Is Nigeria Is On Its Way To Becoming A Global Food Basket? By Richard Ogundiya

Nigeria is a nation with several endowments, but yet there is still the threat of hunger and extreme poverty which requires urgent attention. In terms of quality and quantity, Nigeria is known worldwide for the production of several agricultural goods such as Cashew nuts, Cassava, Cocoa Beans, Ground Nuts, Gum Arabic, Kola nut, Melon, Millet, Palm kernels, Palm Oil, Plantain, Rice, Rubber, Sorghum, Soybeans, amongst others. The list abounds.

Yet our farmlands perform below expectations due to factors ranging from low fertiliser usage to poor farm management, insufficient financial access and market access. A strong and efficient agricultural sector would enable Nigeria to feed its growing population, generate employment, earn foreign exchange and provide raw materials for industries.

The good news is this: the strategy of using Agro- based industries for accelerated economic growth is slowly beginning to take shape and the Nigerian government, through private sector partnerships and investments is working to enable a strong and efficient agricultural sector to feed its growing population, generate employment and provide raw materials for industries. 

The Agro-allied industry is a collection of companies engaged in a high-scale 
production, processing, and packaging of food with the use of modern equipment and methods aimed at achieving these goals. Just like any other industry, the agro-allied industry has a positive relationship to economic development in 
Nigeria. Several million metric tonnes of agricultural products are exported every year; after a bumper harvest, reasonable amounts of these products get bad each year. A shortage in supply of these agricultural products is created, and the remaining products are sold at low prices in the international market, we then import these products back in a processed format but at higher prices. This practice is not economical, thereby depriving Nigerians of creativity and innovation in adding value to our agricultural products. It has discouraged economic growth and development as well as generated high unemployment rate by empowering foreign based agro-industries.

Nigeria’s ambitions for accelerated and inclusive economic growth are contingent on achieving a vibrant Agriculture sector that can support extensive down-the-line enterprise development and employment. Alongside job creation, Agro-industrial enterprises often provide crucial inputs and services to the farm sector for those with no access to such inputs, inducing productivity and product quality improvements and stimulating market induced innovation through chains and networks, facilitating linkages and allowing domestic and export markets to become mutually supportive.

During a meeting with a delegation of Chinese investors and other officials from the African Development Bank (AfDB) on August 6 2019, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN stated that ‘In line with its commitment to develop a thriving agro-industrial sector, the Federal Government will welcome partnerships and initiatives that would make Nigeria actualize its potential of being the food basket of the world’. Through the African Development Bank, the Chinese investors hope to commence the processes of investing in Nigeria’s agricultural sector under an initiative known as the Agro-Industrial initiative with focus on crop production, forestry, fishery, and livestock production.  

Prof. Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka of the AfFB said the framework of the initiative is to develop a programme that leverages Nigeria’s comparative advantage in key areas of agricultural production. According to him, ‘the overall investment, under the initiative, amounts to between $16 billion to $25 billion over a period of four years with a strong government support and private sector leadership.’

The challenge of feeding Nigeria’s growing population, which is expected to reach 402 million people in 2050, requires new strategies and new multicultural and multisectorial rethinking, capable of generating new forms of dialogue, at different specialist levels, towards a more sustainable use of the available natural and human resources, to ensure food and nutrition security. Agro-industrial development can contribute to improved health and food security for the poor by increasing the overall availability, variety and nutritional value of food products, and enabling food to be stored as a reserve against times of shortage, ensuring that sufficient food is available and that essential nutrients are consumed throughout the year. This new development if implemented well will have a direct impact on the livelihoods of the poor both through increased employment in agro-industrial activities, and through increased demand for primary agricultural produce.

Vice-President Osinbajo believes that the proposed partnership, especially the agro-allied aspect of it will help deliver the kind of growth needed in Nigeria’s agricultural ecosystem. According to him, the FG and AfDB will ensure that the investors have no troubles in setting up and operating their businesses efficiently.

Agro opportunities abound in Nigeria. We have the 9th largest arable land in the world and most of that is still largely untouched. Nigeria’s potentials in this sector are limitless, thus becoming the food basket of the world may sound like a tall order, but it is not surmountable. That lofty goal will depend on how we are able to get high quality inputs, seedling and others, and how we are able to use technology especially the benefits of industrial agriculture to our advantage. Moves seen in the Buhari administration – from its revolutionary Anchor Borrower’s Programme, to other massive unprecedented investments from the likes of Olam to Friesland Campina WAMCO among others – show that Nigeria has left the realm of potential as it makes it way to reality, that indeed we have the capacity to be a global food basket. Consistency of policy and determination is however key to this ambition, else, all would be mere bark, no bite.

Richard Ogundiya is a journalist and researcher resident in Lagos.

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How Buhari’s Social Investment Programmes Are Tackling Poverty, By Richard Ogundiya

Nigeria’s population swells at an annual increase rate of 3.75%, indicating a doubling of the population every 22 years. The World Poverty Index estimates that 46.7% of 197 million Nigerians live in acute poverty and the numbers are still on the rise. Improving quality of life for those under the extreme poverty line, while at the same time caring for peculiar problems of vulnerable groups, particularly children, women, the elderly and youths are challenges which require effective policies as well as focus on sectors that drive development such as health, education, agriculture and entrepreneurship.

Led by Maryam Uwais and Ismaeel Ahmed, the National Social Investment Office (NSIO), which is strategically hosted within the Office of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo provides a sustainable, long-term foundation and responsive national social security system for at-risk population with the purpose of delivering inclusive, pro-poor growth across the country. Since it’s establishment in 2015, the initiative has made significant investments for children, seniors, lower-wage workers and other resistless Nigerians. The rationale is that if families invest money they receive from the government, they will gradually build the capacity to fund petty businesses, farming and attend to other basic needs.

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) released a report in 2016 that showed direct transfer payments of money to eligible people, can show direct growth in the economy, school attendance, health care and dietary diversity. The ODI concluded that cash transfers, when invested correctly, can lead to an increased amount of income in the future and achieve both social welfare and livelihood promotion objectives. There is also a sense of loss of an opportunity to prove something bigger: the radical notion that poverty, long viewed as an intractable policy problem, can be solved by putting money in the pockets of those who have the least. This is what the Conditional Cash Transfer seeks to do.

For some, N5,000 may not seem too exciting but to many Nigerians under the poverty line, it is a great sum of money to keep things moving. The National Cash Transfer Programme is designed to deliver timely and accessible cash transfers to beneficiary households and build their capacities for sustainable livelihood. This scheme is predicated on the idea that poor people, not governments or nonprofits, know what they need best. Rather than enrolling them in complicated social assistance programs that presume the kind of help they need, basic income trusts people to make their own financial decisions.

To ensure beneficiaries establish a sustainable means of livelihood before graduating the programmes, they are continuously supported and mentored to form savings groups and cooperatives by trained Cash Transfer Facilitators in every local government ward, who pay them weekly visits to provide capacity building on life skills and basic financial knowledge. Since January 2016, 394,430 vulnerable households have been paid in 25 states, including households in Internally Displaced Camps in Borno.

The National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) is a government-led school feeding programme that aims to improve the health and educational outcomes of public primary school pupils. It uses farm produce locally grown by smallholder farmers to provide children nutritious mid-day meals on every school day. The program aims to improve the enrollments in primary schools and reduce the current dropout rates estimated at 30% and also address the poor nutrition and health status of many children who have been affected as a result of poverty; it has also affected the learning outcomes of the children. At the start, the federal government set out to feed 5.5 million pupils but its successful implementation has broadened the vision and the numbers are currently at 9,817,568 pupils. As part of the value chain, NHGSFP also empowers 106,074 cooks and provides sustainable income for small holder farmers, thereby stimulating growth and productivity around the communities in 32 states.

Of all the initiatives under the NSIO umbrella, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) is the most fascinating because of the role it plays in stimulating the economy from the grassroots. Under the Bank of Industry (BOI) supervision, the Programme aims to provide micro-lending to 2.5 million small traders including farmers, women cooperatives, market women, agricultural workers and entrepreneurs. MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni loans range between N10,000 and N350,000 with a 6 month loan tenor and a moratorium of two weeks. In many cases, the tenor can be extended depending on the nature of the business. What makes it more captivating is that no collaterals are involved but BOI charges a 2.5% and 5% administrative fee which is used to finance recruited agents and aggregators who make sure that all loans are recovered when due. MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni has funded 330,568 women, 1,712 farmers and 1,805,171 traders respectively, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to 2,136,911 Nigerians.

The overall success of the government’s social investment scheme is still very much dependent on the collection and use of data to improve the target structure and effectiveness. The National Social Safety Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO) uses ‘Poverty mapping’, ‘Community based Targeting’ and ‘Proxy Means Test’ as methods of validating payment basis for grantees. These techniques provide authentic data that helps the government identify the poorest in local governments and rank households according to their means, thereby eliminating the more affluent in the actual payment exercise. As of now, 1,132,675 households comprising of 4,531,118 individuals from 32 states have been documented and paid, with women leading the curve at 50.8% engagement.

When poverty strikes, it must be met with an equal strike at the very least. At the very best a counter-strike must double the dose. The strength of its blow is when it is left unmatched. India bragged once as the world’s poorest country. That status is no more today. Why? Because the Indian government put in place, structures, programmes and targeted policies that were aimed at tackling the menace of extreme poverty facing its population. They worked. Now Nigeria stands atop the list – not because it did anything, but largely because it did nothing. Now an ambitious Buhari administration seeks a reversal of this shameful status through its Social Investment Programmes.

With over 40 Million Nigerians who have benefitted in one way or the other, and two million Nigerians who have ben lifted from the claws of extreme poverty, Buhari’s social investment programmes have taken on the fight to poverty’s doorstep. Victory is in the offing.

Richard Ogundiya is a journalist and researcher resident in Lagos.

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Why Nigerians should beware of Fani Kayode’s obsession with Osinbajo

It is no longer news that for Femi Fani-Kayode to remain relevant in Nigeria he has resorted to insulting Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and this has given him the illusion of the relevance he sought especially at a time even members of his own party see no more value in him. 

Femi has been following his father’s footsteps by fighting against the real Yoruba interest and  person of Prof Osinbajo, who many see as one of the shining lights and a beacon of hope in this present government. What cannot be doubted is that Yemi Osinbajo is everywhere going about his national duties, working tirelessly for the good of the nation even with his limited constitutional powers as the vice president.

The main grouse of people like FFK is that the VP has a trustworthy and cordial relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari. And for this reason he is saddled with the responsibilities that are deemed by many as beyond his constitutional powers.

These are major responsibilities which many a former vice president has never handled. How many times did Atiku had to bear the blame for the perceived errors of Obasanjo while they were in office? Or Jonathan bearing the burden of Yar’Adua’s mistakes? Who ever blamed Namadi Sambo for the many undoings of President Jonathan? Yet for people like FFK, it is the man who is clearly ahead in integrity, character and competence who must be attacked and brought down, even when the buck don’t stop at his desk!

It has been argued that the renewed onslaught against Osinbajo is because of 2023. FFK and such political opportunists and sophists are focused on the VP because his character, integrity and popularity threatens their 2023 aspirations. Who knows tomorrow anyway?

On the kidnapping of clergymen, Femi Fani-Kayode should know that Pastor Adeboye and Prof Osinbajo were as bothered as the rest of Nigerians and as leaders with integrity; they immediately swung into action using their spiritual and political capacity to call for the rescue of the abducted pastors. If Mr. Fani-Kayode did not have an ulterior motive and had he waited even 48 hours he would have been celebrating the rescue of these pastors and other Nigerians that were abducted. Actually the pastors abduction was reported on Friday and by Saturday they were rescued by the Police. But unstable characters FFK were already attacking Osinbajo no sooner the abduction were announced.

Pastor Enoch Adeboye demonstrated a good example as a leader in the body of Christ by asking Nigerians and Christians to pray for their release, even while the security agencies continued their search and rescue operations. Unlike the rabid rabble-rouser utterances we have read from Fani-Kayode on various media platforms.

Femi Fani-Kayode is very crafty in whipping up religious and ethnic sentiments, as he encourages people to behave violently or aggressively, twisting even the meanings of passages in the Holy Scriptures, always for his personal political advantage. He has been out of power and the money that come with it. He is thus on a mission of survival, albeit in a most fatal approach of slandering Osinbajo who is seen by progressives as a true ‘Omoluabi’ and hardworking man.

How do we clearly ascertain those pastors were even kidnapped by Fulani Herdsmen in the first place, when investigation is still on? Just some days ago a four-man Yoruba gang was caught in possession of 10,000 live ammunition in Ibadan.

The same thing was just reported in Osun State where a roberry gang terrorizing Ikire axis in the State met their Waterloo when they were rounded up by local vigilante and were handed over to the Police. Surprisingly, they all dressed like Fulani but they were in fact indigenes of Ondo and Kogi States.

We as positive Nigerians should not continue to point fingers, when we should be working together to overcome our security challenges rather than fuel prejudice and ethnocentrism as a nation with different religions and languages.

Recently, Femi Fani-Kayode had to publicly apologize to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over his  widely publicized allegations, wherein he had blatantly accused the EFCC had raided the home of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen. The commission would later threaten to sue him for defamation, describing him as a purveyor of fake news.

However, in a very rare acceptance of the humiliation brought upon himself by his regular unguarded utterances, Fani-Kayode would later apologize for his earlier comment but petulantly insisted that some people actually searched the CJN’s home. Many public analysts agreed the bravado was just a mere face-saving attempt after getting burnt. FFK had also insinuated that Onnoghen’s bank accounts had been frozen by agents of the Federal Government.

Unity in diversity should be Nigeria’s strength. There should unity in every corner of Nigeria which will be our strength. Finally, anyone that has gone through Chief Remi Fani-Kayode’s rascal antecedents in the Nigerian Politics during the NPN, should know by now that Femi Fani-Kayode is a real son of his father. Hence the public should beware of his antics, Femi FaniKayode once said that  President Jonathan’s government is a bad omen to the country, but thereafter he decamped to the PDP to join people from the same bad omen.

Oladele Peter writes from Ile Ife, Osun state

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Kiki Osinbajo: The Sins Of Having Influential Parents, By Opeyemi Eniola

Life itself is a continuous process, why the essence of having children if not to train them to be useful to themselves, the family and the nation. One would quickly come to the conclusion that life is not run of the mill. Meanwhile, in this part of the world, especially in this era of ours, the political atmosphere has taken another dimension; the players and actors of politics have successfully built hatred across ethnic divides, religion and even lasting segregation between all social classes.

We have different parents who have different beliefs about the modalities of training their children to be successful. In 2019, while contesting for Nigeria’s vice-presidential seat, the Peoples’ Democratic Party Vice Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi said his two graduate children did not own cars.

Obi said he had trained his children to be self-reliant, adding that he had chosen not to join people who crave primitive acquisition.

According to a publication on Punch newspaper on January 3rd 2019, Obi said “I have two graduates who are working, a boy and a girl, and the two of them don’t own any car because they haven’t made enough money to buy a car.”

“They were here for the Christmas, and I was talking to some people about them and the person said he saw my son and that he always jumps on buses and tricycles.

“Some people don’t like it that way. They believe I am rich and that my children should not be trekking, and that they should be provided cars.

“But I believe they do not have the money, so they have to trek.

“Who will give them cars — is it me? My money is my own; so, they should work for theirs.”

The famous business man turn politician, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, once had a fierce financial competition with his son, Kola, who claimed to be richer than his dad.

Folarin Falz Falana, the son of prominent activist and legal luminary, rose to the top of his music career even without getting the blessings of his parents at the initial stage. Chief Femi Falana, SAN, while addressing young Nigerians, admitted that his son wouldn’t have gotten what he gets in a day for a monthly salary in his chambers. What about the daughter of Femi Otedola, DJ Cuppy and many others?

Every parent’s dream is to see their child(ren) do better to beat their records in their respective career choice. One beautiful thing about the present African bred is that they have taken the present in their hands irrespective of their background, not being over reliant on their parents.

Then who sees the wrong in Kiki Osinbajo’s Strive?

Recently, I read a publication on the daughter of Nigeria’s vice -president, and I appreciate the fact that she was not caught living a lavish lifestyle, but rather built a niche of her own. One wouldn’t have expected less from the daughter of a Pastor, a Professor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and of course, the black most populous nation’s vice president.

Kiki narrated how she built ‘Glam’d Africa’, her fashion brand, despite the challenges of being “born with a silver spoon”.

Kiki could have chosen to remain silent and pretend it is not her outfit, but she wanted every young African to learn from her actions and strive to be great, especially for the children of the rich who rely solely on their parents.

Kiki said: “I may have been born with a silver spoon, but no one can say I don’t work hard. A few years ago, I decided to start my own business and, now, I look back and wonder what I was thinking. Turning somewhere into my own little empire,”

While exalting the youths, the daughter of Nigeria’s vice – president said:

“I urge emerging talents and entrepreneurs never to give up on their dreams irrespective of how daunting and unachievable they might seem at the onset.

“Never give up on your dream no matter how big and unreachable it seems. People feel those in the limelight can do anything. Everyone’s circumstances are different but we all have our own challenges,” she wrote.

“Going through the fear and adding criticisms or the burden of nay-sayers makes it even harder. Don’t let your challenges define you, let it fuel you.”

I have just a question for those that aren’t proud of Kiki’s achievements; how many of you would want your children to fail? Because most tantrums thrown is just hatred attached to politics or the phenomenon of having a “well to do” background.

Having parents that are rich or influential is not an excuse not to surpass their achievements, it should rather be a solid foundation to greatness.

I appreciate Kiki for being a good model of an African child and I also congratulate the Osinbajos for this great gift to their family.

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Global Food Basket: A Journey Of Abundant Economic Wealth, By David Chigaekpebi

Nigeria is blessed with a huge amount of arable land and currently boasts over 100 million heads of livestock and with the emphasis that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have placed on agriculture, it is not surprising that it is receiving huge investments in this sector.

Recently some Chinese investors were in the country upon invitation by the African Development bank (AFDB) and met with the Vice President looking to invest heavily in Agro related businesses. This in turn would address the food security and eventually transform Nigeria into a global food basket.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo while receiving the Investors said the Federal Government will welcome partnerships and initiatives that will make Nigeria actualize its potential of being a global food basket. “Nigeria is constantly aiming to advance agricultural technologies to boost plant agriculture and livestock sectors so as to contribute to food security globally.”

Despite Nigeria’s huge investments in its oil & gas and mineral resources, agriculture still forms a big contributor of the country’s economy. With Nigeria no longer over depending on oil for its economic development, the vice president has taken a great step to focus on agriculture and agro-businesses, thereby extensively creating more employment opportunities and ebbing away poverty in the country.

It therefore means that this wave of new business suggests a profoundly encouraging investment climate for investors. Strategically positioned to trade with surrounding nations, Nigeria henceforth will be increasingly noted as an investment destination and ‘’Global Food Basket’’ as stated by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.

Amidst such developments, it seems that agribusiness investment opportunities in Nigeria will now be as rich and diverse as the land itself.

Blessed with plentiful sunshine and rainfall, access to the fertile plains surrounding the life-giving River Niger and its tributaries, Nigeria’s rich soils yield a vast array of crops, such as yam, beans, rice, maize, millet, other cereal grains, vegetables and fruits, including lemons, mangoes, grapefruits and oranges. Rivers within the country are also abundant sources of fish.

In the drier northern region livestock farming is the most prominent activity. An estimated 100 million heads of different animal species – namely cows, goats and camels.


Undoubtedly, if these and further investments both exterior and from within can be obtained, the country is on track to be a major contributor to the global food basket and the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo has surely embarked on a journey of abundant economic wealth for the people of Nigeria.

David Chigaekpebi, an agro-enthusiast writes from Nnewi

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Bola Ahmed Tinibu And His Commonsense Revolution, By Ayekooto Akindele

PDP rigged 2003 Election so much that some states had bulk figures that never tallied with collated figures from polling units till date. Even, the son of INEC Chairman then was contesting election under the PDP.

But if you think 2003 was bad, 2007 was worse, it was written and results were declared before election ended. People were on the queue when they heard, from their transistor radio, the results of elections they were about to conduct. Alas!!!, Obasanjo was reckless when it comes to brutal power. 

But then, Tinubu decided to challenge the status quo.
It was a suicide mission for a mere Governor who just finished his tenure to challenge the Supremacy of the PDP, he would be crushed beyond minimum recognition. But someone has to reject this impunity and free the rest of us from OBJ’s imperialism!!! Jagaban entered the Ring!

In doing so, and knowing the dangerous game of power, having seen how Abiola was killed in detention and how Obasanjo ‘inherited’ him(Imagine), how Ige was murdered in his bedroom and how PDP took over SW, how Adesanya was shot many times, with his car riddled with bullets, Jagaban decided to embark on a Revolution that is permitted by the law. He consulted Lawyers of immense knowledge, elders and peers from near, far and very far…… He challenged the PDP and 2007 election at the Tribunal.

Just like when Noah was building the Ark, people laughed at Jagaban, wondering the kind of joke he was cracking. “You have won Your Lagos, why don’t you just hide your head. PDP machinery will crush you”…. 

Tinubu didn’t just fight for AC alone, he also helped LP of Mimiko. He brought thousands of witnesses to court, he brought Forensic Experts from London and America. It was a massive revolution that took away Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun away from the PDP. Unprecedented!!!!

PDP fought back with maximum venom. They removed the powers of Court of Appeal as final destination for Gubernatorial elections and gave it to Supreme Court, by this, they hoped, no one would be able to stop their rigging again.

They removed the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Ayo Salami. They docked Jagaban himself on allegations of Code of Conduct. They said he had Foreign Accounts. Investigation revealed that the foreign account was opened when he was working in Mobil and now dormant with less than 200 dollars in it….Jagaban never operated a foreign account as a Governor. Case dismissed!!!!

That is Democratic Revolution and Price was paid, and the Prize was won for all progressive Nigerians. 

All these little children must realize that you don’t need to do press ups, run kilometres and engage in physical training before you can drive a Car, all you need is the knowledge and skill to drive. Learn from those who know the way and stop your foolish blabbing.

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Femi Fani-Kayode Has Gone Naked Again! By Comrade Ben Abdul

Since Chief Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation was ingloriously ousted from corridors of power, the only thing he merchandises in order to remain politically relevant is his usual macabre dance of shame that accompanies his mischievously crafted ethnic and religious war songs. One was therefore not surprised that Chief Fani-Kayode converted the story of five Nigerians who were reportedly kidnapped in Ijebu Ode, to a means of drumming religious and ethnic war.

When Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently said that stories about kidnapping in Nigeria are overtly sensationalised and exaggerated, it appears he had the likes of Fani-Kayode in mind. When one subjects the introduction of Kayode’s vitriolic aspersions to logic and facts, his intention and degree of desperation becomes more obvious and glaring.

In his bid to transform the abduction story to a religious affair, Fani Kayode, without fact-checking, reported that “no less than five pastors of the Redeemed Christians Church of God (RCCG) have been abducted in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State” even when the latter media reports quoted Pastor Enoch Adegboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christians Church of God, to have said that only one cleric was actually abducted.

While the identity and status of those kidnapped do not reduce the weight of the incidence, is it not unfortunate and ridiculous that Fani-Kayode, a lawyer and a former Minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria has unjustly hyped the incidence by according it a religious connotation in order to draw needless attention? Indeed, Fani-Kayode has gone mad again, for only a mad man goes to the market square with his hands serving as a cover to his balls without feeling naked!

The killings across the country, either by terrorists, bandits and herdsmen, is condemnable by every right-thinking Nigerian, but reducing the crisis to a religious or ethnic war like Fani-Kayode is notorious for, will do this country no good. Taking the advantage of the security situation to exalt self by undeserving elements like Fani-Kayode is not only unpatriotic, it is uncharitable.

Fani Kayode is an expert of tomfoolery; he mobs sentiments to subtly press and spark ethnic and religious hatred among suspecting Nigerians. In the article titled “Abduction of RCCG pastors, slaughter of Catholic priest and a word for Adeboye, Osinbajo.”

Kayode buttressed pointless argument arising from an incident that has been meticulously orchestrated by the haters of this government to compel the mentioned man of God to unwillingly react to a circumstance designed by evil men to give a government that is making frantic efforts to upturn the security situation in the country.

Insecurity has both local and national dimensions; a threat in any part of the country is a sure threat to our collective existence. Thus, fragmenting insecurity to ethnic and religious codes, undermine government efforts in addressing the situation.

The reckless speed with which Fani-Kayode gives religious colour to abduction that has nothing to do with religion suggest that he detests peace and prosperity of this nation. In many of his posts on social media, he had attributed most of the security challenges to a particular ethic group, the Fulani. He fails to remember that Fulani, just like every ethnic group in Nigeria, are not monolithic in composition.

No doubt, there are good and bad Fulani. To achieve peaceful coexistence among various ethnic and religious groups in the country however, efforts must be made to exorcise the good ones from the bad ones without necessarily demonising a particular ethnic group or religion.

The life of every Nigeria counts to the government of President Muhammdu Buhari and his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, have taken an oath to preserve the sanctity of lives of all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or place of origin.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no doubting the resourcefulness and reliability of Osinbajo in helping to steer the ship of nation building under the leadership of President Buhari in times of peace and in times of turbulence as they often happen.

It’s no exaggeration, too, that Osinbajo remains one of the most cerebral Nigerians to have occupied the position of Vice President within the context of the country’s embrace of democracy. Although a Pastor and a Christian, he has a firm belief of one Nigeria. He stands for all, despite our diverse religious and ethnic proclivities. Expecting him to do otherwise through low-priced antics is the highest level of madness.

Comrade Ben Abdul writes from the Federal University, Lokoja

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Atiku’s Unrelenting Appeal To Emotion: A Gambit Doomed To Fail, By Femi Adesina

First, it was laughable, now it gets progressively pitiable, to see and hear efforts by presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, appeal to the emotions of Nigerians, particularly members of the judiciary, perchance it would influence decision in the ongoing legal tussle over the result of the presidential poll.

When the Supreme Court recently pronounced the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate as due winner of Osun State gubernatorial contest, Alhaji Abubakar, a former Vice President, had chided the court, saying it should have considered “the pulse of the nation,” and reflected it in the judgment.

That was when the jigsaw puzzle began to fall in place. Were most of the challenges in the country being orchestrated by hidden hostile hands, who think such would influence the judiciary, which would consider the so-called “pulse of the nation” in arriving at judgment on the presidential poll?

Before and after the Osun State judgement, the PDP candidate had always been quick to play up negative developments in the country, the latest of which is the tendentious story by Wall Street Journal, alleging that about one thousand Nigerian soldiers had been recently killed by Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa terrorists, and secretly buried by Nigerian military authorities.

The military has duly countered the story, educating the Wall Street Journal on the hollowness of its publication. But Alhaji Abubakar has quickly weighed in on the matter, as part of his gambit to whip up emotions, and perhaps get the judiciary to reflect the “pulse of the nation” in its judgment.

According to the PDP candidate, who lost the last February poll by nearly four million votes, as released by the electoral umpire, he could “not fathom that in the space of a year, scores of great patriots were killed and buried secretly without their families being told.”

In an apparent afterthought and doublespeak, he added that he was hesitant to believe that “such grand scale of deceit is even possible under a democracy, such as Nigeria is expected to be.”

The above, rather than mitigate Alhaji Abubakar’s position, gives him out as someone who denigrates the country’s democracy, which he was part of building, in his heyday, before unbridled ambition blinded.

Yes, soldiers fighting insurgency and terrorism are great patriots. But the same can’t be said of anyone quick to believe any negative story about his country, however fictive and lacking in verity as the story could be. Well, except such person had the motive of whipping up negative sentiments and emotions, so that the judiciary could respond to the “pulse of the nation and reflect it.”

We have told Alhaji Abubakar and his co-travelers that the judiciary would always come to conclusions, drawing from matters of the law placed before it, and not sentiments or so-called “pulse of the nation.”

Therefore, in vain does anybody labour to devalue the government  and its military, thinking it would fall into a grand plan to get into office through artifice. The campaigns and elections for 2019 are long over. The country has moved on. And those who know it actually know it.

Femi Adesina

Special Adviser to the President 

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Re- Aisha Buhari Right On NSIP, By Justice Bibiye

The leadership Newspaper article with the caption ”AISHA BUHARI RIGHT ON THE NSIP” published on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, represents nothing but a hatchet job executed in the guise of investigative journalism to smear the image of an unquestionable character in the person of Mrs Maryam Uwais MFR.

It is becoming clearer that those opposed to sound reforms that insist on strict adherence to best practices in the implementation of the National Social Investment Program NSIP have intensified their hate campaign aimed at provoking a transition that could pave way for a new dispensation which might be favorably disposed to processes that encourage shady deals at the NSIO.

At a time when there is seeming vacancy in most public offices, one is not surprised at such antics by a few desperate people who would go to any length to secure appointments or government contracts to satisfy their selfish interest. But what is mind boggling is perhaps the fact that Leadership, one of Nigeria’s leading National dailies, could allow its medium to be used by detractors to propagate outright falsehood with the evil intention of tarnishing the reputation of a highly respected Nigerian who has over the years maintained an unblemished record in both private and public practice.

Basic media concepts presuppose that a good piece of journalistic work must be guided by certain key elements including objectivity, fairness, accuracy, balance and factuality. Unfortunately, Leadership Newspaper sacrificed these ethical considerations on the alter of mediocrity just to protect a narrow interest.

It is, therefore, sad and most regrettable that such wild allegations against seasoned government officials who have exhibited strong character, diligence, integrity, honesty and transparency in their service to the Nation could be fabricated and made public without any concrete evidence to back up what we consider a hoax. How can a supposed investigative report, which ideally should be an outcome of in depth research, draw hasty conclusions based on hearsay?

It is also pertinent to reinforce the fact that Mrs Maryam Uwais, a brilliant lawyer and human rights activist was among credible Nigerians called to National Service to help drive the change Agenda of the APC government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari .

In 2016, Mrs Uwais was sworn in by President Buhari as the Presidential Adviser on Social Investments. By virtue of this portfolio, she automatically took charge of the National Social Investment office NSIO, which coordinates all components of the Social Intervention Programs of Government. The NSIO is domiciled in the office of the Vice President, who has strictly supervised the implementation of the SIPs since inception three years ago.

Unlike some public officials who see government appointment as an opportunity to feather their nests and serve personal interest, the appointment, for Mrs Uwais, was a rare privilege to effectively deploy public resources to a project that was borne out of genuine concern for the poor and most vulnerable people in the country. The ultimate goal of the program is to close the poverty gap in the country through financial inclusion for rapid economic growth.

To ensure that those in whose interest the Program was designed feel the impact of the social intervention initiative, Mrs Uwais upon assumption of office, put in place structures as well as instituted reforms aimed at promoting transparency, probity and accountability in the execution of the SIPs. The outcome of this laudable leadership approach is evidenced in the outpouring of testimonies by those whose lives have been transformed positively by government’s social safety net schemes.

Millions of Nigerians have been taken off the poverty line due to smooth and transparent implementation of the SIPs, which remain a major success story of the current democratic dispensation.

The NSIO, under the supervision of Mrs Uwais was structured in manner that eliminates all forms of sharp practices, corruption and abuse of due process in resource distribution to beneficiaries or award of contracts. The program execution template set by Mrs Uwais while she was in office as Special Adviser on SIP places the NSIO, which she directly coordinates in a position where it cannot award contracts or make payments directly to beneficiaries or contractors. Till date, payments and contracts award are done by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning with several local and international institutions and groups, including the World Bank, working as partners and monitors of the program. Indeed, the template placed to safeguard transparency appears to have incensed certain individuals, who were unable to access the funds or provide favors to a privileged few, is the primary reason why some individuals appear intent on replacing Mrs Uwais with one of their own. Change never comes easy.

To say that Mrs Uwais has manipulated the process for selfish interest is rather unfortunate and a disservice to a woman who has devoted her time, energy and intellect to the service of her father land.

It is important to state that the National Social safety Net Project NASSNP is a World Bank Assisted initiative. What this implies is that its execution and implementation processes and procedures must follow laid down guidelines of the World Bank known for operating in line with International Best Practices. One would then wonder how a single government official could influence the World Bank to compromise its work ethics by recruiting an “unqualified ” official to occupy a sensitive position in a project it supports.

Mr Apera Iorwa who succeeded Mr Peter Pakpa as the Coordinator of the National Social Safety Net Office got the job after meeting the necessary requirements of the NSIO and World Bank for that position. Mr Apera came first amongst those who applied and got interviewed for the job, otherwise the World Bank wouldn’t have accepted him as the National Coordinator. He is not a stooge of the former Special Adviser, neither was he brought in to carry out any hatchet job for anyone as alleged in the Leadership report.

The report alleged that Mr Peter Pakpa was frustrated out of office because he refused to, among other things, compromise the World Bank Procurement due process, which according the reporter was not in the interest of the former SA. The same report also claimed that Mrs Uwais, with the help of some World Bank Staff foisted Mr Iorwa on NASSCO. The question Leadership and its sponsors should answer is: How possible is it for the World Bank to assist in bringing on board an “unqualified” candidate to replace a senior government official who had refused to undermine its guidelines for procurement?

The allegation that Mr Iorwa prefers to work with consultants instead of career civil servants holds no water as recruiting consultants to perform specific tasks for government is a routine practice which does not breach any public service rule. The NASSCO Coordinator made this clear in his response when contacted to react to these bogus allegations.

According to him:

“The Federal Government of Nigeria appreciates the fact that there might be certain skills set that might not be readily available within the civil service; and in such instances, consultants could be employed to fill such gaps.”

Regrettably, the falsehood being spread by Leadership Newspaper and its cohorts runs contrary to reports by the various independent monitoring groups beaming their searchlights on the SIPs.

For instance, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a Non-Governmental Organization which is working with six other NGOs and over 500 monitors has been monitoring the disbursement of the Abacha loot after it entered an agreement with the Federal Government to do so. The group after its review dialogue summit in May this year, reported that disbursement of the funds under the National Conditional Cash Transfer Program NCTP has been successful.

It further states:

“Spot checks had been conducted on 30,778 beneficiaries relating to funds disbursed in the August-September payment cycle in 11 States, with the exercise spanning over a period of two weeks. Findings are that 78% of the respondents reported receiving the base amounts of N5,000 (Five Thousand Naira Only), whereas only 20.4% had not been paid, for sundry reasons. The funds were however, fully accounted for. Furthermore, 96.4% of the beneficiaries interviewed confirmed that they were satisfied with the grievance redress process, even though delays were reported in the feedback timeline, in a few instances.

Recommendations for further improving the processes were included, and ANEEJ commended the excellent cooperation and working relationship between the Office of the Vice President (through the National Social Investment Office), the Federal Ministry of Justice and civil society, which had contributed to the high level of transparency in disclosure, in line with the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) principles and commitments. This was a welcome departure from the past experiences, in respect of efforts at monitoring assets recovered in 2005 and 2006….”

Another report published in June 2019, by Action Aid Nigeria, one of the independent groups monitoring the NSIPs also confirmed the huge impact the various components of the Program is having on the beneficiaries.

“ActionAid Nigeria acknowledges that the N-SIP contributes in addressing the problems of out-of-school children and youth unemployment in Nigeria and knows the programmes are impacting on the lives of Nigerians albeit at different levels. We believe more Nigerians can be reached if the voted funds are released, because the intentions are good and commend the highly competent technical staff of the NSIO led by Mrs. Maryam Uwais for the job done so far. Based on our experience, the National Social Investment Office listens to feedback from the CSOs and many other stakeholders, that is why AAN is happy to be part of the process and encourage all Nigerians to take interest in how the programmes are being implemented in their locality….”

ANEEJ and Action Aid Nigeria reports align with the recommendations of several other independent monitoring groups that have been following the implementation of the SIPs since 2016.

Expectedly, detractors would not take cognizance of the success stories emerging as a result of the professional and transparent approach adopted in the management of the Social intervention programs in the last three years. They have instead, chosen the path of shame and dishonor to pick holes even in areas where there is resounding success.

But the consolation for those being persecuted unjustly is the fact that TRUTH is like LIGHT which will always PREVAIL over DARKNESS.

Justice Bibiye is the communications manager at the National Social Investment office NSIO.

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Maryam Uwais The Driving Force Behind NSIP, By Mustapha Solagberu

As the campaign for 2019 general elections kicked off, the ruling All Progressives Congress had an arsenal, one that they would eventually use to garner votes and win the election.

These weapons shaped in the forms of the various schemes of the NSIP’s have been well oiled serviced and managed by none other than Maryam Uwais, a quiet achiever who as the head of the Social Investment Programmes in Nigeria, has managed to lift millions of Nigerians above the poverty line.

Ms Maryam Uwais who hails from Kano State was not given the position of SA to the president on NSIP matters on a whim but rather her vast experience and a high commitment to getting the job done has stood her in good stead in times past and made her choice for the position a relatively easy one.

Ms. Uwais, is a respected lawyer with over 30 years experience. She was a member of the; Kano State Almajiri Committee, African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of Children, Principal Partner of Wali Uwais & Co law firm, Special Reporter on Child Rights, member of the Editorial Board of Thisday Newspapers, Non-Executive Director and Member of Board of Directors of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC and former Central Bank of Nigeria staff.

All these past experiences have led her to achieving quite a lot at NSIP within a short period of time. Some of these achievements include but are not limited to;

Reducing the number of Out of School children

The number of out of school children in Nigeria was growing astronomically before the 2015 general elections. Increasingly, pupils lost interest in schooling mainly because they simply could not meet the minimum required nutrition coefficient to learn adequately.

To stem this tide, the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme was established. Even though the Federal Government voted the sum of N500 billion for NSIP, the programme only received the sum of N100 billion between 2016 and 2017. With that, the programme recorded about 6.8 million direct beneficiaries, with additional 1.75 million secondary beneficiaries comprising cooks, farmers and the Poor and Vulnerable Household members under the coordinator, Ms. Maryam Uwais.

Curbing the menace of unemployment

The Federal Government of Nigeria designed the N-Power Programme to reduce youth unemployment. Its focus was to provide young graduates and non-graduates with the skills, tools and livelihood to enable them advance from unemployment to employment, entrepreneurship and innovation.

N-Power targets Nigeria’s critical needs in education, agriculture, technology, creative, construction, tech and artisanal industries.

Under the leadership of Maryam Uwais, 526,000 Nigerians who were hitherto jobless have been employed under this scheme and tablets stored with various skills acquisition trainings for further knowledge acquisition. And the government is projecting one million beneficiaries annually in the second Phase.

Alleviating the poorest of the poor out of poverty

A large proportion of the Nigerian population lives below the poverty line, so in order to provide a safety net for the poorest households and encourage asset acquisition for poor households and promote financial inclusion and stimulate productivity, thereby reducing poverty, the NSIP under the leadership of Ms. Maryam Uwais captured extremely poor people in the National Social Register where about 872,700 poor households across the states were paid being paid #5,000 monthly under the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (NCTP).

Lenders of last resort

TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni microcredit products scheme have generated quite a significant amount of buzz and national conversation. Zero collateral loans, ranging from N10, 000 to N300, 000 are given to MSMEs operators, as part of poverty eradication efforts.

In the first phase of GEEP, about 500,000 market women, traders, artisans, farmers across all 36 States of the country and the FCT have been paid representing 56% women beneficiaries

Lately, the wife of the president and the former SA had a face off regarding the NSIP stance where the first lady claimed the initiative had failed to reach its intended beneficiaries or at least in Adamawa State and also postulated that “The SSA to the president on social investment is a lady from Kano and I’m sure that my husband decided to put somebody from Kano because of their population and the political impact it made.

But this could not be further from the truth because Adamawa state alone has recorded 30,785 beneficiaries of the N10,000 TraderMoni (interest-free loan) scheme, an estimated 11,000 N-Power graduate beneficiaries who are receiving the monthly stipend of N 30,000, 167,853 school children are being fed in 1,054 public primary schools in the state and 16,859 households are benefitting from the Cash Transfer Project. Ms. Maryam Uwais surely deserves some accolades after these strides which clearly counter the first lady’s statement.

A lit candle they say cannot be hid, and the SIP figures of 526,000 N-power beneficiaries all over the federation, a successful unprecedented 9,638,773 NHGSFP Beneficiaries, 304,476 CCT Beneficiaries and 1,705,932 GEEP Beneficiaries all point towards great stewardship on the path of Ms Maryam Uwais.

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Why Nigeria Needs To Implement The National Livestock Transformation Plan, By Richard Ogundiya

Not too long ago, news about the Ministry of Agriculture’s proposed ‘RUGA Settlements’ broke, evoking outrage sparked by tribal and religious sentiments that fueled misconceptions, debates and misunderstanding of what the program was set to achieve.

The nomenclature seemed to be part of the problem: Ruga is a Hausa word that means “a Fulani settlement”. With a raging sentiment founded on ignorance and ethnic division, an internal form of xenophobia, against the Fulani ethnic group, more or less because President Buhari is one, the term Ruga it seemed would not fly in many parts of the country. Yet the concept, though inchoate, if well thought-out, planned and deployed was aimed at placating clashes between herders and farmers. Herders and their cattle are accused – and most times rightly so – of illegal grazing activities on farmers’ farmlands. This has been scientifically blamed on environmental and demographic forces, especially desertification caused by climate change and population explosion. The proliferation of small and light weapons in the intense competition for land and resources have further aided criminals and marginalized groups to capitalize on the conflicts; thus there has been the consequent rise in cattle rustling, kidnapping, armed robbery, insurgency, rural banditry and ethnic militia. Given that host communities (including farmers) have access to sophisticated weapons, minor disagreements or provocation often degenerate into violent clashes causing widespread destruction of property and human casualties.

According to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI, 2018), nearly 1,700 violent deaths have been attributed to clashes between herdsmen and farmers between January and September 2018, six times more people than those killed by the terrorist group Boko Haram in that same year.

Land scarcity, the over use of resources, and climate change have dried up fertile land in many parts of Northern Nigeria which the Fulani have historically used for grazing, driving many of these pastoralists into other states inhabited by farmers; crop yields of Nigeria’s middle belt and southern-based farmers are threatened due to the increased presence of cattle roaming on farmlands. The Fulani herders are mostly ascribed the Muslim identity, while the farmers are predominantly ascribed the Christian identity, seamlessly adding a religious dimension to the conflict over resources. These farmers, especially those in the southern parts of the country perceive the influx of “Muslim” herders as an Islamization drive. Hate speech has also become an accelerator of violent conflicts alongside the phenomenon of fake news worsening its negative impact. As such, the insecurity and unavailability of land in both Nigeria’s northern and southern states has the long-term potential to disrupt the country’s agricultural and livestock economy.

But it has always been a looming crisis. Back in 1965, the Northern Region Government created a ‘Grazing Reserve System’ with over 417 grazing areas across the north. Under this structure, the government provided space, water and vaccinations for the livestock while the herdsmen paid taxes in return. However, the discovery of oil and subsequent exploration made Nigeria an oil rich economy, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s spawning an abandonment of the project. As a fallback, herdsmen began to resort back to their traditional and seasonal grazing routes which had been interrupted by industrialization, urbanization and other natural factors marking the beginning of a decades-long conflict between farmers and host communities. Till date, these clashes have been on the increase and now constitute one of the major threats to Nigeria’s national security.

As part of measures to end the persistent friction that has claimed lives and properties, states like Benue and Taraba began enacting legislations prohibiting open grazing within their borders. This, they hoped would reduce the risk of herdsmen destruction of farm lands and the associated attacks causing displacement and loss of many lives. But little or no progress has been made; while the clashes seem to rear its head every now and then.

The contest has thus created 2 key gaps in Nigeria’s agricultural practice – first, an inability to meet domestic food requirements and second, an inability to export at quality levels required for market success. One of the Federal Government’s approaches to curb this dilemma and protect lives as well as the nation’s food security is the development of the National Livestock Transformation Plan, which many still confuse as RUGA. [ Recall that the Ruga Model Settlement was suspended by the President, as it was said not to have been in accordance with the already approved plan by the National Economic Council, the National Food Security Council and the Federal Executive Council’s National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP). It was also a unilateral implementation by the Ministry of Agriculture.]

The NLTP commissioned by the National Economic Council which Vice President Yemi Osinbajo chairs is a blueprint that will support and strengthen the development of market-driven ranches in the livestock ecosystem for improved productivity through breed improvement, pasture production, efficient land and water capacity enhancements. The scheme seeks to provide a similarly conducive habitation for nomadic herders and those who rear livestock using a private public partnership model for its set up. It is designed to create a basis for leading agribusiness companies to emerge along the lines of Brazil’s JBS, The USA’s Perdue or the Sino – American Smithfield. Most importantly, the scheme will, to a great extent, stop the spread of violence and insurgency in the affected regions, by simply keeping herders away from the farms of farmers. It potentially would aid significant boost in Nigeria’s agricultural productivity, a sector that currently employs about 38% of the total working population and accounts for a large share of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is killing two birds with a stone; restore peace in the region and create more wealth for the those in the line of farming and livestock business.

Contrary to speculations, NLTP benefits all involved, from the farmers to those in animal husbandry and not just cattle herders; with no intent of enforcing the project on any states, as states are not just at liberty to adopt, they are expected to develop their own home grown plans for implementation. The FG’s Plan is to settle them in an organized place with basic amenities like schools, hospitals and veterinary clinics, thereby adding value to meat, diary and other animal products. The project is voluntary for all 36 States, with options of presenting their unique delivery mechanisms according to their respective challenges. To be clear, while a number of states in the conflict zones will receive high levels of attention, the purpose of NLTP is to catalyze a transformation in livestock production systems across Nigeria in a defined and effective manner. However, the process will continue to require an expansion of the role of private capital and investors, accelerating the rate of formation of small and medium sized enterprises and improvements in overall condition of doing agribusiness.

Recent estimates puts Nigeria’s livestock population at 19.8 Million cattle, 43.4 Million sheep, 76 Million goats and 213 Million poultry, all under traditional pastoral management – the reason our productivity is amongst the lowest globally. Thus the need for commercial ranching models for a country with 250 million people by 2030. Nearly 60 percent of the ruminant livestock population is found in the country’s semi-arid zone and mostly managed by pastoralists. Domestic production of livestock products is far below the national demand, resulting in large imports of livestock and its products. The annual expenditure on food exportation amounts to USD 3-5 Billion annually putting pressure on the National foreign exchange with milk importation alone amounting to USD 1.3 Billion per annum. Except for eggs, the domestic production of animal products is less than half the demand for beef mutton and goat meat, while for milk and pork products it is less than quarter the demand.

The livestock industry development is constrained by low productive breeds, inadequate access to feeds and grazing lands, lack of processing facilities, low value addition and technical inputs in the management of the animals, diseases and conflicts.

The NLTP’s agenda is to to create new opportunities for farmers and provide more affordable and healthier diets for future generations. Managing this growth also requires a complex institutional response that can stimulate income and employment opportunities in the rural areas, protect the livelihoods of small farmers, improve resource-use efficiency at all levels of the value chain, minimize negative environmental and health consequences, and ensure adequate access by the poorer sections of society to the food they need to live healthy lives.

NLTP plays an integral role in revolutionizing how livestock farming is practiced and its effect on the nation’s economy, social well-being of its citizens and huge export capacity. Its implementation strategy identifies five main pillars as priority areas: Conflict Resolution, Justice and Peace, Humanitarian relief, Human Capital Development and issues on Gender, Youth, Research Information and Strategic Communication.

As the decades old conflicts between farmers and pastoralists surface and resurface every now and then, a sustainable solution must be designed, one that equally looks at the big picture that caters for the economic opportunities that come with pastoralism and husbandry, while also developing the needed human capital for the long term. This is what the National Livestock Transformation Plan ultimately seeks.

The needless sentiments that followed the RUGA scheme must be put aside as the Federal Government looks into the implementation of this programme alongside willing states. Ethnic, tribal and bigotry-defined points of view must be set aside to accommodate the NLTP’s long-term solution. Needed stakeholder consultations have been made through the National Economic Council, with input from traditional rulers and relevant stakeholders of cattle breeders and farmers associations. It is expected that Governors and these stakeholders carry the message of peace, reconciliation and development that the NLTP brings to their states and their local communities to ensure there is understanding and buy-in of it before acceptance. This is where Ruga failed. Nigeria needs the NLTP as much as it seeks peace, stability and development.

Richard Ogundiya is a journalist and researcher, and writes from Lagos.

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RUGA Settlements: Our Hope, Our Fear, By Gidado Yushau Shuaib

Incontrovertibly, the recently suspended Ruga Settlement project was an initiative of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. The rationale behind such project was to help eliminate the age-long practice of open grazing of cattle by Fulani pastoralists, which has been the cannon fodder for farmer/herder clashes.

Shortly after the announcement of the program, different shades of opinion sprout into the open, with some believing that it was a deliberate effort by Mr. President to favour his Fulani ethnic group. Just as others saw the move as leeway for the president to compensate the rampaging bandits or more commonly tagged as ‘Fulani herdsmen’, because he shares the same ethnic lineage with them.

These Fulani herdsmen are so criminalised to such an extent that the recent killing of Mrs. Olufunke Olakunrin, the daughter of Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of the Yoruba socio-political group was linked to them. Such development generated a lot of controversies across Nigerians with different persuasions. Colossal of these allegations was the one shared by the brother to the late Olafunke for claiming to have been reliably informed that attackers who shot his sister were Fulani herdsmen.

However, the police commissioner, on the other hand, had said that the attack was carried out by bandits who came to the road and fired sporadically at motorists. From the foregoing, Fulani ethnic group seems to have become an endangered species. Aside from the fact that most security challenges have been blamed on Fulanis, anytime a herd of cattle is sighted roaming the streets of our towns, the submission by many people, especially on social media, is that these people do what they do because their brother is the one at the helms of affairs.

What a blatant misrepresentation! As far as I am concerned, the people don’t give a hoot who the president is. They only are concerned about where to locate a greener pasture. If we must tell ourselves the truth, in as much as these people remain, wanderers, no amount of misrepresentation or stereotyping can change the lot of these Fulanis.

Truth be told, the Ruga settlement project is impressive but the mode of delivery and the time of the project was wrong. I mean, why should the government introduce such an impressive policy when the atmosphere is well charged with mutual suspicion, Fulaninisation and Islamisation agenda claims?

Similarly, failure on the part of the government to provide a holistic document to explain the Ruga policy and its benefit received a backlash. The denial by Professor Yemi Osinbajo, saying his office has absolutely nothing to do with the project, and is not under the supervision of his office, was also unwholesome. 

The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Umar, had attempted to shed more light on the debacle, but it seems that these words have been falling on deaf ears. Mr Umar was quoted as saying: “It is one project that will help to take them away from our streets and stop them from wandering in the bush. And in the next five to ten years, you will never see a nomad moving about, wandering or kidnapping. And this will help to address some security challenges we are contending with now.”

The perm sec’s verbiage never dropped down before various socio-cultural groups started coming out to express their displeasure with the programme. They described the establishment of cattle-rearing settlements for herdsmen as a move to colonize the country.

Another reason why the Ruga kite did not fly is that the nation is now fragmented along ethno-religious lines, a situation which will make it difficult to build consensus around important things that matter for our socio-economic progress. Also, the realisation that the Ruga settlements will cater for the livelihood of herders, while neglecting farmers, who many believe are the main victims of the conflict between both groups, has also elicited scathing condemnations from the majority who unabashedly opposed the idea.

I think the call for the suspension of Ruga project stemmed from the age-long rivalry with farmers. While herders are feeling relieved from troubles of farmers, farmers are however feeling cheated by the program because they own the lands. As expected, Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue and Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku of Taraba state were the first to reject the move for setting up Ruga settlement in their states. This stemmed from the fact that the indigenes of this states are predominantly farmers, who could not stand the sight of settler-herders in their states. 

By and large, I want to believe that it is only an incurable optimist would have concluded that debates on the project will not assume a regional, religious and ethnic dimension, right from the outset. In the meantime, it behoves on the Federal Government to go back to the drawing board, re-strategize, brainstorm and redesign the sacred objectives they seek for the programme. They should be clear-cut visions, not ones that will be greeted again with an unmitigated uproar. Otherwise, the project will be dead on arrival whenever it is relaunched in the sooner or later future.

Gidado Yushau Shuaib, the editor of  The News Digest, can be reached on giddyshuaib@gmail.com

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