Abuja — National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday decried the attempt by bandits and terrorists to ruin the country's food security programme. Tinubu said by attacking agricultural producers across the country, the bandits, "Seek not only to ravage the agricultural community, but to visit misery on the rest of the nation through food scarcity and food costs that poor people can simply not afford".
The former Lagos State governor spoke shortly after the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, honoured him with an honorary doctorate degree. Others awarded the honorary doctorate degree were Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva; Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari; and agro-industrialist and politician, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd). They were honoured for their contributions to economic development.
Emefiele was particularly awarded the university's degree for his remarkable achievements at the apex bank. The institution noted that the CBN governor had effectively deployed policy measures to stabilise the economy amid daunting headwinds.
The university also recognised Emefiele's dexterity and competences, which enabled him successfully supervise the country's exit from two consecutive recessions in recent times.
It noted, among other things, that the CBN governor had done a lot to reposition agriculture amid challenges. The Ivory tower commended Emefiele's reappointment as CBN governor for a second term.
Emefiele, who had earlier delivered the guest lecture of the convocation, was represented by the CBN Director, Development Finance Department, Mr. Yusuf Yila.
Tinubu, in his acceptance speech on behalf of other awardees, said in trying to destabilise agriculture, "These mean forces seek to impose a food production and distribution crisis on us by disrupting strategically important agricultural areas and activities." He said this underscored the importance of the agricultural sector to the country, adding that the federal government is determined to improve the sector.
Despite the disruptions, the APC stalwart said important strides had been recorded in agriculture, though, "we have not yet reached the promised land. We must continue to do more."
Tinubu said, "We must decide whether to give the truest meaning to our national motto 'peace and unity' or we allow the agents of destruction and merchants of violence to have their way with us.
"Terrible people and strong forces want to break Nigeria's appointment with its greater destiny. These people have unleashed terror and violent criminality against us.
"By attacking agricultural players across the nation, they seek not only to ravage the agricultural community, but to visit misery on the rest of the nation through food scarcity and food costs that poor people can simply not afford."
He argued that agricultural players could not feed the country and fight the evil actors at the same time, adding, "We must decide whether our farmland and grazing areas are to be battlegrounds, or they are to return to their role of feeding the nation."
He said all Nigerians must join in the pursuit of peace and unity, and the fight against the real enemies of the country particularly "the terrorists and bandits who attempt to pull us apart."
According to the APC leader, "Those who need peace in order to ply their trade must recognise the bigger threat that now confronts them. We can work the differences between farmer and herder.
"However, there is no way to reconcile either with terror or banditry without forfeiting their livelihoods, if not their very lives."
Proffering solutions to the current challenges in agriculture, he said, "First and foremost, good Nigerians must stop fighting each other so that we can present a unified front against the common violent threat.
"Second, in the war against terror and criminality, the nation must protect its ability to feed its people. The military must begin to revise their strategies so that agricultural communities are better protected.
"This will enable higher food production, thereby reducing hunger and poverty. Even with these changes, we also must do better with food security. We must produce more and be more efficient in bringing the increase to market.
"Third, during this moment of food scarcity, we must launch a programme to expand production of food staples. The concept of 'agricultural sustainability' advocates food production in a way that makes the optimal use of existing technical capacities by focusing on the most appropriate genotypes of seeds and livestock for our environment."
The former governor also said, "Here, both state and federal governments must subsidise the restart of agricultural activity interrupted by terror and criminality. These actions will serve to tame food scarcity and price inflation in the short run.
"Fourth, we must improve farm-to-market delivery. Government must invest in improving farm to market transportation networks. This will reduce the amount of wastage and reduce costs by ensuring more food reaches the marketplace and the dinner table.
"Toward this objective of reducing waste, constructing storage facilities for perishable items in important marketplaces across the country would be prudent.
"Fifth, over the longer run, we must battle the consequences of climate change. We must make better use of water and safeguard this finite resource. We must envision water catchment systems to mitigate the effects of drought-and-flood cycles brought about by climate change. Small-scale irrigation projects using technology and equipment that can be maintained by the local farmer are necessary.
"Sixth, development of strong 'Green Wall' to slow the encroachment of the desert is urgently needed. Creation of such environmental infrastructure will provide jobs while also halting the dislocation of people that have been at the centre of much of the farmer-herder predicament.
"Seventh, we must bolster our strategic grain reserves by modernising and building additional grain silos."