Alhaji Muhammed Nadada Umar, DG, SMEDAN
By Crusoe Osagie
The Director-General of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Alhaji Muhammed Nadada Umar has said that agriculture can again become the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, provided it is taken as a profession with profitable returns to farmers.
He projected that with the full implementation of the current administration’s Transformation Agenda in the agricultural sector, there would be no more free land in the country due to the revival of agriculture in the next twenty years.
Umar made the assessment while receiving a team from the Society of Youth in Agriculture (SYA) who paid him a courtesy visit at the Agency’s Headquarters in Abuja.
The purpose of the visit, according to the body’s President, Mr. Bakare Oladimeji, was to seek areas of collaboration with SMEDAN in areas of technical and entrepreneurship training for beneficiaries of the body in fulfillment of its objectives.
These, according to him, include: to inspire and mobilise youths in the Federal Capital Territory to participate in agriculture, educate and equip them with information and modern technologies in agriculture and provide them with adequate support services with a view to boosting sustainable food production, employment generation and wealth creation in Nigeria.
In a related development, the DG charged a delegation of the Nigerian Youths Parliament during a separate visit to him at the Agency’s Headquarters in Abuja, to press for the rapid development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country with the view of eradicating poverty and unemployment, adding that that was the only way Nigeria could emerge from the era of crisis bedevilling it.
Speaker of the Parliament, Hon. Abdullahi Maibasira, had expressed concern over the serious challenge posed to Nigerian youths by the spate of unemployment which he noted was hindering the development of the country.
He said the Parliament was determined to enhance the capacity-building of youths, broaden their horizon to generate employment, forge closer ties with them to promote job creation and investment promotion through partnerships with relevant agencies of government such as SMEDAN. “We are concerned about how the youths are feeling the impact of government policies relating to their development” he said.
The DG recalled how agriculture used to be the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. “Farming” he said, was the most honourable profession back in those days before the discovery of oil, which brought a lot of financial gain with little effort”.
He warned that “unless we revive agriculture, which has the potential of engaging over 80 per cent of the population, and restructured it as an attractive business with profitable returns to investors, the country would continue to witness hard times.”
Speaking earlier, Oladimeji said the SYA would take its advocacy to the streets through a rally billed to hold on October 16 internationally dubbed the World Food Day where they hope to address the issues of food insufficiency, poverty, unemployment and present agriculture as the most viable alternative to youths’ dependence on white collar jobs; with a view to becoming economically independent and self-reliant.
He added that already, the organisation had in line with its objectives, initiated several agricultural programmes toward reducing the rate of unemployment in the country, one of which is the Young Farmers Entrepreneurship Scheme also tagged ‘Operation Wake Up’.
He explained that the scheme, a community-based programme, was aimed at increasing the population of young farmers to boost agricultural productivity in areas of crops and livestock production, and alleviate poverty in the country.
“The programme” he said, “would be implemented first in all six Area Councils in the FCT then extended to other states of the nation. It is our hope that our campaign would change the negative perceptions that the Nigerian youths have of farming, that we would provide food to consumers in the FCT and environs at cheap rates, check anti-social behaviour in youths and stem the alarming rate of rural-urban migration.
While presenting a letter of appointment to the DG as a National Patron of the organisation, Oladimeji appealed for SMEDAN’s support for SYA’s programmes, expressing hope that the body as a mass-based, non-governmental organisation, could take giant strides in implementing its activities which address investment strategies in agricultural development in the country. “We hope that SMEDAN would help us by harnessing the resources available to it in the realisation of our contributions to national development” he stated.