MINISTER of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, yesterday raised the alarm that some of Nigeria neighbouring countries have become serious threat to the survival of the economy of the country.
Ogbeh also warned the country to beware of the rice they eat that were imported through the Seme and Cameroon borders, alleging that such rice that had stayed about 10 years in the country they were imported from were not fit to be eaten by pigs.
This is just as the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions, Rep Linus Okorie, has expressed worry that Nigeria is today one of the largest importers of food in the world, spending as much as $20 billion annually importing wheat, rice, sugar and fish among other food items.
Speaking during an interactive session with the House of Representatives Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions led by Rep Linus Okorie, the minister lamented that successive administrations, whether military or civilian, had abandoned the sector and depended on oil.
According to him, “the Nigerian elite, either military or civilian, consistently look down on agriculture to the extent that whoever takes interest is looked upon as a failure, it is the destination for the never do wells, it is the place for the poor peasants, for the nameless villager.
“Shall I say that we should thank God that the oil era is over, it is going to cause us stress, but we are a country that react best, when we are under stress, that is what we are and I am glad we all recognise now that we have to eat.
“We depended on $20 billion a year to import food, now we don’t have it. It is time to feed ourselves. I am glad that you, the younger generation, are also taking this matter seriously.
Influx of poisonous rice, weapons to Nigeria
“Some of our next door neighbours have become a major threat for our survival as a country, smuggling across Seme border while the Cameroon border is something that we are going to look into very seriously.
“We cannot destroy ourselves in an attempt to be charitable to others. Too much rice, fish, polluted chicken are coming across the borders and trucks with weapons are coming in too and it seems as if we can do nothing about it.
“Some of the rice coming in today is 10 years old, and it is not fit for pigs to eat. Per boiled rice is not consumed in the Republic of Benin, they eat white rice. Every grain of per boiled rice coming from that border is heading to this country which is about 10 years old.”
Speaking at the interactive session, chairman of the committee, Okorie said despite efforts by previous administration at redeeming Nigeria economy through agriculture, it was worrisome that the nation still spends a capital flight of over N1.3 trillion annually against its inherent potentials.
He said: “I want to point out the precarious and unsustainable state of our current food policy that is anchored on an annual food import of more than N1.3 trillion and the incontrovertible potentials of Nigeria’s agriculture.”
Okorie added that such policies that had defied all known approach to robust agriculture since the 80s despite the nation’s critical population was as a result of a wholesome neglect of research, education and extension system which was a key driver of the sector while regretting that they were being strangulated through policy instability, poor funding, lack of political will as well as obsolete legal framework.
He said the meeting was to build bridges in the critical agricultural sector, noting that what is now needed most is advocacy and awareness for farmers on the modern trends of agriculture He added that the ministry should consider revamping the Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs), while making case for financial autonomy institutes instead of depending on ministries for their budgets.
“The vision of the House Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions in the 8th Assembly, is to be the catalyst of an organized, funded and sustainable Agricultural Research, Education and Extension services sub-sector capable of driving economic diversification and total factor agricultural productivity in Nigeria,” said Okorie.