Agriculture and Rural Development minister, Audu Ogbeh has lamented that the Nigerian leaders and elites pay little or no attention to Agriculture.
Mr Ogbeh said such leaders have even reach the level of having a negative disposition to the sector, stressing that “in fact they despise it” because of the cheap money they get from oil.
The minister therefore challenged the three Universities of Agriculture and other specialised tertiary institutions teaching agriculture to rise up to their responsibilities of producing practical farmers that would boost food production in the country.
He said that the agricultural sector cannot thrive without their contributions.
The Universities of Agriculture are the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, FUNAAB, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State and the University of Agriculture, Makurdi.
Mr Ogbeh who spoke as the Guest Lecturer at the 23rd, 24th and 25th combine Convocation ceremony lecture of FUNAAB, insisted that the universities hold the key to eradicating hunger in the country and ensuring food security.
He also called for the collaboration of the universities and challenged them to do more in producing practical farmers rather than theoretical farmers.
“This university, FUNAAB, along with two others can do a great deal of work in proffering solutions to the problems we have found ourselves.
“The Universities of Agriculture should probably be our most important partner in the Agricultural sector. The Agricultural sector cannot thrive without knowledge; therefore, the specialised Universities of Agriculture were specifically established as knowledge centres of this sector.
“We are concerned with mobilising the youth for Agriculture. The Universities of Agriculture are fertile grounds for the accomplishment of this objective. That is why I have directed that in moving forward, the Universities of Agriculture should review their curricula and grading system to give more weight to practical agriculture rather than more theory,” Mr Ogbeh said.
According to him, Nigeria indirectly imports poverty and unemployment by spending $22 billion annually in importing food into the country.
The Minister expressed the optimism that Nigeria can be the largest producer of food in the world if government at all levels and stakeholders could take agriculture more serious and invest in the sector.
He said it was imperative for all Nigerians, especially the country’s leaders, to pay more attention to Agriculture and stressed the urgent need for academics to engage more in research and innovations that would lead to food security.
He disclosed that his Ministry decided to oversee the supervision of these universities to ensure that they achieve the purpose they were established for.
“I urge the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and other sister institutions in Umukide and Makurdi to take advantage of their reintegration into the Ministry and our agricultural agenda at large and get enlisted as our reliable allies in the Agricultural sector.
“Looking into the future,there are so many things the Universities of Agriculture can do to improve the food situation in the country. For example, the vast portions of arable land left to fallow for too long should now be harnessed for Agricultural Production, either singly or in collaboration with willing investors and other stakeholders.
“One of the problems of Africans is that we don’t pay too much attention to the past, we don’t take too much interest in history and we don’t show concern for the future, we are just living in the moment.
“We are not very good about planning for the future, if we were, we will not be in recession today, we will not have so many unemployed youths, if we were, our railway stations will be working and our health system will be the best and food will not be a challenge, it will be cheap.
“Nigeria has over 50 million hectares of land but we can’t grow our own rice, our sugar, we can’t produce our milk, we import apples, fish, frozen foods and others at a cost before now of 22 billion dollars per annum.
“What we are doing is importing food, importing products, exporting dollars and along with the foods and other products, what we don’t know is that, we are importing poverty and unemployment into our country,” he said.
He pledged his ministry’s unwavering support to the development of the universities.
“We will help you build a dam on this campus, we will also help you develop your Seed faculties and we will also bring some mini tractors which we have just developed,” PM news, quoted the minister as saying.