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My Analysis of How the Nigerian Government is Diversifying the Economy

I am concerned about how my dear country lost focus in positioning its economy to meet the needs of its growing population and while not trying to delve into politics, there is no gainsaying about the fact that the impracticability of true federalism has prevented regional export led national revenue. In the past, crops like Groundnut use to be for the north, Cocoa used to be for the South, Oil palm for the east but regional government has been sacrificed on the altar of the 1999 constitution and hence greed, covetousness has been enthroned which essentially has put the nation away from its cherished position of global leadership in food production.

During the Goodluck Jonathan regime, the Government of Nigeria (GoN) devised an agenda to retrace back her step from the monolithic economy, he made efforts to diversify the economy from reliance on oil, assure food security and create jobs, especially for the youth. Evidently, his agenda was geared towards promoting agribusiness, attracting private sector investment in agriculture, reducing post-harvest losses, adding value to local agricultural produce, developing rural infrastructure and enhancing access of farmers to financial services and markets. The Agricultural transformation Agenda had a plan to deal with the menace that falling oil prices has generated, unemployment and it planned to create over 3.5 million jobs along the value chains of the priority crops of rice, sorghum, cassava, horticulture, cotton, cocoa, oil palm, livestock, fisheries, etc. for Nigeria’s teeming youths and women, in particular.

It is important to understand that careful efforts is currently being made by the government to find its way back to its original position in the committee of nations and the cliché “diversification” is all over the place. Challenges are a good way to get people to learn, falling oil prices forced the leaders to draft an Economic Growth and Recovery Plan and the Agriculture minister to set a policy called Green alternative building on the successes of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda.

According to Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Starting in 2010 – 2011, the Government of Nigeria, after years of benign neglect, began to reform the agriculture sector. To refocus the sector, the Government implemented a new strategy, the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). In 2011-2016, the focus was on rebuilding a sector whose relevance had shrunk dramatically. That was reflected in the lack of lending to farmers by the financial system and the dramatic levels of food imports from across the world. That intervention, the ATA, served its core purpose of helping refocus Nigeria’s attention on agriculture.

ATA however also faced challenges and did not deliver on all the targets identified. For example, Nigeria still imports about $3 to $5 billion worth of food annually, especially wheat, rice, fish and sundry items, including fresh fruits. As a result, Nigeria is not food secure. Wastage levels remain high in production areas, reducing supply of feedstock to processing factories, requiring them to keep importing supplies. The net effect is limited job growth across the agricultural value chain from input production to market systems, and continued use of limited foreign currency earnings to import vast quantities of food.

On balance, the ATA was an important first step towards rediscovering agriculture. As a result, many companies, individuals and donors are now keen to invest in Nigerian agriculture once again. Agriculture is viewed as a business that can provide a reasonable basis for further wealth and job growth in Nigeria.

The ATA was indeed a good start and a good step in the right direction, and since the transfer of power from the previous Jonathanian Administration, the Buhari Administration unexpectedly didn’t kill the Agenda but thought it wise to build on its fallouts hence the FMARD came up with The Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020 document a.k.a “The Green Alternative”.

Within this overall set of policy principles, the FG plans to concentrate on providing an enabling environment for stakeholders at federal and state level to play their distinctive roles.  The policy emphasis is expected to be on providing a conducive legislative and agricultural knowledge framework, macro policies, security enhancing physical infrastructure and institutional mechanisms for coordination and enhancing access to adequate inputs, finance, information on innovation, agricultural services and markets.

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