20 February 2013

Nigeria: How Obasanjo Reformed the Agric Sector - Adamu Bello

Abeokuta — Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had successfully transformed the nation's agricultural sector such that it would have yielded the desired result if the Jonathan's administration had built on it, former Minister of Agriculture under Obasanjo's administration, Adamu Bello said in a paper titled, "Obasanjo: The Crusader For Nigeria's Green Revolution" which he presented at a lecture organized by the South-west zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abeokuta recently.

He said Obasanjo's administration introduced a new agricultural policy that was developed to anchor all the efforts in the agricultural sector that clearly defined the roles of the various tiers of governments, farmers associations, research institutes and extension centers and the role of support agencies which the policy was able to give clear and unambiguous roles to all stakeholders and where there were overlaps, joint efforts were clearly known to be needed.

"Under the direction of the President (Obasanjo) and with his full participation, we embarked on the mobilization of stakeholders ranging from farmers through the various farmers associations such as cassava farmers association, rice farmers association, cocoa farmers association and cotton farmers association, local government chairmen from various zones, major importers of commodities, deputy governors and governors, research institutes,' personnel in the agricultural fields, and the ministers of commerce, industry, finance, water and environment.

"Development agencies such as the World Bank, DFID, USAID, ADB and IDB were also mobilized. The stakeholders as appropriately constituted would meet under what was termed 'presidential forum' with the President presiding and the Minister of Agriculture introducing the subject of discussion with a full status report on the commodity being discussed. The President guided such discussions where views were freely discussed, and stakeholders came to know what was obtained, the prospects and challenges of the particular crop or commodity.

It was from the forum that a focused approach to enhancing the production, processing, storage, marketing and export with specific targets were established by Mr. President, which were termed 'presidential initiatives'. The initiatives would be touched upon shortly," he said.

He said the presidential initiative on rice came as a result of the enormous amount of money the country was expending on rice importation, adding, "Mr. President was alarmed and the then governor of the Central Bank, Mr. J. O. Sanusi, was equally concerned about the outflow of foreign exchange and my brother, Jubril Martins Kuye, the then Minister of State for Finance, made it a point of duty to attend the meeting of the rice committee. Rice was pinching everyone.

"About 12 deputy governors were part of the committee including our current president who incidentally reminded me of how much he valued his membership at a recent not so pleasant encounter. I feel it is important to refer the current administration to the efforts made during the Obasanjo years as it appears efforts along the same direction are being repeated. Our efforts resulted in about a million metric tons increase in rice production and a substantial drop in imports. I recall levies on import of rice were introduced to protect the local rice farmers. It was however a tug of war to get the succeeding administration to drop its plans to massively import rice into the country within a year of taking over. It was a major attempt at policy reversal.

"Nigeria also became, for the first time, a supplier of grains to the World Food Organization (WFO). Most African countries that dealt with the WFO were recipients," he said.

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