The plight of Kebbi farmers

The Kebbi State Government under Governor Atiku Abubakar Bagudu since 29th May 2015 has continued to pay lip service to the real socioeconomic development of its impoverished people who are mainly farmers and pastoralists.

Even worse, the Federal Government’s nationwide Anchor Borrowers Programme aimed at accelerating the production of rice and wheat for economic empowerment, employment generation and food self-sufficiency has clearly been hijacked for purely partisan political purposes.

In a recent brief on the “Programmes and Challenges of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources” signed by the Commissioner in charge of the ministry, Garba Muhammad Dandiga, the state government claimed that between 2016 to date, over 70,000 farmers were supported in rice production and 9,000 farmers in the production of wheat.

For this, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) allocated N17 billion for Kebbi State.

Similarly, a memo titled “Anchor Borrowers Special Intervention” signed by Governor Bagudu and dated 27th March 2017, directed the release of N3 billion to support the CBN-funded Anchor Borrowers Programme.

In it, the commissioner argued that the payment was necessary “to bridge the vacuum of confidence that exists between the state and the CBN.” Government’s own records show that only a total of N274,541,700 was disbursed to the over 70,000 rice farmers as at 2018.

Independent data indicate that not more than 5,000 rice growers benefited from the Anchor Borrowers Programme in Kebbi State.

As concerned stakeholders, we are calling on the Federal Government and the CBN to order an administrative and financial audit into the Anchor Borrowers Programme in Kebbi State.

This critical intervention fund is being exclusively administered by the governor, commissioner for agriculture, the permanent secretary and about seven other handpicked persons outside the ministry and departments of agriculture in the state.

Meetings of the group are held in undisclosed locations and without any formal records.

Farmers of Kebbi state in general would also testify to the neglect of the sector by the incumbent administration.

Following the massive flooding in our state last year that destroyed over 1000 farms, thousands of farmers have been brought to their knees by massive losses sustained without state government relief of any kind.

Our farmers now need these funds immediately to be invested in agriculture as the state government has not supplied a single tractor to any farmer nor assisted in the supply of fertilisers since its inception.

The state also has no single dam or other irrigation facility.

Another questionable agricultural arrangement is the so-called Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Kebbi and Lagos state governments for the former to increase production and the latter to be the off-taker of the produce such as rice, wheat, soya beans, vegetables and livestock.

To date, not a single farmer in Kebbi State has benefited from the deal.

The so-called LaKe rice is just packaged and supplied to Lagos State by Labana Rice Mill Limited.

No farmer was involved or benefitted anything from the MOU.

Kebbi State is endowed with vast amounts of arable land, large rivers and highly favourable climatic conditions suitable for the production of diverse food and cash crops.

Agriculture provides 80 per cent of all employment with the youth constituting the majority of citizens.

There is no option for accountable and purposeful agricultural administration if our state is to achieve its socioeconomic and political objectives and contribute to Nigeria’s food security.

Musa Alhaji Shehu, Chairman, Kebbi State Youth Vanguard, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi state.

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