By Suleiman Umaru
Given the inflationary rate in the country caused by the increasing cost of food items President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General has urged Nigerians to embrace farming as a way to solve the problem of the biting hunger and high cost of food items in the Nigerian markets.
The Katsina state born President who may have seen the gains in faming as he had dolled out two Cows, 20 bags of rice from his Farm and N1 million, to members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, in the state, who had paid him a visit in his country home of Daura, to mark the Eid Kabir celebrations.
The Nigerian President may have taken advantage of the NYSC members visit to speak his mind on the need for Nigerians, to embrace farming in order to return the country to its lost glory.
The retired Army General had told those that cares to listen that’’ his administration was paying off handsomely and that the people are not regretting it’’ because of the huge profit that is accruing them yearly. He had informed Ato Hailemariam Dessalegn Boshe, the Ethiopian former Prime Minister, who had paid him a visit recently at the Presidential villa, Abuja, that his Administration Policy that Nigerians need to go back to the Land as petroleum may no longer sustain the economy, particular, with the fluctuating prices, in the international oil market has’’ paid off’’.
The Presidential Economic Advisory Council, PAC, had notified him at the early stage of the Administration, that ‘’only 2.5% of the nation’s arable land is being cultivated leaving 97.5% fallow. Buhari had said that with the Return to Land policy of the government between 2015 and now that Nigerians embraced farming , the people ‘’eat what they grow and thus, have stopped the importation of major food products , such as foreign par boiled rice, Foreign Poultry products, wheat Flour, fish, among others .
The National Bureau of Statistics , NBS, had reported that prior to the Return to Land policy of the Buhari Administration in 2015, the government spent billions of dollars on food imports alone. Godwin Emefiele, the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, who was said to have opened up had said that the import bill was N7.9 billion but had fallen to $1.9 billion.
According to the CBN governor, Nigerians now produce the basic food Commodities such as wheat flour, fish, milk, palm oil, pork, beef, and poultry products including rice, sugar, which were initially been imported into the country but have stopped over the last four years to protect the local farmers.
Figures released in 2019, by the United Nations, UN, Food and Agricultural Organistaion, shows that rice production in Nigeria has increased from an annual average of 7.1 million tonnes between 2013 and 2017 to 8.9 million tonnes in 2018 and has continued to increase. Recall that in November 2018, the governmenthad spent $165 million in subsisidising local rice production.
Although, the Buhari led All Progressive Congress, APC, government had stopped the importation of Sugar into the country over the last four years but had bowed to pressure from both official and unofficial quarters to grant importation License to Companies that have queued into the Federal government National Sugar Master Plan to encourage and incentivize Sugar Refining Companies in their backward integration programme for local Sugar production.
An the instance of the Nigerian Presdent, the CBN had lifted the ban on Sugar importation into the country but restricted it to Dangote Industries, which has Alko Dangote, a Multti-billionaire business mogul as its President, BUA, which has Abdul Samad Rabiu, as its Chairman, Golden Sugar and Flour Mills, a Multinational Company Chaired by John G.Coumantaros and Paul Mionmide Gbededo, a Nigerian, as its Vice Chairman, which are already in the business.
The Katsina state born Nigeian President may have used the opportunity of the members of the NYSC, visit to him in his Daura country home on Tuesday, July 21, 2021, greet him during the EID Kabir celebrations to drum the need for Nigerian to go back to the land in order to sustain the economy.
But the high level of insecurity in different parts of the country of the country, particular the north east where the Islamic Fundamentalist Group, BokoHaram and the Islamic State of West African Province ,ISWAP, are frustrating the Farmers with their frequent attacks and forcefully taking away their produce to feed their fighters in their camps, thus preventing many of them to go back into farming.
The situation is not different from what is happening in the north west states of Zamfara, described as home of the armed Bandits, Kaduna and Katsina, the Nigerian President home state and Niger,Ibrahim Babangida , a retired Army General and former military President, where the farmers are afraid of gong to their farms for fear of being attacked by the armed Bandits.Last November the Late Abubakar Shekau, led BokoHaram, had at one time killed 78 farm workers in rice fields near the village of Zabarmari in Borno state.
Aware that no amount of preaching would force the hundreds of farmers and other potential Nigerians interested in becoming Commercial rice farmers as obtained in the Asian countries of India, Thailand,Pakistan as well as the North American country of Vitenam, where there are so many of them, the retired Army General was said to have directed the security agencies chiefs, particular, Farouk Yahaya, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, COAS, and Usman Alkali Baba, the Inspector General of IGP, ‘’to work more closely with the Communities to create a more friendly environment for Farmers , across the country.
Appealing to the security agencies personnel to be more ruthless in dealing with the north east geopolitical region based BokoHaram and ISWAP, insurgents and the Bandits operating in the north west states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, and which have spread their operations to Kebbi, Sokoto, the Caliphate state and the north central state of Niger, he disclosed that ‘’it is the only way to ensure harmonious relationship with the Communities so that they can glean intelligence’’.
Not that in the Zamfara state alone, Dosara Ibrahim, the state Commissioner for Information had said that there are more than 100 Bandit Camps and with over 30,000 fighters, terrorizing the state and beyond. This may have informed why he had directed the military to flush out the Bandits in the region to restore confidence in mind of the farmers to return to their farms without any fear of harassment. The fallout was that in the last three weeks, the Isiaka Oladayo Amo, An Air Marshal and Chief of Air State, CAS, has mobilized his air men on a regular day and night Surveillance Reconnaissance to fish out the Camps of the Bandits, bombard them in order to support the ground troops.
The Sunday, July 18, 2021, bombardment of the Bandits between boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna states, which left many of them killed may have forced them to fire intensely on the Nigerian AirForce, NAF, Alpha fighter Jet,forcing it to Crash somewhere in Kaduna state but Bayomi Dairo, a Flt. Lt. and the Pilot had successfully ejected from the aircraft to avoid playing into the hands of the Bandits.
Note that the Pilot had finished raid of the Bandits Camps before it came under intense ground fire from the Zamfara Bandits that crashed it. That much was confirmed by Edward Gabkwet, a Commodore and NAF, Director of Public Relations and Information. Worried by the news of the NAF Fighter Jet crash, which was facilitated due to the intense firing of the p aircraft by the Bandits in their counter-attack must have informed why Buhari had said that Lucky Irabor, a General and Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, and the other military service Chiefs must do all it takes ‘’to flush out the Criminal killer gangs in the north west states of Zamfara, Kaduna and his home state, Katsina as well as the north east states of Borno and Yobe, to restore confidence to the farmers.