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Nigeria: Too many ideas

by Business News Report

Nigeria is a country of 167 million people by the current population estimate. Just as the population is fast growing, so are the ideas of how to grow the economy. Just as every Nigerian is a football coach, so is every Nigerian a development economist. Each person has his/her own idea and whether they are motor park economists or classroom economists, whichever group gets the ears of the powers-that-be has its way. Since the inception of civil rule in the country, Nigeria has articulated about four economic policy agenda. When Obasanjo became the president, he sold to Nigerians the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS). NEEDS became the nation’s policy support instrument on which the International Monetary Fund as is its practice, was evaluating the nation’s economic performance.

Immediately Obasanjo left office, the succeeding Yar’Adua administration, PDP also, came up with the seven-point agenda. The seven-point agenda was hurriedly articulated by an economist at the Yar’Adua corridor of power. Nothing serious was achieved by the policy. In effect, NEEDS was officially dumped by the Federal Government.

 Today, the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan is pursuing a transformation agenda. The transformation agenda being pursued by this administration has not been so articulated to become a working document acceptable to the international community as well as the global financial market. It has not become a working document for which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank can monitor the economy. What it means is that after the Obasanjo NEEDS document was unceremoniously dumped as a working policy document, Nigeria has not had a policy support instrument with the IMF. The question to ask Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance, who also doubles as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is ‘what is the policy support instrument that serves as a working document between Nigeria and IMF?’ This question has become very relevant because as soon as this administration is over, its transformation agenda will go to the dustbin.

 The transformation agenda in itself is noble. What plans are on to ensure that the agricultural transformation being pursued is enduring and will live after this administration? According to the vision of the agricultural transformation agenda, it is set to achieve a hunger-free Nigeria through an agricultural sector that will drive income growth, accelerate achievement of food and nutritional security, generate employment and transform the country into a leading player in global food markets to grow wealth for millions of farmers. The agricultural transformation agenda is designed to make the agricultural sector a business project as against development project to promote private investment in agriculture, to execute integrated projects via value chain processes, generate employment, and transform Nigeria into a net exporter of agricultural commodities.

As part of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s effort to revamp the agriculture sector, ensure food security, diversify the economy and enhance foreign exchange earnings, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development embarked on a transformation agenda with a focus on the development of agricultural value chains. The transformation action plan is focused on key aspects of value chains. They include the provision and availability of improved inputs (seed and fertilizer), increased productivity and production, as well as the establishment of staple crop processing zones. It is expected to address reduction in post-harvest losses, improve linkages with industries, as well as access to financial services and markets. The transformation agenda targets rural communities particularly women, youth and farmers’ associations, as well as improving rural institutions and infrastructure. The transformation agenda sets out to create over  3.5 million jobs from the rice, cassava, sorghum, cocoa and cotton value chains, with many more jobs to come from other value chains under implementation. The programme aims to provide over N300 billion of additional income for farmers. Over N60 billion is to be injected into the economy from the substitution of 20 per cent of bread wheat flour with cassava flour. The initiative will help efforts to be food secure by increasing production of key food staples by 20 million tons – (Rice 2MT, Cassava 17MT and Sorghum 1MT respectively.)

Israel, when it was planning its agricultural revolution, adopted the  system which is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. In 2010, there were 270 kibbutzim in Israel. Their factories and farms account for 9 per cent of Israel’s industrial output, worth $8 billion, and 40 per cent of its agricultural output, worth over $1.7 billion. The agricultural revolution outlived every Israeli administration. As at today, Nigeria’s agricultural transformation agenda with all its potentials has no solid base which future administrations will find difficult to ignore. Is it not possible to mobilize Nigerian farming communities to buy into and own this revolution through communal, cooperative movements?

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