The Federal Government is set to revive the School of Agriculture in Rivers state in order to put into good use the naturally endowed land and water resources as well as train the youths in the south-south region in agricultural production.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh disclosed this when he paid a courtesy call on the Executive Governor of Rivers state, Barrrister Nyesom Wike on the sideline of the 42nd Regular Meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development held from 24-26th April,2017
Ogbeh said a lot of agricultural potentials are inherent in Rivers state which requires supports of governments for them to be fully developed, saying that the School of Agriculture in Rivers state would be revived in partnership with the state government. He said “We think that we should revive the School of Agriculture and provide the place for training. A lot of potentials are in Rivers state, if we do this, the state can be a huge source of fish in Nigeria”.
He said if youths in the state are brought into agriculture, it will create wealth and cut down the rate of rural- urban migration. “We are here to make Agriculture more interesting and dignified “ he said.
The Minister said there is the need for states to manage lands in their communities to grow and develop agriculture, saying that “The land is of no use if it is not put into uses and urged the government to do whatever it can do to make land available for Agriculture”.
He noted that the issue of food security in the country must be placed above political sentiments, saying that the annual National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development is a forum where delegates take decisions on how to move the sector forward and that this year’s forum would provide another opportunity to take decisions, build on achievements and identify Agricultural potentials in Rivers state.
He disclosed that the Federal Government had just inaugurated the Board of Bank of Agriculture(BOA) that would provide a platform for farmers to enjoy a loan at single digit interest while a branch of the bank would be open in every state of the federation.
The Governor of Rivers state, Barrister Nyesom Wike said “Agriculture is a serious business and if Nigeria must go to the next level, everyone that wants Nigeria to grow will seek the support of every sector”.
The Governor said the state is presently working in conjunction with the Faculty of Agriculture in the Rivers state University to bring back the School of Agriculture and disclosed that some potential investors had indicated interests in reviving the rubber plantation in the state.
He expressed appreciation to the Minister for the commitment and zeal he has shown towards the development of Nigeria, saying, “You have shown commitment with age ,I appreciate the way you work, you are really committed to the development of Nigeria”.
As part of his official engagements in Rivers state, the Ministers of Agriculture met with the Rivers state Council of Traditional Rulers to solicit their supports to unlock the potentials of Rivers state for the development of Agriculture.
Chief Ogbeh said “Our population is growing, we have to eat, we have to grow food and we have to make land available and put it to use. Niger Delta has land, it is dormant and they need to put it into use to grow food”
He noted that the issue of land ownership is complex in Nigeria and urged the traditional rulers to find solution to making land available for Agricultural development.
The Minister said Agriculture would create jobs and wealth if everybody is busy with agricultural operations and assured them that the School of Agriculture in Rivers state would be revived to provide training for interested farmers.
He said if all states of the federation grow food, food will be available and the society would be free of oppression of politicians thereby making our children to be less prone to political crisis.
The Minister said the present administration commenced the cleaning up of Ogoni as part of its determination to restore the land in the Niger Delta region and assured that government would do everything possible for Nigerian farmers to access loan at a single digit interest.
Ogbeh added that the Federal Government is working assiduously to put an end to the farmers/herdsmen conflict and thanked the state for their contribution towards the development of the country.
In his contribution, the Minister of State, Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri disclosed that he did not know the potentials of Agriculture until he became the Minister and said the most important resource, Rivers state has is land and water resource which if well explored would be able to fill the deficit gap of 2.1 million metric tonnes in fish production in Nigeria.
Senator Lokpobiri said “Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Rivers states among others should be able to feed Nigeria, saying “The oil money goes to the Federal Government but if you invest in Agriculture,the money belongs to you and the land you have is a good potential for the country”.
He urged the traditional rulers to make their land available for Agriculture in order to ensure food security, “The time has come and this is the time to make our land available for agriculture. ”Any land that is not put into productive use has no value. It is when the Niger Delta embraces Agriculture that I will be happy as the Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he stated.
The Chairman ,Rivers state Council of Traditional Rulers, the Amanayabo of Opobo Kingdom, Dr. Dandison Jaja expressed delight by the Federal Government’s call for Nigerians to go back to land and noted that the discovery of oil in Nigeria has made the country to abandon Agriculture.
He appealed to governments to look at the prevailing conditions of the Niger Delta region in area of pollution by the oil operations and proffer necessary solutions while an enabling environment in form of soft loan for farmers and trainings should be created for agribusiness to enable the Niger Delta region competes favourably with other states.