If words alone suffice, agriculture is to become the cornerstone of Nigeria’s economy. But the country currently does not even have an agriculture policy since the last one code-named ‘Green Alternative’ terminated in 2020. Yet, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has repeatedly claimed agriculture is what it is betting on to stimulate Nigeria’s ailing economy, and contribute towards creating the millions of jobs it envisages.
Apart from attention the sector should be getting, if government rhetoric is anything to go by, the existence or not of a policy would not be a big deal. But this is also the first time in 10 years that Nigeria would be without an agric policy.
In 2011, Goodluck Jonathan, with Akinwumi Adesina then as minister of agriculture, launched the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA). Under Muhammadu Buhari as president in 2015, the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) was launched to cover 2016 to 2020, to consolidate on the already established ATA policy.
However, with rising food prices and struggling agricultural productivity, a policy could have helped give direction to the sector, while also giving confidence to those that would want to consider investing. At the time of filing this report, Nigeria has not unveiled any such new policy.
“There is no clear-cut advertised policy,” said Kabir Ibrahim, national president, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), saying, “The minister of agriculture is not hands-on in how to drive agriculture.” Emmanuel Ijewere, vice president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), also reiterated the AFAN president’s position, saying, “There is no policy” for agriculture at the moment, and this has the sector’s administration in the country rudderless.
BusinessDay learnt a committee was set up early last year to come upwith a new agriculture policy before the old one expired, but so far, that objective has not been achieved. Ibrahim said a former AFAN state chairman who was a member of the committee tasked with ‘fine tuning’ the new policy reported they met only twice and till date there is no final document.
Ijewere said the same thing, noting someone else in the same committee, who described it as an unserious committee that was more concerned with importation of tractors. “Early last year, we started putting another policy together, but the new minister brought in Brazilians for a programme hinged on bringing in tractors from Brazil for money making rather than a policy,” Ijewere said.
A mechanisation programme being promoted by the government is what Ijewere was referring to. This is a $1.2 Billion loan under the Green Imperative project (GIP), an agricultural bilateral project between Nigeria and Brazil that is expected to boost mechanisation and help farmers improve their productivity.
For Ijewere, however, agriculture’s saving grace is not being in the exclusive list, therefore, as the state governments increasingly realise there will be less money from the centre, they have to develop their agricultural potentials. Each state is beginning to set up its agricultural policy, which is a better way to drive the sector than a centrally led one. The implication of Nigeria lacking an agriculture policy as BusinessDay learnt implies the country is not walking its talk in developing agriculture to drive economic growth, fight unemployment, and curb food insecurity.