Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state has urged Nigerians to protest against the Federal Government’s granting of waivers and concessions for the importation of items such as rice and cement, which he describes as frivolous. Nigeria spends about N1.3trn to import rice, sugar, wheat and fish annually but considerable efforts are being made by Nigerian businesses to ramp up local capacity , and many industry watchers consider it counter- productive to continue wholesale importation of the items.
Governor Oshiomhole said: “Let Nigerians rise up and interrogate their leaders in Abuja, if and when they hear that Abuja has granted waivers and concessions to import rice and cement and even sugar, because there is clear evidence that significant investment is being made to shore up domestic production capacity.” He added: “My worry is that every day in Abuja, there are people going about and whose only business is to peddle influence. They go round seeking one waiver or concession for one importation or the other.
“They have built warehouses all over the place for imported items. It is time to prohibit the granting of waivers and concessions for the importation of these goods,” he said.
Oshioimhole spoke at the state’s agriculture summit, shortly after remarks by Agriculture Minister, Akinwunmi Adesina, who had made a brilliant presentation of the revolutionary work at his ministry and for which he received a prolonged standing ovation.
Oshiomole announced that Edo state had begun a programme of offering free land to large scale farmers and entrepreneurs, backed by state funded road projects to open up rural communities, with the aim of facilitating the movement of people and produce. Nigeria, with a population of over 160 million, is endowed with over 279 billion cubic metres of surface water but strikingly, the country has only 40 per cent of her total arable land under cultivation and even this is done sub-optimally.
Wanton neglect of agriculture by government over the years has meant that Malaysia, which took its first palm seedlings from NIFOR near Benin City in Nigeria, now accounts for $18 billion or 40% of the annual global trade in palm oil and by-products, with Nigeria at an abysmal 5-8%.
Successive governments in Nigeria enthroned what many have called a perverse relationship, where the billions poured into fertilizer procurement by the government rose astronomically while rural poverty shot up at the same time, aided by an incredible level of corruption and graft. Adesina described Nigeria’s neglect of agriculture as “a prodigal spirit that is both economically unsustainable and politically dangerous.”
His solutions, “treat agriculture as a business, integrate food production, focus on the entire value chain via public and private partnerships, use agriculture to create jobs and have the state governments unlock the massive potential in their regions.”