Nigeria, Agriculture And the National Youth Service Corps- Gani David

In the spirit of the new purposeful dispensation and the call for all hands to be on deck by the Captain of the Nigerian-state-ship as we ...

In the spirit of the new purposeful dispensation and the call for all hands to be on deck by the Captain of the Nigerian-state-ship as we navigate out of the unstable waters of mono-economy, insecurity, corruption, religious and ethnic intolerance, and ignorance into the stable waters of diversified economy, relative peace, minimum corruption, religious and ethnic tolerance, and an enlightened citizenry. I am coming on board with a useful suggestion that would be invaluable on this voyage.

At this juncture, it is needful I lay the background upon which this concept would be appreciated. A renowned economist, David Ricardo, in his theory of 1817 “On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation” highlighted the benefits accruing from international trade when individuals, firms, or nations concentrate on their area of comparative advantage or endowments. In simple terms, he encourages a country to produce that commodity they can more efficiently than any other based on their labor or technological prowess. Nigeria is graciously blessed with both human and natural resources. Of Nigeria’s 923 768km2 of land, 762 000km2, i.e., 82.49% is arable coupled with a labor force of 72.93m according to the United Nations 2015 and World Bank 2014 estimates . Our tropical climate with lots of rainfall and huge water bodies like the Niger and Benue with their tributaries favor all year round agriculture.

It is no longer news that Nigeria is inefficient in its area of comparative advantage –agriculture. Once upon a time, in the era of regionalism, we fed ourselves and also earned hard currency just by tilling the soil and live stock farming. The reverse has been the case since the discovery of the black gold. We now import all manner of food to complement our economic indolence and government economic policy misdirection. But alas! The wind of change is blowing across the country offering us a new opportunity to get it right; we must deliver ourselves from the concept of resource curse by going back to agriculture as rightly argued by President Buhari

Having laid the background, therefore, on the light of the efficient reservoir of labor in corps members, I humbly recommend that the federal government in partnership with the private sector consider the possibility of creating farms at the three levels of government with a certain percentage of corps members posted to do their service on the farms. Alternatively, the farms should be created according to the six geo-political zones with each zone producing according to its comparative advantage. Currently, the approved sectors for the deployment of corps members are, rural health, primary and secondary education, rural infrastructural development and agricultural development. I have seen corps members serving in the first three sectors except the last one. It is either the government reverses the decision of deploying corps members to the agriculture sector because there are no farms for them to work on, or is there any agro-allied industry solely owned by the government for them to work in just as it did by reversing the decision that upgraded four federal colleges of education(Federal College of education, Kano; Federal College of Education, Zaria; Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo; and Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Oweri) to university status on the basis of lack of content. During my service year, I discovered that a lot of corps members are underemployed, this is one of the reasons some Nigerians are agitatating for the scrapping of the scheme because they see it as a waste of time.

In fleshing out my point, the National Bureau of Statistics 4th Quarter, 2014 Statistics puts the number of Nigerians languishing in abject poverty at 110m. Out of the 72.93m strong labor force, 55.206m are employed, 13.05m are under employed and 3.14m are unemployed. Again, the United Nations Statistics Division estimates Nigeria’s population for 2015 to be 178 841 235 with a growth rate of 1.94% making the population by 2016 to be 182 307 178, all things being equal. No surprise we annually import $4b worth of rice to complement domestic shortfall; we top the list of food importing nations with an annual bill of #1.3t growing at a rate of 11% making it 1.43t by 2016. You may wonder where the money comes from to feed such a large population having in mind that the productive potentials of the country is still virgin, so to say. Wonder not, our proceeds from crude oil exports settle the bill.

In furtherance, permit me to intimate you on the stage of economic development of Nigeria according to Rostow’s Five Stages of Growth. Based on his study of the trajectory of economic growth of European societies, he identified five stages that every society in need of better fortunes must tread. They are: the traditional society, preparatory stage, the take off stage, drive to maturity, and stage of mass consumption. The first stage is a society based on primitive attitude toward the physical world. Luckily for us we have passed this stage and are currently on the second stage which the pre-conditions for takeoff are established. The conditions mainly comprise fundamental changes in the social, political, and economic fields. Thus, in this stage, Rostow views agriculture as performing three roles. First, it must produce sufficient food grains to meet the demands of a growing population. Secondly, increase in agricultural incomes would lead to the demand for industrial products and stimulate industrial investment. Thirdly, expanding agriculture must provide much of the savings needed for the expansion of the industrial sector. Some economic pundits posit that not every society must conform to this trend. What is important here is that there is some positive correlation of economic growth in Nigeria with this theory, thus, we must adopt such a model.

Before I draw the curtain, I strongly advice the government in its bid to create jobs through agriculture value chain to look at the pool of labor available in the national Youth Service Scheme and take advantage of it. Agriculture should be made attractive to this category of labor, let them know that the economic future of Nigeria lies in Mother Nature and they can find career fulfillment as potential millionaires and billionaires farmers. This is the dream of the erstwhile minister of agriculture and rural development, Akinwumi Adesina who transmuted the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, ATA, of the erstwhile president Jonthan and earned himself a higher platform as the new president of Africa Development Bank, AfDB. What better luck can we look for than to leverage on his presidency of the biggest investment bank in Afirca to finish the transformation of the agriculture sector that is a pre-condition for industrialization according to Rostow.

As I conclude, I must bring to your knowing my shock during the Nigerian Bar Association 2015 Annual General Conference held from the 23rd to 27th of August in Abuja. One of the participants dazed everyone with the disclosure that Nigeria imports bananas from three different countries. Why should we?! In Kurmi, Taraba State where I did my service, the bananas there competes with the plantains in size. We have the potential to meet both domestic and foreign demands for this commodity.

Finally, if and only if, my suggestition sees the light of day, it would bring about the entrenchment of true fiscal federalism as all the tiers of government would be economically viable consequently relieving the centre of unnecessary luggage or socio-economic burden as we prepare for takeoff.

Gani David
Ipaja, Lagos. Entrepreneur. 
 +234 708 115 6104


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