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Ogbeh links rural, agric development to council autonomy

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Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbeh

• Berates N’Assembly for not reviving local government sovereignty
• Experts urge farmers to explore global organic agriculture

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has linked poor rural development, low food production and high rural-urban migration to lack of autonomy by the local government authorities.

Ogbeh, who disclosed this in an exclusive interview with The Guardian, said the federal system of government in Nigeria must be made to function properly by reviving local councils nationwide for rapid integrated development to attract younger generations of farmers and ensure food sufficiency.

He attributed deplorable state of rural infrastructure, such as rural roads, hospitals, water supply and other amenities, to the crippling of the local council administrations by their respective state governments.

The minister, while responding to why rural development is not there to support agriculture, said: “The big challenge is this: rural roads, culverts and water supply are local government functions. Though my ministry is called the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, we do not have resources to do that aspect.”

He recalled that the local council system was created and empowered to open up communities and bring benefits of democracy to the people at the grassroots, but state governments have deliberately incapacitated them and deprived them of resources meant for their development.

“I urge the media too to help us deal with this matter. Why are local councils destroyed by the state administrations?
“They were created precisely to give the people clean water and roads; to build hospitals and markets and maintain them; to run primary schools and create means of livelihood. It is the most strategic of the governments. Today, their revenues are being held back by state governments. They pay salaries, give the chairman N1 or N2 million a month and keep the rest of the funds. And all of us, all of us I said, the elite, pretend that nothing is going on,” the minister lamented.

He also faulted the National Assembly for not making efforts to facilitate the autonomy of the local councils despite their efforts on the state assemblies and the judicial systems.He said: “The local councils are dead. The National Assembly just got autonomy for the judicial system and state assemblies, but they forgot the local council.”

In another development, experts have advised Nigerian farmers to take advantage of global business opportunities that abound in organic agriculture to boost food security and make profits.

The Country Co-ordinator, Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative in Nigeria, Dr. Olugbenga Adeoluwa, who spoke during the closing ceremony of the 2018 ‘Train the Trainers’ programme on organic agriculture in Abuja, said that Nigerian farmers should not be left behind in taking their own share of the global organic market to increase revenue generation and for health of citizens.Also, Mrs. Heather Akanni of the ministry said: “Organic agriculture practice is the way to go for the safety of the people and its environment and also to tap into the huge global organic market.”

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