Stakeholders in the agricultural sector have stated that the federal government's plan to set up farm estates in all the 109 senatorial districts would be frustrated by poor implementation.
Indeed, stakeholders' lauded the initiative but expressed doubts if the scheme would come to fruition, saying that similar programmes have come and gone without seeing the light of day.
In a telephone chat with THISDAY, an agribusiness expert and Director General, Premier Agribusiness Academy, Mr, Toromade Francis, explained that most government policies are laudable, but stated that the implementation is always very weak as it creates an avenue for contractors and implementer to enrich their pockets.
He added: "The policy statements by federal government are always good, but the implementation is always weak because the people who are supposed to implement these policies are not always sincere, but see it as an opportunity to make money. The contractors, the implementer will divert the funds meant for that project."
He continued: "Let me tell you the truth. The reason why we are suffering in Nigeria is because we cannot feed ourselves and we have every facility, we are blessed with natural resources that can make things happen for us to even export, but yet our policy makers are not sincere. If someone is self-centered and they put him in charge of anything, he would first of all corner all what will benefit himself and his family and this the challenge.
"It is a laudable thing to do because when the government is closer to people that is when people can really feel the impact of governance, but my fear is the implementation. You will just hear billions of naira spent, motion but no movement, activity no productivity. The federal government is used to putting square pegs in round holes, they do not reach out to the main stakeholders who will implement these laudable policies. Although, the federal government would think they are trying their best, but their best is not good enough. It is a good decision because the federal government is trying to move closer to the people, but I have just told you my reservation."
On his part, the National president, Agricultural Produce Sellers Association of Nigeria (APSAN), Aloys Akortsaha, said the plan is one of the best things that would happen to the nation's agricultural sector if backed up with effective implementation.
"The issue I have with the federal government is implementation. The federal government will come up with very laudable policies, but at the end of the day implementation will be very poor. For instance, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has a policy to ensure that farmers and dealers are captured and enumerated. The policy was good but the plan to reach over one million farmers has not been achieved. The same with the farm estates, if poorly implemented it will go down the drain like others in the past, "he predicted.
He advised the federal government to always follow up policies with aggressive effective implementation mechanisms.
He stated the urgent need for the federal government to establish a Commission for implementation to ensure that these policies are being effectively implemented, warning that entertaining these issues with levity, would only bring about persistent problems.
"So my advice to the government is to always take issues regarding implementation seriously. It is not all about making political statement, but about implementation. The policy is good but my fear is that just like the other policies, they will not follow it to the logical conclusion. If followed up aggressively by the federal by way of effective implementation, it will be the best thing that will happen to the nation's agricultural sector," he said.
He further stated that State governments are frustrating a lot of federal government programmes by diverting funds meant to develop the sector for other purposes
"I am aware that in one of the States, under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) about N4 billion was disbursed for the scheme and the State Governor had to borrow N2 billion out of the fund. The farmers in the State only got farm inputs, but were supposed to get about 250, 000 in addition to the farm input, but this was defeated because the State government hijacked it.
The way forward is for the federal government to stop going through the State government, but reach out to the farmers directly. This is why we are happy about the enumeration of farmers by the government as it would create opportunity for farmers to be reached out to," he advised.
The APSAN president added: "The federal government must always go straight to the farmers and agriculture stakeholders. It is not difficult to reach out to farmers. They should also strengthen the enumeration of farmers and once the number of farmers and agribusiness dealers are known, the federal government can easily reach out to them by email or text messages not necessarily passing through the State government. The same with the farm estates. If they pass through the State government, the programme would be frustrated and will not see the light of the day and all of us will continue to suffer and not just the farmers and agribusiness dealers, but the country at large."
The president, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabir Ibrahim, said the move by the federal government is timely and germane especially in its quest to attain food security in the country and tackling youth unemployment.
He said: "The policy will lead to two things which are firstly; it will provide an avenue to seek food security sustainably and as well offer employment to the teeming unemployed youths. This is what it will do because NALDA itself has come out to say that they want to recruit about 1000 people from the 774 local governments in the country. So it is a step in the right direction."