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Data war, rice and herdsmen: Takeaways from Audu Ogbeh’s Agric Strategy Retreat

Takeaways

Data war, rice and herdsmen: Takeaways from Audu Ogbeh’s Agric Strategy Retreat

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh made some important and rather unusual remarks on Monday. 

The minister who addressed the ministry’s strategy retreat in Abuja spoke about the Fulani herdsmen crisis and agricultural practices, the job creation numbers, issues around ranching, amongst others. 

Here are the 3 takeaways: 

Fulani Herdsmen: The Problem and The Solution

The agriculture minister proposed his not-so-cheap solution to the farmer/herdsmen crisis that has led to hundreds of deaths across the country. Ogbeh noted that Nigerians are increasingly becoming discontent with the killings and said the security option is not going to suffice. His solution: creating cattle colonies which he said was “not going to be cheap.”

“Let us do our own duty by eliminating the conflict by creating cattle colonies,” he said.  

Explaining how the colonies would work he said: 

“At least, five thousand hectres of land would be made available, adequate water, adequate pasture would be made available. We also want to stop cattle rearers from roaming about. The cattle will be provided with water and adequate security by the Agro Rangers.

The problem according to Ogbeh – Nigeria has not done enough for the herdsmen. 

He said: “Over the years, we have not done much to look seriously into the issue of livestock development in the country. I am sad to tell you that in the last 50 years until recently, we may have done enough for the rice farmer, the cassava farmer, the maize farmer, the cocoa farmer, but we have not done much for herdsman and that inability and omission on our part is resulting in the crises we are witnessing today. In Europe, every cow that is farmed gets a subsidy of 6 Euros per day, we have done next to nothing for the cattle rearers and as a result, their operations have become threats to other farmers.” 

He also said the culture of open-grazing was partly responsible and called for reforms.

“Some people argue that the culture of open grazing is our culture, but when a culture begins to develop dangerous trends, leading to warfare between people and bloody clashes and death that culture is due for re-examination. If it is harmful, we reform it.”

War on NBS Data 

Audu Ogbeh was engaged in a war of sorts with data. He dismissed the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) employment report, which revealed that about 4.01 million jobs were lost in 2017. Ogbeh made a wild claim that the agric sector has created 6 million jobs in the year. 

His reason: “There are about 12.2 million members of the Rice Growers Association; we have created more jobs than we have lost.” Ogbeh also made other wide claims that cannot be verified. He claimed that: 

  1. Nigerian Farmers earned $35 million from Hibiscus (Zobo) last year
  2. “We are exporting more than we are importing now and most exportation is agro-products”

Rice Policy 

Ogbeh made a policy announcement that the FG will introduce duties on consumption of foreign rice in the country around the middle of 2018. According to him, foreign rice is wasteful luxury and the country cannot afford it. 

He said:

“We are growing in agriculture and from the middle of this year, whoever chooses to eat Thailand rice is welcomed to pay duties. We shall impose duties on it because we consider it a wasteful luxury and something this country can’t afford.”

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