughts and dry lands emerged in almost all the arable lands and gradually turned the lands to deserts and no longer tolerates agricultural development.
According to him, the Nigerian section of the lake has shrunk to a tiny size that can hardly support neither fishing nor farming, a situation that had left able bodied men in the area idle. He said it would be wishful thinking to believe the situation of the lake could change soon.
A delegate from Taraba State, Alhaji Issa Mafindi, advocated that all corrupt money recovered from Nigerians be channelled towards the development of agriculture, as he lamented the poor agricultural development in the country, especially in animal husbandry.
Mafindi urged the federal government to ensure that cattle and goats should be killed in hygienic abattoirs because of the health implications, stating that the skin of the cattle to produce the famous ‘kpomo’ is made by burning it with tyres, which he said is cancerous in nature. Mafinidi called for property tax to be used in funding agriculture.
Former Military Governor of old Rivers State, King Alfred Diette Spiff suggested that there should be need to promote massive mushroom farming as well as provide funds for the project. He said it is useful for both medicinal purposes and as food supplement.
Also, former minister, Salome Jankada, urged for timely provision of fertilizer, saying fertilizers are often given to farmers at around November, when they actually need it in May. Jankada said that government should borrow from the Shonga farms projects in Kwara State that is working efficiently.
She also advised that Nigerian universities must be practical saying there was too much theory in the curriculum of faculties. Another delegate, Jaiye Gaskiya, called for positive response towards research and development, stating that these could be either post harvest or mechanics or any identified problem area.
According to him, the two fertilizer plants in Rivers and Kaduna States cannot meet the demands of farmers in Nigeria, and that the country had been relying on imports from Russia. He suggested that government should find a way of making sure that the country produces enough fertilizer locally
The former Minister of Education, Ruqqayat Rufai, in her contribution, said efforts should be concentrated to develop non-oil sector, stating that there was nothing stopping Nigeria to have both oil boom and agriculture boom at the same time. She urged government to use oil money and develop the agricultural sector so that there can be resource control in all sides.
In the same vein, a former Minister for Education, Prof. Jubril Aminu, urged the conference to take decisions that will enhance the welfare of his kinsmen, the Fulani cattle rearers.
Aminu said in spite of the nation’s dependence on beef and milk produced by these Fulani herdsmen, they were largely marginalised and not given due consideration, in national policies.
Josephine Anenih in her contribution said the National Orientation Agency (NOA) needed to be re-orientated for Nigerians to start appreciating agriculture.
She said the youths should be made to know that agriculture is a viable source of employment, arguing, that:
“If an Army General can be a farmer, why not a young man.”
Femi Akande said a country that cannot feed its citizens and guarantee food security cannot be said to have food security, explaining that it was due to poor food security that the old Soviet Union collapsed.
Akande stated it was unfortunate that Nigeria depends on Thailand, Vietnam and India for almost 50 to 70 per cent of the country’s need for rice despite abundance of arable land for the cultivation of rice.
The committee on agriculture and water resources had in its report made a strong case for the resuscitation of Lake Chad, adding that trans-boundary waters should be placed on the exclusive legislative list, while water for domestic, commercial, industrial, irrigation, power and other uses should be placed on the concurrent list. The report observed that drying up of lakes and rivers have had drastic impact on the economy.
“Drought, desertification and drying up of lakes and rivers pose serious problems and have had a drastic effect on Nigeria’s economy. It has displaced cattle herdsmen, communities and posed very serious security challenges from insurgents as well as tensions between neighboring communities and countries.
“Therefore, the restoration of dried up lakes and rivers is imperative. It will have consequences on the environment through the restoration of ecosystems and facilitate the return of relationships between affected communities and countries to equilibrium,” the report said.