Chief Aud Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture, where do we go from here

Chief Aud Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture, where do we go from here

Kazeem Ugbodaga

Nigeria spends a whooping $11 billion (N3.1 trillion) annually to import wheat, rice, sugar and fish, the Lagos State Government has said.

The government disclosed this on Wednesday at a capacity building workshop for Heads of Agriculture, HODs of the 57 Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs in Lagos State, held at the State Government Secretariat, Alausa in Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria.

At the event organized by the Lagos Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Olayiwole Onasanya said Nigeria’s importation rate had become worrisome.

Quoting from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, report, Onasanya over $11 billion was spent to import four consumable commodities-rice, wheat, fish and sugar annually, lamenting that the nation’s food import was growing at an unsustainable rate of 11 percent per annum.

He said relying on import of expensive food on global markets fuelled domestic inflation, adding that excessive imports putting high pressure on the naira is hurting the economy while import dependency is hurting the Nigerian farmers, displacing local production and creating rising unemployment.

Onasanya stated that the Lagos State Government had taken the bull by the horns to boost food production at the grassroots, saying that one way of doing that was to organize capacity building and empowerment for LG staff, increase farm size and productivity, among others.

He said local governments should be involved in the sensitization and awareness creation for state and donor funded projects through existing structures, such as council of obas, among others as well as be involved in the mobilisation and formation of farmers into groups for participation in state and donor funded projects.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, Jafar Sanuth decried that over the years, involvement of departments of agriculture at the local government level in food production had been very minimal.

“This is the right time to synergise so that what is being done at the state level is replicated at the grassroots level to boost agricultural productivity. We need to stimulate primary production and the empowerment of our people to boost food production,” he said.

He charged the HODs to look inward and come up with programmes for the people aimed at boosting food production at the grassroots level.

Director, Community Agriculture, Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs, Dapo Olakulehin said the aim of the workshop was to build capacity of the HODs of Agriculture at the grassroots level in order to bring about diversification of the agricultural sector.

According to him, there had been the challenge of delivery of agricultural services at the grassroots level, which was why the state government decided to build the capacity of the HODs aimed at up-scaling food production at the grassroots.