By Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye
Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo State has recently taken upon himself the role of the official mouthpiece of the present administration at the federal level and has been so vehement in playing up political trump card in his relentless criticism been of every single part of the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, describing it as a dismal failure.
In ‘The Nation’ Newspaper of August 16th, the Governor described the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) as a big scam, arguing that Nigeria was still import-dependent on rice and other foods. Coming from a Governor who prides himself as a progressive and somebody who has spent most of his career fighting falsehood and oppression, his Excellency’s comments was rather deplorable on some counts.
Foremost, it is a bad public relations stunt, not expected from the governor. Secondly, his comments detract from the ATA – a reform that was vigorously pursued and implemented by Dr Akin Adesina, now president elect of African Development Bank. For reasons of safeguarding the economy and strengthening the confidence of the international community in Nigeria, genuine efforts towards ensuring food security and diversifying the economy away from oil should not be subjected to cheap politics as the negative impact that follows such public comments could be to the nation’s detriment.
Governor Oshiomole ought to know better that, under ATA, efficient distribution of subsidised farm inputs – also known as the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS), reached 14.3million farmers with 1.3million MT of fertiliser, 102,703 metric tons of improved rice seeds, 67,991 metric tons of improved maize seeds, 6,171 metric tons of improved cotton seeds, 130 million stems of cassava, 45.5million seedlings of cocoa, nine million seedlings of oil palm amongst many other crops between 2012 and 2014. Those inputs helped produce an additional 21million MT of food that has acted as a buffer against inflation with the devaluation of the naira.
At a time that the nation desperately needs to build upon the achievements of the immediate past minister of agriculture, Governor Oshiomole can only do the Edo people some good by recognising the fact that lending by commercial banks to agriculture increased from 0.07 per cent in 2011 to five per cent in 2014 while banks lent a total of N27.5 billion to fertiliser and seed companies. As the chief executive of a state so blessed with natural resources so highly favourable to productive agriculture, Governor Oshiomhole ought to think rather on how to make Edo more enterprising. In doing so, an area he is expected to be more interested in should be agriculture.
For that reason, Governor Oshiomhole ought rather to be keen on how the intervention that brought agriculture from policy oblivion to a sector that is now widely embraced could be replicated in Edo State within the remaining number of months he has to spend as a governor. He ought to have been asking, for instance, the erudite, resourceful and hardworking former minister, how he was able to achieve so much within so short a time.
If Governor Oshiomhole knows how to play the politics well, he should be thinking of how to leverage on the former minister’s growing relevance at the continental level as the new head of the biggest development financial institution in Africa. He is supposed to be expressing interest in the increased investment in the fertilizer sector totaling $5billion from major companies such as Indorama, Dangote, and Notore. He should have been asking his special assistants to study how usage also rose from 13kg per hectare in 2011 to 80kg in 2014, or how seed companies in Nigeria grew from 11, producing 14,000 metric tons of improved seeds, to 134 companies doing 174,000 metric tons of seeds. How Nigeria become the world leader in the use of ICT to reach farmers directly with farm inputs should be of interest to the governor. He should also be keen to know how the World Bank is trying to scale out this efficient system of ensuring high productivity of small holder farmers across Africa.
It is grossly unfair for Governor Oshiomhole not to recognise that ATA of 2011 to 2014 was Nigeria’s equivalent of the ‘green revolution’ that took place in Asia in the 1960s and 1970s, where new highly productive varieties of rice and wheat, and the chemical fertilisers that helped them achieve their potential, led to a doubling and tripling of yield and self-sufficiency in food for India, Pakistan, Thailand and many other Asian countries. Edo State government has commissioner of agriculture who was a media practitioner, who has publicly praised ATA. The intervention had significant impact on tree crops such as cocoa and oil palm in many farm estates in Edo State alone. In particular, the oil palm value chain made significant impact right in Oshiomhole’s domain, even if he does not know of how, like in Asia, GESS has led to a doubling of yields of rice, maize, cocoa, and a 50 per cent increase in yields of sorghum, soybean, and groundnuts between 2012 and 2014.
Particularly troubling is the fact that a political leader of a State as enlightened as Edo State could feign ignorance at the fact that the number of integrated rice mills, needed to produce parboiled rice, preferred by Nigerians, has grown from just one in 2010 to 24 in 2014. Equally worrisome is he fact that he is unaware that our parboiled rice milling capacity increased from 70,000 metric tons to 800,000 metric tons. His former colleague in Lagos, at some point, had bought as many as 56 trailer loads of paddy rice from Kebbi (a major massive producer of rice under ATA) for processing into ‘ Eko Rice ‘ brand in Lagos. It means Governor Oshiomhole’s criticism is fraught with irregularities.
Realising that the demand for import quality-grade parboiled rice was estimated at 2.5million Metric tons (MT) in Nigeria, the gap in milling capacity prompted the Federal Executive Council to approve a N9billion fund to support private sector companies to acquire nine new 36,000 metic tons per annum factories to further raise the capacity to 1.2million MT, leaving a national supply gap of 1.3million MT that was to be met by controlled imports under the new rice policy. The new Rice Policy, aimed at reducing the amounts of rice imports and instead encourage new domestic rice investments in the nation, has led to new investments in rice production and milling of over N500billion, including N200billion by Aliko Dangote, of which a 200,000MT per annum mill and 10,000 hectares will be located in Edo State. Is Governor Oshiomhole aware of this?
Governor Oshiomole also alleged that the past government frittered away over N800billion on waivers for rice millers and others, killing local rice production and making agriculture unattractive. To set the record straight, the total amount owed to government by rice importers, who imported beyond their approved limit, is estimated at N30billion on the website of the Nigerian customs and in various newspaper adverts, not the wild and concocted figure given by Governor Oshiomole.
It has to be emphasised here again that it was the immediate past Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, that the took up the fight against the erring importers, asking them to pay what they owe government. Dr Adesina addressed a press conference January 12, 2014, where he described the transparent methodology with which national supply gap of parboiled import quality rice was determined and rice import quota allocation was arrived at for deserving rice millers and importers. The same day, the Honorable Minister made a strong statement on implementation of the rice policy that “Every company must follow the rules and there are no sacred cows. The days are gone when they can bribe to get what they want. I will not allow them to scuttle our self-sufficiency drive in rice production. I cannot be bought or bribed. These companies owe government and they must pay for the excess rice they imported above their allowed quota at preferential rate”.
The truth is under ATA, Nigeria has made giant strides towards achieving self-sufficiency in rice. Between 2011 and 2014, a total of six million rice farmers were reached with improved rice seeds and fertiliser and an additional two million hectares cultivated. National paddy rice production rose by an additional 7 million MT and the nation reached 85 per cent sufficiency in rice production. Furthermore, for the first time in Nigeria, rice cultivation is twice a year, in the wet and dry seasons. We have also seen the rise of thousands of small mills fitted with destoners and polishers producing parboiled rice of similar quality as imported rice. With the new investment in large scale rice mills, imported rice will soon become a thing of the past.
The governor may wish to ask the leader of the cocoa value chain, an illustrious son of Edo State, who served under the immediate past minister of agriculture in revolutionising cocoa production, Edo was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the efforts to increase cocoa production base through the free distribution of cocoa pods for raising seedlings in many farms in the cocoa-producing states. In the Oil Palm value chain, a total of 9 million sprouted oil palm sprouted nuts were distributed to 45,353 small and large oil palm estate owners between 2013 and 2015. Additional Crude Palm Oil (CPO) production due to these interventions is projected to be 400,000 MT of crude oil palm which would close the gap of 350,000MT of crude oil palm that is currently being imported. There has been well over N100billion new investment in crude oil palm production in the country.
There are many other major areas of intervention we could make reference to, if space would permit. Nigeria’s agriculture sector has undergone major reforms and transformation in the past three and a half years under the leadership of the immediate past Honorable Minister of Agriculture and President-elect of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina. Governor Oshiomhole would benefit from data originating from the National Bureau of Statistics, showing that the agricultural sector grew by 9.19 per cent (year-on-year) in the third quarter of 2014, up by 2.7 per cent from Q3 of 2013. The agricultural sector grew by 38.53 per cent between 3rd and 4th quarters of 2014, with crop production being the main driver, with a growth of 43.5 per cent. The Agricultural Transformation Agenda has proven to be a well-thought-out policy with great gains for Nigeria.
It was Philip Asiodu, the former super permsec who recently opined that ‘What has killed this country is the refusal of any new government to build upon what their predecessors had done.” If ATA is allowed to continue as conceived and implemented under Adesina, Nigeria could reach an additional 32 million farmers by 2019, up from 14.5million farmers reached with inputs between 2012 to 2014, reaching at least 8 million of unemployed youths. Under ATA, a production of 7.1 million MT per annum of rice paddy was achieved between 2012 and 2014 and could rise to 8 million MT of paddy by 2017. With the new investments in milling, milling capacity could rise to 5 million MT and Nigeria will be self-sufficient in rice production by 2017. It is indeed shameful for a country like Nigeria to import rice
Should ATA continue, cassava processing capacity, currently just below 100,000MT/annum and a bane of the cassava industry, will be raised to 675,000MT per annum by 2019. Same thing with maize production, from the achievement of over 12 million MT/annum in 2014 (compared to 9million MT/year in 2011), we will increase this to 18 million MT/annum by 2019 to accommodate the rise in demand for food, poultry feed, and maize for the milling industry. For Sorghum, we will go from 9.76million MT in 2014 to 13 million MT by 2019 to cater for the increase in demand from the malted sorghum and high energy food markets. We can produce 1.2million MT of soybean by 2019, up from 700,000MT achieved in 2014 (compared to 500,000MT in 2011).
Same for cotton, from 240,000MT/annum in 2014 ( was 125,000MT in 2011) to 500,000MT/annum by 2019, Cocoa production from 350,000MT exported/annum in 2014 to 700,000MT exported/annum by 2019; crude oil palm, production from 800,000MT/annum in 2014 to 1.6million MT/annum in 2019 and Nigeria will become self-sufficient in CPO. We can bring back life to the ravaged north-east of Nigeria if we double wheat production from 240,000MT/annum achieved in 2014 (compared to 80,000MT/annum in 2011) to 500,000MT by 2019; we will be producing some 18 per cent of Nigeria’s wheat demand. The six staple crop processing zones (SCPZs), or centers of large scale crop/livestock production and processing, will be established across the country by 2019, attracting major investment into the hinterlands of Nigeria where food is grown and the majority of our people live. Farm mechanisation will be within 20km reach by the time the planned 1,500 Agricultural Equipment Hiring Centres (AEHCs) become operational.
It is uncharitable and against the interest of Nigerian public to politicise issues of agriculture and food security as Governor Oshiomhole did in his criticisms of that sector. Nigerians know better and will not to allow this governor’s attempt to reinvent the wheel or publicity stunt to derail what is perhaps the most ambitious and successful agricultural blueprint since Nigeria’s independence.
Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, Special Assistant on Media to former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (Dr. Akinwumi Adesina)