Argungu Fishing Festival used to be a major tourist destination and a source for revenue to the state; why was it suspended? Argungu Fishing Festival was suspended in 2010/2011, when Boko Haram insurgency made it almost impossible to have the confidence.
So, the then government thought it was important to suspend it until things get better.
But since last year we have got back the confidence particularly in this area.
We are already working with the ministry of information and we are trying as much to avoid the rainy season.
There is also an infrastructure issue like accommodations which have virtually decayed.
But we are also working hard to ensure that accommodation is available and trying as much to make the event as international as possible so that it can attract the widest audience.
Kebbi, Lagos partnership on Lake Rice brand It is quite a splendid programme for the nation at large because what Governor Ambode and I did as a result of this partnership was to go the most enlightened market, which is Lagos market and say ‘here is a Nigerian product promoted by two state governments supported by President Buhari.
Test it and see how it measures up to the competition with particularly the imported rice’.
Fortunately, a lot of people commend it saying yes this is better than the imported rice.
You know, the Lagos market defines the mood of the nation when it comes to national produce and by confirming that the local rice is better than the imported rice it supported the program.
Indeed, Governor Ambode and the Lagos state government in 2016 went to the extent of subsidising the price of the rice so that people can afford it and that has significantly affected the price of rice, because prior to Christmas in 2016, rice in some places was about 21,000 per bag, but last year it came down to 13,000 – 14,000.
The federal government also intervened in order to deliver more rice to the market.
Just recently, I had a meeting in Lagos with the millers and the rice traders association to hear their experience and they all confessed that Nigerian rice is better than imported rice.
We talked about how to make a better supply chain to ensure that it is available all the time.
On the issue of Anchor Borrowers loans The agro-borrowers programme is one designed by the Central Bank of Nigeria and approved by President Muhammadu Buhari across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT can have access to loans based on the models created.
So, for rice, Kebbi state, for example, we were chosen as a pilot model involving 70,000 farmers and because of that we gained a lot of experience.
Registration was an issue because there was no service in some places to register farmers.
Some farmers were patient, sometimes they turn up at the registration centers for three days.
When we started the pilot program, we realised that most input were not available.
For example, you want to give 70 farmers six bags of fertiliser each and we need about 420, 000 bags of fertiliser and as at then the fertiliser available in the market was less than 200, 000 which was a huge challenge.
Ideally, every farmer needs two water pumps and we have 70,000 farmers which were about 140, 000 water pumps.
That was the period when water pump’s price jumped from N17, 000 to N32, 000 and that was when we had fuel challenges where rather than N87, 000, fuel prices were N280, 000.
So, all this affected the model, but the key objective of the model is to increase production of the Nigerian rice and it was achieved beyond imagination that it contributed to the exit of Nigeria from recession in a short span of time.
The second objective was to create employment and it did.
It popularised the belief and energised everyone that we can do this.
Defaulters, and government’s efforts to encourage the CBN Yes! When you are dealing with 70,000 farmers; there are bound to be defaulters, but just like we have been arguing, farmers are business men and this is one of the things we want you to help popularise.
If the farmers face repayment issues just like the company faces occasionally.
What is important is that you should be able to continue.
It is not unusual.
N54 billion is the money made available for the anchorborrowers and we thank President Buhari and the CBN, but it is very little money compared to what is given into other sectors.
For example, when the Assets Management Company of Nigeria was created in 2010, what was it created to do? It was created to take over bank loans from the commercial system.
N4 trillion bank loans were taken and it was not agriculture related.
It was oil and gas, it was share certificate; it was land certificate.
So, spending of N54 billion has resulted in the magic we are seeing in terms of food production.
I think it is a bigger story than the repayment challenges that will occasion in any program like this.
I want to use this medium to appeal to journalists to call for grater lending to agriculture and greater public support to agriculture.
For example, NNPC indicated that the first two months of this year, fuel subsidy alone is about N180 billion, but our lending to borrowers under agro-borrowers program for two and a half years is just N54 billion.
So, we need massive investment in agriculture as countries that have achieved food sufficiency for decades support agriculture, subsidise, and provide different producer supports.
That is what we should do and then farmers should be encouraged to pay, though occasionally some of them might have challenges.
What is important is for financial system to treat them like it will treat other borrowers.
Work with them with concern in order for them to reach their obligations.
Have many hectares are being cultivated in Kebbi? We don’t have the total hectare because under the anchor-borrowers programme too, there are different companies.
There are private anchor companies like the Wacot, Labana, Umza and Olam.
These companies have farmers they are working with.
We know the number of farmers and we know the hectarage of these farmers.
Then there is a state government anchor with the CBN.
The pilot scheme was N70, 000 and now close to 150, 000 farmers are in the scheme.
For that model, it is one hectare per farmer.
So, there you have about 150, 000 farmers just for the state anchor and for the private anchor, it is between 70, 000 to 80, 000 farmers.
These are farmers in the anchor borrowers program.
I believe there a lot of farmers that are not yet in the programme, so we believe no less than 400, 000 hectares are being used for rice cultivation.
Last year, about 1 million metric tonnes of rice were produced in the state.
What is your target this year? There are three cropping seasons in Kebbi.
Two dry seasons and one wet season and farmers produce rice in three cropping seasons.
Now, both people in the anchor borrowers and the ones outside the programme have about 400, 000 hectares under cultivation and if we take the average yield, for those under the anchor borrowers, there are about five to six tonnes minimum per hectare.
There we have about N1.2 million.
For the rest of the farmers not under the anchor borrowers, since they have less yield and we explained that it is about three tonnes.
Now, this year we are talking about N1.8 million tonnes.
How much does rice farming generate for the state? Rice farming contribution to the revenue of the state is very little because our objective is to make our farmers wealthy.
When they become wealthy, the burden on the state is less.
They will be able to afford education and health care for themselves.
So, that is how we measure financial achievement of the state and most importantly it has built better relationship between states in Nigeria; for example, that of Lagos and Kebbi.
We give Nigerians the inspiration that with cooperation we can do a lot of things for our country.
Not surprisingly, Kano joined us in signing an agreement with Lagos.
We are proud that we are the pace setters in this cooperation.
Like I told you the first objective of the program is to give the confidence that Nigeria can do it and I think in terms of measuring value, you are in a better position to measure it.
Rice grows in the 36 states of the federation, including the FCT so everyone can do better.
I have visited many states like Anambra and we have seen new means come up.
We have seen new products being launched everywhere from Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Ebonyi, cross-rivers, Ogun, Imo and of course Lagos because of the partnership.
Just before Christmas last year, confluence rice was launched in Kogi, Nugmuns rice was launched in Ogun, and Imo International was launched in Owerri to join other famous brands like Labana, Umza and Wacot products.
I think that is our first measure of success that it has led to a reduction of importation of rice by ninety per cent.
It is an energised investment because you must notice that even when Nigeria was experiencing depression, companies were investing in rice milling which is a big success story.
Kebbi farmers’ challenges and government’s intervention Well, Kebbi state is one of the most difficult places to produce rice because the water levels are below the farmlands.
As you can see, most of our farmers use irrigation method.
In some states, they use gravity, that is, they don’t use water or oil before their foods ripe.
Our farmers are always buying petroleum and sometimes it is not available at the market.
In some places, they have been buying fuel for close to N300.
However, what we have done as a state government is to make arrangements with some petrol stations to dedicate their outlets to farmers during the dry season and the state government will take care of the loss.
We have met with the state house of assembly and we are going to make it a law because, already, we learn that some farmers have even started abandoning their farms due to this unprecedented cost.
More so, we want to build a dam and we wish the federal government can support us in its standardisation because it is capital intensive and we don’t have the financial resources to do channelisation now but we are working with the federal government and they are very active in exploring ways that will support.
We also are trying various technologies, people have brought solar panels to this place and we are measuring its efficiency so that farmers don’t have trouble with watering their produce.
These are all work in progress.
I am sure we will find a lasting solution to these challenges.
Provision of farm implements and other incentives A lot of rice processing is done by women in this country and we are very particular we don’t want those women to lose their jobs so we have brought machineries to give women processors.
I don’t know who among you have been to Abakaliki rice.
Most of the work there is done by women so part of what we are calling is that this revolution should also make women richer and therefore more machinery investment so that women processors are not removed out of the market as their work doesn’t affect the quality and we are doing some of that in Kebbi.
On out-of-school children Now, the problem for us is hydraheaded.
We have borders with two countries, Niger and Benin Republic.
A lot of these children come from across Nigeria either for Qur’anic education or for economic related activities.
That compounds the problem for Kebbi because we can’t plan for them all.
Secondly, Kebbi state in the North-east has the highest number of internally displaced persons.
Because a lot of farming and fishing activities around Lake Chad is done by Kebbi state people and on coming back, they brought families along who needed shelter and support and because sometimes their stays are temporary, it becomes very difficult to plan for more class rooms.
The measurement of children who are out of school excludes those that are in Islamiyya schools because they are receiving an education and they are literate.
It’s just that the nature of delivery is different from that of the formal education.