PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, Monday said that the past three years of his administration has witnessed great turbulence and that the country’s need for critical job-creating sectors that had been abandoned in the past has been revived and has started yielding results.
The President also stated that the arable land the country is blessed with is meant for farming, grazing and forestry, adding that any strategy for land and water management must take cognizance of the interconnectivity of all the aforementioned key sectors to ensure equity and sustainability.
Speaking at the inauguration of the newly constituted Food Security Council at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa Abuja, President Buhari said that his administration introduced the Social Investment Programme primarily to help those that were living from hand to mouth.
He said, “Two weeks ago, I announced my intention to establish and Chair a Presidential level committee that focuses on Food Security, I am happy that today it has become a reality. “Nigeria’s journey in the last three (3) years, has been a very turbulent one. The country’s need for critical job creating sectors which has been ignored for decades is now beginning to yield results. “As we all know, land is use for farming, grazing and forestry, Water is used for irrigation, livestock sustenance and fishing.
Therefore, any strategy for land and water management must take into account the interconnectivity of all these key sectors to ensure equity and sustainability. “We introduced the National Social Investment Programs targeting millions of Nigerians who are living from hand to mouth. We launched agricultural programs focusing on import substitution, job creation and rural development thereby bringing socio-economic transformation to the millions of citizens living in some of the most remote rural parts of our country.
“We commenced the long term Pollution Remediation Projects in the Niger Delta with the hope of restoring dignity and normalcy to the millions of Nigerians impacted by decades of pollution in their communities. Fishing and farming will resume once blighted areas are rehabilitated.
“We intensified our participation in the Lake Chad Basin Commission with the goal of reversing the shrinkage of the lake, which impacts the livelihoods of over 45 million farmers, herdsmen and fishermen in the LCBC countries.” Continuing, the President said, “We issued the first ever green bond that will act as a catalyst for investments in renewable energy and afforestation projects. This was oversubscribed, sharing market confidence in the country and our Government.
“We established the Agro Rangers Unit within the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps to protect the billions of naira of investments recorded in Nigeria’s agricultural sector across the country. “We continued to equip the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to fight maritime criminals such as pirates and sea robbers who adversely impact offshore and inland fishing activities in our waters.
“These programs and many more, have started yielding results and if sustained, will transform the lives of millions of Nigerians across the country. “We are well aware that the full results will not be felt or seen overnight. The journey is long. It is therefore our collective duty to ensure the actual and potential positive impacts of these programs are sustained, improved and expanded.
“A key mandate of the Food Security Council is to continuously assess and enhance these infant, but impactful programs, thereby guaranteeing they achieve their full potential.” He said government will develop new programs and projects that would protect and indeed, create more jobs in farming, fisheries, animal husbandry and forestry.
He said, “As we all know, land is use for farming, grazing and forestry, Water is used for irrigation, livestock sustenance and fishing. Therefore, any strategy for land and water management must take into account the interconnectivity of all these key sectors to ensure equity and sustainability.”
He said the administration will not lose sight of the other issues that would impact on food production ambitions such as population growth, urbanisation, industrialization, rural infrastructure development and climate change. President Buhari said the factors will also stress and stretch land and water resources, adding that through that means, the country must invest in research and development to enhance yields and outputs. He said, “Moreover, we are not insulated from Global and Regional events. Accordingly we develop local programs, but not lose sight of events from a far and their impact on us. Specifically, issues such as smuggling and dumping, which is our responsibility to ensure we develop and enforce strategies to protect Nigeria from these illegal and unhealthy imports.
“The Council includes Governors representing the six (6) geopolitical zones. Some geopolitical zones have similar Eco climatic conditions. The council is therefore a platform to further enhance the collaboration between the Federal and State Governments. We shall share success stories and collaborate to address common threats. “We will also engage key stakeholders representing the core sectors of the Food Value Chain. Regular consultations will be held with investors, development partners, financiers, academia and our friends and allies abroad.
“Our deliberations will look into all the issues and our decisions will be implementable and impactful. We shall stay focused, first and foremost on securing our food requirements and employment for our people, especially the youths. We shall feed ourselves and build an inclusive Nigeria for ourselves and for future generations.” Briefing journalists after the inauguration, Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, said the president had captured the main objectives of the council to include strengthening all existing policies on food security including policies on trade, agronomy, national planning and national security.
He said the design was to bring all states together to deliver food security to Nigeria. Also briefing, Delta State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who said governors were drawn into the council from the six geo-political zones of the country, added that each governor spoke on food security as it affects his zone during the inauguration and that in the last few years, a lot had been done on rice production which he said had reduced the amount of money hitherto spent on rice importation and that the trend had given confidence that in no time, Nigeria would be self-sufficient in rice production.
He listed challenges confronting rice production in Nigeria to include influx of rice through the borders which he said needed to be addressed. He also said the council discussed the need to develop oil palm plantations and spend a lot of money on wheat production with a view to achieving food sufficiency.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, who also briefed said the military was aware of security challenges facing the nation and listed such challenges to include: farmers/herders clashes and militancy, which he said all had direct effects on food value chain. Submitting that the job of the military is to ensure that a safe environment is guaranteed for food production, Olonishakin listed measures put in place by the armed forces to achieve such a safe environment to include operations lafiya dole, nawase in Niger Delta, sarendaji in North-west and safe haven in Jos, North-central.
The Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, said the newly inaugurated council looked at all dimensions of food security including the amount of money invested in food production and industry value chain and that the council would look at the comparative advantage emerging from these and also provide incentives aimed at encouraging local production as well as its sustainability.
The Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, said the inauguration of the council marked the beginning of a paradigm shift in the economy of Nigeria and that the decision of the president to personally chair the council marked the commencement of the framework meant to take Nigeria from a monolithic economy to a diversified economy.
He said the council would address issues bordering on agriculture and national security, emphasizing that everything that will guarantee the security of the nation in all spheres is encapsulated in the council adding that the council is absolutely being supported by governors brought into the council. Also speaking, the Minister of State for Environment, Malam Usman Jubrin, said climate change would be on the front burner of the pursuits of the food security council, explaining that if Nigeria must move forward, issues bordering on climate change must be addressed especially as they affect agricultural activities including pollution in the Niger Delta.