Akure — Nigeria's earning from the non-oil sector of the economy, particularly cocoa, may suffer a serious setback due to alleged unpatriotic action of some officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
The alarm was raised by farmers under the aegis of Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN) in a 'Save Our Soul' (SOS) message addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The message made available to journalists in Akure, Ondo State was signed by the National President, Chief Raimi Adeniji, the National Secretary, Mr. Adeola Adegoke and the National Vice President, South West, Mr. Ayodele Joseph.
According to the farmers, cocoa yields have been drastically affected due to the economic sabotage allegedly being perpetuated within the Federal Ministry of Agriculture whereby fake and unwanted inputs were procured for the cocoa farmers.
"The procured inputs particularly fungicides and insecticides had destroyed our cocoa trees and farms. Farmers in Nigeria had not been using the type of chemicals and other inputs being procured and distributed by the ministry to farmers.
"When a particular fungicide procured for farmers was applied, it did not prevent the black pod disease that it was meant to control and many farmers are now counting their losses. This is an act of economic sabotage that Mr. President must look into because cocoa export is one of the major sources of non-oil foreign exchange earning", they stated.
The CFAN officers lamented that despite the rejection of most inputs like jute bags, solo sprayer pumps, fungicides and insecticides procured for farmers, due to their low standard, the ministry did not stop its procurement.
"We therefore appeal to Mr. President to stop the ongoing procurement exercise at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture with immediate effect until consultation are made with us as representatives of peasant farmers in Nigeria to avoid open demonstration of cocoa farmers at various producing states, in order to save our occupation, heritage, future and economy", they stated.
The officers appealed to Buhari to direct the ministry to immediately consult with stakeholders in the cocoa sector. They said the directive become necessary to save farmers from untimely deaths due to havoc caused by the federal ministry of agriculture.
Meanwhile, the Provost of the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, Ondo State, Dr. Samson Odedina has revealed that the college trained over 2,000 unemployed graduates in vocational training programmes.
Odedina stated this in his welcome address at the Diamond Jubilee lecture of the institution, held on the campus of the college in Akure, recently.
According to him, the college trained both graduates and non-graduates, pensioners and other categories of persons in various agricultural value chains. He said the college would have had more than it did if there had been more funding for the institution.
He lamented the exclusion of agricultural colleges from benefitting from the Tertiary Institution Trust Fund (TETFUND), saying the exclusion has had negative effects on the institution's programmes and its efforts to engage the youths through agriculture.
He said there was a need to amend the act of parliament that established TETFUND to be able to accommodate colleges of agriculture in Nigeria.
Odedina, however stated that inspite of the development, the institution has been able to train many youths who have been creating jobs by innovative ideas from the college's value chain project concepts.
In his own remarks, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh said the ministry would do its best to ensure the colleges of agriculture were included in TETFUND funding.
Represented by the South-West Regional Director of the ministry, Mr. Joseph Adeniyi, the minister who commended the provost for various achievements on the campus, noted that the colleges were removed from TETFUND by the previous administration, maintaining that they would be returned.