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Bago’s Drive: Ending Northern Insecurity through Agricultural industrialization

On December 9, 2023, Premium Times published an article by Lade Bandele that provided an overview of “how China
brought 800 million people out of poverty
” by means of farming. One of the most important aspects of the Chinese approach to reducing poverty—which Nigeria ought to take note of—is the need to intentionally design national development policies with the goal of reducing poverty as their defining concern while simultaneously promoting industrialization in a way that speeds up economic activity and raises income levels.These are in addition to inclusively delivering well-targeted programmes for the impoverished.

Prior to the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria, the agricultural sector, which produced 64.5% of export revenue and an average of 57.0% of GDP, was the backbone of the national economy. Due to Nigeria’s focus shifting to petroleum exploration, the sector’s contribution to GDP and export earnings decreased steadily between 1970 and the late 2000s. The industry has produced 5.1% of export revenue and contributed an average of 23.5% to GDP over the last five years. The industry players in the North, where the poverty index is endangering regional peace, have started to think creatively as a result of the declining price of oil and the monthly State allocation.

The decline in the price of crude oil and the global decline in demand for its use due to biotechnology have sparked discussions about the role of agriculture in economic diversification. In order to grow production and add value along the most lucrative value chain segments, our economy’s agricultural sector needs to be developed with significant investments. For many years, the government’s erratic and unworkable policies have had a significant negative impact on Nigeria’s agricultural industry.

Nigeria exported a wide range of agricultural goods to other nations, including cocoa beans, peanut butter, peanuts, rubber, and palm oil. Regretfully, the heyday is vanishing from the storytellers’ memories due to the present population boom. Cocoa was the principal cash crop. However, Nigeria has changed from being a major exporter of agricultural products to a major importer of food as a result of ignoring the agricultural sector and concentrating on the oil sector. No political or economic expert can deny that Nigeria is today one of Africa’s consuming economies.

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The current agricultural push of the Niger State Government, under the leadership of Governor Umar Mohammed Bago, is connected to the watershed year of 1978 for China’s modern phase of poverty reduction, which saw President Deng Xiaoping introduce economic reforms and open up the economy. A customised agro support programme is being conducted by the “Total Agricultural Support Programme” (TASP) in collaboration with the Campo Company of Brazil and the Niger State Government. President Bola Ahmad Tinubu GCFR has opened the largest airport city free zone in Africa. Its primary function is to process fresh farm produce, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, and transport it from the state to other federation states.

Through the ecosystem of the zone, the Niger State Government will export the completed goods to other nations. Effectively, the area from Shiroro Dam will use about 140km of water irrigation. Though the State currently has 400 hydropower dams, work has advanced to the point where 80 megawatts of additional power will be added to Airport City to ensure stable power. The State currently subsidises
60% of the energy in Nigeria . It is interesting to note that the State Government has purchased 1000 distinct agricultural and irrigation pieces of equipment, 500 large capacity tractors, 500 harvesters of various capacities, 200 power tillers, and other items for billions of naira.

The highly recommended agricultural policies and programmes that the Nigerian government experienced were unpleasant and did not produce the expected results. For instance, Gen. Gowon launched the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP) in 1972.The goal of the programme was to significantly raise wheat, rice, cassava, and maize production in the Northern States. A few examples of notable initiatives are the Nigerian Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA), founded in 1992, the National Special Programme of Food Security (NSPFS), established in 2002, the Green Revolution (GR) by late Shagari in 1980, the National Fadama Development Project (NFDP) by IBB in 1990, and Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) by Gen. Obasanjo in 1976.

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Recall that the foundation of the Nigerian economy prior to the country’s independence in 1960 was agriculture. Based on available data, the agricultural sector’s share of the nation’s GDP at the time of its independence in 1960 was 60%. This is common in developing agrarian countries. Because many of our State Governors have become indolent due to the monthly allocations, I believe that restructuring Nigeria is the best course of action. The current 36-state structure is neither manageable nor sustainable. It is important to permit the States to conduct their political, economic, and social activities, including managing their security matters.

Given the growing threats from armed and well-known militias, it is obvious that the North is in a critical situation.A collapsing economy and growing insecurity are the two main causes putting the region in danger. Amidst these challenges, a growing mistrust of the government and institutions has affected political discourse to a great extent. The spirit of Bago, who sees beyond his nose, must be immediately welcomed by the Northern Governors. The conflicts between the affluent and the poor would only intensify and breed mistrust among the populace unless and until young people find employment.

By investigating the resources available to complete goods, the North and Nigeria must stop being just producers of raw materials. The happiness of a country is like a tree, according to a Chinese proverb; agriculture is its roots, and industry and commerce are its leaves and branches. A damaged root causes the branches to break, the leaves to drop, and the tree to eventually die. Manufacturing, commerce, and agriculture all require our close attention. These are the shortcomings of Nigeria’s governments since its independence.

Given the aforementioned, it is safe to conclude—without fear of contradiction—that the nation will undergo an extraordinary agricultural revolution, provided that two-thirds of the federation’s 24 states—the states with a comparative advantage in agriculture—dare to enter mechanised agriculture due to their abundance of arable land. Each of Nigeria’s subsequent administrations attempted to implement policies intended to diversify exports by promoting agricultural production through their own programmes. This goal has not been accomplished in the last 50 years: The sale of petroleum products still generates 96% of export revenue.

A remarkable agricultural revolution remains the only viable option considering the value chain benefits. There is should be an urgent State Assemblies legislations in each State of the North that make it compulsory for each local Government to cultivates at least 5,000 hectares of land for commercial farming.
Nigerian expected to hit the World Bank projection of 400 million, a development which will safely place the country as the third most populous country of the world after China, India and the United States of America. By this is meant that, by the year 2030 the country’s population would have hit 260 million, the percentage of the poor will stand at 25%.

Unfortunately, the percentage of this population is largely in the North and without an adequate measures to accommodate its expansion, the region’s future is at stake. From the words of John F. Kennedy , if you do not provide for the poor then you cannot protect the rich. The widened insecurity challenges in the North is as a result of the failure of the past clueless regimes that failed to revolutionalise Agriculture and make it public policy. With Northern population expansion, the North is seating on time bomb that sooner or later may explode. The extreme dimension to which this insecurity is getting currently has resulted in the crippling of the region economy.

Great Concerns is the inability of the local farmers to access their farmlands in the wake of the hurricane activities of these terror groups. Unless and until the entire Northern Governors are able key into Bago’s Agricultural industrialization drive in Niger State, the possibility of famine is inevitable. The North West Security summit recently held in Katsina State was well attended by all stakeholders and security experts in the region including Vice President Kashim Shettima. The VP, he identified agriculture, manufacturing, renewable energy and digital innovation, among other sectors as potential investment ground to explore, saying they align with the nation’s development priorities outlined in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

His presence arrested to President Tinubu’s Renew Hope Agenda to curb incessant security challenges in the North through agricultural industry where the North stands as major beneficiary of this drive. I am suggesting that, the meeting should be extended to the entire Northern security summit that should brainstorm and recommend the urgent steps to be taken to revive the region through commercial agriculture. It is high time ,our Governors should their attention towards developing the untapped arable lands rather dwelling concentrating on the traditional thrones. Therefore, lifting over 100 million out of poverty in the next coming years as the nation population continue to grow urgently requires huge investment in agriculture.

Bago drives towards making Niger State an agricultural hub of Nigeria should serve as a wake up call to other Northern State Governors. Countries such as the United States, China ,Russia France, Germany, Brazil and host of others are the major producers and exporters of different varieties of cash crops despite been the world powers. Nigeria as the giant of Africa is still begging for arms to feed its population due to failure to make use of the nation abandoned arable land in the North.

The implication is that , the destination of North is currently not known to anyone. This is sad. Unless and until we are able to deal very decisively with the current population explosion, Insecurity, Unemployment and Youths restiveness through commercial agriculture, the future promises to be bleak for the North.

Danaudi, Writes from Bauchi via [email protected]

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