FG okays 3-yr agric roadmap

•To deploy civil defence against herdsmen •Hands over federal roads to Kaduna govt

THE Federal Executive Council (FEC), on Wednesday, launched a new agriculture roadmap called “The Green Alternative”, designed to boost food production in the country for self-sufficiency and export.

The three-year plan is an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, alongside Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Al-Hassan, announced this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.

He explained that “The Green Alternative” hopes to, among others, increase agriculture’s share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 23 per cent, share of labour force to 70 per cent, increase agricultural activity mix by 85 per cent in crop production, with a 15 per cent increase in livestock and other non-crops.

It also seeks to enhance the country’s foreign exchange earning capacity through agricultural exports with an intent to grow the agriculture’s share of Non-Oil Exports earnings to 75 per cent.

Similarly, it is intended to facilitate the government’s capacity to meet its obligations to Nigerians on food security, safety and quality nutrition, increase agriculture’s share of the budget by 2.0 per cent.

The minister stressed that the “Green Alternative” was an agriculture  roadmap to guide Federal Government’s policies in the sector over the next three years, with a view to making agriculture the next alternative revenue earner for government.

“This will reverse the trend of heavy reliance on imported rice, wheat, eggs, and other foodstuff into the country, with the resultant pressure on scarce foreign exchange,” he said.

Responding to questions, Ogbeh expressed worries that the activities of herdsmen were inimical to the drive for foreign investment and, therefore, revealed that government had resolved to deploy personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to protect farms and agricultural investments across the country.

He said this was so, because farmers, who were not licensed to bear arms were powerless against AK-47- wielding marauders, unlike the civil defence officers, who could bear arms.

The minister added that government was pressing ahead with its programme of establishing cattle ranches across the states that were willing to accommodate them.

He stated: “I had a meeting with the Minister of Interior. We were looking at security situation in agriculture. Sometime last year, some gunmen went to Olu Falae’s farm, a Nigerian in status, in age and ranking and took him away and marched him around, forced him to trek 10 kilometres, even carried him on their backs.

“Many more farmers are coming in, including foreign investors and they stand the risk of being subjected to this kind of humiliation.

“So, we are talking with Ministry of Interior that we have to put measures in place.

“These things are happening in other countries too, where the civil defence corps may have to train a special department to protect huge investors and investment in their farms for a fee, because kidnapping will not stop.

“From the security point of view, we have to take measures to make sure that people who invest are protected.

“In other countries of the world, you may have noticed that people live on their farms. You hardly see a farmer who lives in the city. He lives on the farm with his family; you cannot do that here. They will come and take you, your wife and children in the name of kidnapping.

“We have to stop it and we have to use the legitimate instrument of state to do it legitimately because the farmer has no right to buy an AK47 to protect himself.”

He said a programme would soon commence in Abuja, to plant good grass seeds to curb the indiscriminate movement of cattle, reiterating that government would not impose cattle ranches on unwilling states.

According to him, “eventually and in the next one year, I hope we shall move most of our cows into ranches and reserves, depending on different terminologies people want to hear.

“Some people don’t want to hear about grazing reserves and government has no intension of forcing anyone to surrender one inch of land. Some states are willing, we shall develop these things in their domain, cows will move in there, there will be given best grass for cattle.

“Most of these grasses contain 18 per cent protein and amino acid, so the cows can feed well, have the good water to drink and give us the best milk and beef.”

FEC also approved the transfer of portions of two federal roads in Kaduna to the state government, following a request from Governor Nasir el-Rufai to fund their rehabilitation without asking for refund.

The roads are the 18-kilometre Nnamdi Azikiwe road (Western Bypass) and the 19-kilometre  Ahmadu Bello Way.

Al-Hassan who briefed journalists on the matter, explained that the state governor requested for the action following Federal Government’s inability to effect prompt repairs of the roads.

The Federal Government urged other states with the wherewithal to maintain federal roads in their domain to emulate the Kaduna State governor.