James Emejo in Abuja
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, yesterday made a surprise visit to a popular Beans market in Auta Ballefi, Nasarawa State, which is owned by internally displaced person (IDPs) from Borno State.
The minister, who was apparently impressed by the resilience and hard work of the people who had fled their homelands because of the Boko Haram insurgency, described the market as “one of the biggest beans market I have seen in Nigeria.”
Worried by the need to depend on donors for survival, the IDPs had taken to farming- now being able to fend for themselves as well as creating jobs for thousands of jobless Nigerians in the process.
The process of acquiring land for both farming and market was facilitated by Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, who saw it as a responsibility on the part of the church to listen to the plight of the downtrodden.
It further showed the efficacy of partnerships between the state and religious bodies.
Ogbeh said: “This is to show that Nigerians have resilience in spite of their challenges; see what they are doing for themselves.”
He said: “I am surprised and elated, instead of IDPs waiting for somebody else to bring them food, here is a group of people from essentially Borno State who found refuge here and have created an industry of their own.”
The minister, promising to create market access, security, water and other amenities in the market as well as creating linkage roads to their farms, however, cautioned them against the use of ‘sniper”, a toxic pesticide in the preservation of the beans but rather urged them to use pepper instead.
Ogbeh said: I am very excited to be here, it’s quite surprising but also quite indicative of what Nigerians can do even in adversity. We are very proud of them.
“The first thing we are going to say to them is that nobody should put sniper in the bag of beans. They should never put sniper, it’s a poison. They should rather put pepper.
“But this is beautiful; we are going to send them teachers and from next year, they will be using jute bags for the health of Nigerians.
“We are also going to create bigger markets for them and give them any support they need because this is the most fascinating things I have seen yet in an IDP. It’s fantastic.”
He said he will engage the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to patronise the beans produced by the IDPs to boost their market.
He further assured that going forward, “This is clean fresh beans and we will be supplying them to the schools feeding programme because this is original: it’s clean and fresh and has not been stored for six or seven months and it’s fascinating.”
He added: ”This is the evidence that Nigerian farmers are actually working and we are cutting down on food import. In another one year, I think we will cut down on food import to the barest minimum.”
Promising to provide machinery for the next planting season, the minister urged other IDPs to emulate what their peers had accomplished.
He said: We will ask other IDPs; don’t wait and grumble, if you have a chance, do something. This is a good example. The misfortune is an opportunity and by the grace of God, someday, they can go back to Borno because Borno is a major source of food production.”