WHILST THE GREEN WILTS.

   
That man should name the animals and vegetation, having charge over them was a foremost dictum that has now unfurled itself into modern day trade: the business called Agriculture. One of the primeval assignment saddled man by the Omnipotent, no doubt is being enshrouded by the Devil’s excreta veil: the faeces called oil. The post-civil war era that witnessed the debouch of poultry, livestock and other agricultural enterprise; that also scale-preferenced top budgetary demands is almost eclipsing with Nigeria’s monomania-dependence on oil. As it seems to be, our excessive reliance on what probably is our most lucrative natural resource, has now become a thorn in the flesh of the Federal Government. Being the Giant of Africa and ironically overtaking South Africa to become the fastest growing economy, Nigeria has continued to consolidate on her past glory and update her present status as one of the leading importers of agricultural products, whilst her green field desiccates unabatedly.    
         
As the tide surges further, the importation of agricultural products like fish and other non-agricultural products into the country barometers the federal government’s lopsided attention given to agriculture under and below the oil and gas sector. Agriculture, being in the concurrent legislative list, in the Second Schedule, Part 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), shared by both the Federal and State Government, one would have expected, that aside federal allocations, states generating revenue internally make agriculture a top most priority . Rather, the issue of education that has kept on hamstringing some graduates to speak in public or even draft a simple letter, takes, amongst security and defence, the ace in top budgetary allocations. When ebullient men and women who need not be taught the barebones of farming are still left in the lurch for the receipt of finance to cultivate their produce. I have not taken a stand that education or even security be not given paramount treatment, but that human capital will amount to nought if the creation of opportunities like investment in agriculture takes a posterior angle.    
          
Nigeria’s investment in agriculture is alarming. Within seven (7) years (2007-2013), the Nigerian Federal Government has allocated an average of just 6.5% of the national budget to agriculture, risking even greater hunger across the country. If Ghana could peg about 9-10% budget for the agricultural sector, Rwanda 10% and Burundi 10.9%, being the only countries to have complied with the 2003 Maputo Declaration that pegged 10% of the country’s budget to agriculture for the continent, one cannot but phantom the criteria that makes the gigantism out of Nigeria, where states therein still flaunt slogans like: Farming is our Pride, when in reality it has lost its salt; Food basket of the Nation, when she still remains one of those countries importing agricultural products and the Nature’s gift of the Nation, when her rich minerals are yet to be tapped. I will not contradict myself if I fortune-tell the already dormant but living auxins of hope, the green-white-green Nigerian flag that depicts Nigeria’s green field; vegetation and variance, will soon evanescent its figurative expression to whatever can be imagined should the place of agric in decades to come downgrade further it’s present position.                      

Since the implementation of policies has always been a hard nut to crack by the Federal Government, farmers and other small and medium scale enterprisers may not expect much this 2014 from the government as they have customarily promised, to provide subsidies to five (5) million farmers nationwide using the e-wallet system. The recently launched self-employed initiative under the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP), called the Nagropreneur programme, will develop over 750,000 youth-commercial farmers by 2015. Establish new agro-industrial clusters to complement the staple crop processing zones being developed across the country. In partnership with the private sector, the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FIFIN), a private equity fund to invest in agro-business across the country will be launched.
The Federal Ministry of Finance, budget 2014, themed, ‘A Budget for Jobs and Inclusive Growth’ and other laid down objectives for the agricultural sector, if at least a quart can be executed, and the effect probably felt by those farmers in the rural areas,..

DAVIDSON OBABUEKI.

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