19 February 2014

Nigeria: North Must Return to Agriculture - Gov Ahmed

Kwara State governor Abdulfahah Ahmed has called on northerners to stop depending on oil revenue and return to full scale agricultural activities, which used to be the economic mainstay of not only the northern region but the country in general.

He lamented that the discovery of crude oil had caused severe dislocation in the socio-economic and political ecosystem, and stressed that embracing agriculture would again return the northern region to its path of glory and development.

Speaking as the guest speaker at the inauguration of ACF new leadership and public lecture with the theme, "Northern Nigeria Economy Free of Oil Revenue", Governor Ahmed warned that the region would not be able to achieve functional agricultural base as long as its people live below poverty level and disdain western education.

He, however, tasked all northern leaders across the three tiers of government to quickly organise an agricultural summit as a veritable platform to share thoughts for reviving agriculture.

According to Ahmed, the summit will also encourage and deal with the best ways to venturing into large-scale sustainable commercial farming activities, which would in turn create employment opportunities and boost economic activities in the region.

He therefore recommended a radical drive for immense agricultural revival with a strong base for the agro-based wealth that the region enjoyed in the 60s and 70s.

Meanwhile, the chairman Leadership Group Ltd, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah yesterday said what the northern region needs to come out its woes are thinking leaders.

Speaking as one of the discussants at the event, Mr Nda-Isaiah noted that the oil producing nations are not the richest nations of the world.

He said that northern Nigeria will have to, as a matter of urgency, wean itself of oil and find other sources of revenue, stressing that oil would be commonplace in a few years time.

"Northern Nigeria needs thinking leaders. Northern Nigeria needs bold and courageous leaders. One of the first acts of courage the North must show is to work and amend the constitution for states to control the resources on and under their land. I don't see why some people oppose this. If we do that, there will be competition among states in the North and, consequently, Nigeria would become a wealthy region or nation. We must support this restructuring in our own enlightened self-interest.

"I have had cause to speak and to write on this topic so many times, but it does appear that those who should take note are not in the least interested. The first thing I always say whenever I have to speak or write on this topic is that the oil-producing nations are not the richest nations of the world. The richest country in Africa as we speak is South Africa, yet it has no oil worth talking about. South Africa is rich because of its solid minerals, tourism, manufacturing and very large swathes of land for agriculture.

"It is not just Northern Nigeria that would have to wean itself of oil as quickly as possible; the nation itself, as a matter of national security imperative, would have to find other streams of revenue. This is because oil would be commonplace in a few years, as the biggest consumers like the United States, China and Europe take advantage of their shale gas reserves.

"Besides that, even in Africa, oil may soon cease to be a prized commodity. Just a few years ago, when we talked about oil in Africa, we thought of only five countries - Nigeria, Libya, Angola, Algeria and Egypt. Today, the oil-producing countries in Africa are more than 20: they include Kenya, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Congo, Cameroun, Tunisia, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Niger Republic, Chad, Central African Republic, Morocco, and many more still developing their reserves. What this means is that, in about a decade, oil may be selling for less than $20 per barrel as we saw during the generals Abacha and Abdulsalami era when oil sometimes sold below the cost of production," he said.

He further noted that the the United States, Nigeria's biggest customer, had already reduced its oil imports by more than one million barrels a day and that President Barack Obama had recently declared that, very soon, his nation would no longer buy Nigeria's oil.

"What all these mean is that we should quickly get other sources of revenue. The North has people, land and mineral resources," he asserted, noting that Niger State can produce enough food to feed the entire West Africa sub-region.

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