Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday in Abuja inaugurated National Food Security Council, to among others, explore and nip in the bud, issues capable of creating food security crisis in the country.
The council, which comprises six governors drawn from six geographical locations of the country, and ministers and security agents, has among its key mandate to continuously assess existing food security policies, trade and national planning programmes â€œthereby guaranteeing that they achieve their full potential.â€
While inaugurating the council which is chaired by himself, the president said the council â€œshall also develop new programmes and projects that will protect and indeed, create more jobs in farming, fisheries, animal husbandry and forestry.â€
He also said the council would look at other issues with the capacity to impact on food production ambitions such as population growth, urbanisation, industrialisation, rural infrastructure development and climate change.
The president then proceeded to list the commitments of the council to include investment in research and development, developing local programmes, protecting Nigeria against dumping of foreign goods, and holding consultations with relevant stakeholders.
â€œThese factors will also stress and stretch our land and water resources. This means we must invest in research and development to enhance yields and outputs. Moreover, we are not insulated from global and regional events.
â€œAccordingly we develop local programmes, but not lose sight of events from a far and their impact on us. Specifically, issues such as smuggling and dumping, it is our responsibility to ensure we develop and enforce strategies to protect Nigeria from these illegal and unhealthy imports.
â€œThe council includes governors representing the six geopolitical zones. Some geopolitical zones have similar eco climatic conditions. The council is therefore a platform to further enhance the collaboration between the federal and state governments. We shall share success stories and collaborate to address common threats.
â€œWe will also engage key stakeholders representing the core sectors of the Food Value Chain. Regular consultations will be held with investors, development partners, financiers, academia and our friends and allies abroad.
â€œOur deliberations will look into all the issues and our decisions will be implementable and impactful. We shall stay focused, first and foremost on securing our food requirements and employment for our people, especially the youths. We shall feed ourselves and build an inclusive Nigeria for ourselves and for future generations,â€ he said.
Briefing journalists at the end of the inauguration, Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, said the president had captured the main objectives of the council to include strengthening all existing policies on food security including policies on trade, agronomy, national planning and national security.
According to him, the design was to bring all states together to deliver food security to Nigeria.
Also briefing, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who said governors were drawn into the council from the six geo-political zones of the country, added that each governor spoke on food security as it affects his zone during the inauguration.
Okowa said in the last few years, a lot had been done on rice production which he said had reduced the amount of money hitherto spent on rice importation adding that the trend had given confidence that in no time, Nigeria would be self-sufficient in rice production.
He listed challenges confronting rice production in Nigeria to include influx of rice through the borders which he said needed to be addressed.
He also said the council discussed the need to develop oil palm plantations and spend a lot of money on wheat production with a view to achieving food sufficiency.
In his own briefing, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, said the military was aware of security challenges facing the country and listed such challenges to include: farmers-herders clashes and militancy, which he said all had direct effects on food value chain.
Submitting that the job of the military is to ensure that a safe environment is guaranteed for food production, Olonishakin listed measures put in place by the armed forces to achieve such a safe environment to include operations Lafiya Dole, Nawase in Niger Delta, Sarendaji in North-west and Safe Haven in Jos, North-central.
In his own submission, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, said the newly inaugurated council looked at all dimensions of food security including the amount of money invested in food production and industry value chain.
The minister said the council would look at the comparative advantage emerging from these and also provide incentives aimed at encouraging local production as well as its sustainability.
In the same vein, the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, said the inauguration of the council marked the beginning of a paradigm shift in the economy of Nigeria.
According to him, the decision of the president to personally chair the council marked the commencement of the framework meant to take Nigeria from a monolithic economy to a diversified economy.
He said the council would address issues bordering on agriculture and national security, emphasising that everything that will guarantee the security of the nation in all spheres is encapsulated in the council adding that the council is absolutely being supported by governors brought into the council.
On his part, the Minister of State for Environment, Malam Usman Jubrin, said climate change would be on the front burner of the pursuits of the food security council, explaining that if Nigeria must move forward, issues bordering on climate change must be addressed especially as they affect agricultural activities including pollution in the Niger Delta.