The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Farouq Rabiu has condemned in strong terms comments made by the former National President of the association, Kabir İbrahim, on the N13 billion pest control intervention fund approved by the Federal Government.
Recall that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Sabo Nanono, recently in Kebbi state announced the approval of the fund.
Nanono had said that the fund will help Nigeria’s fight against locusts, grasshoppers, quelea birds, and other pests across 12 front-line Northern states.
However, the former AFAN boss, (Kabir Ibrahim) said in a statement on Wednesday that the fund was neither provided for in the 2020 budget nor appropriated by the National Assembly.
Ibrahim also called on the National Assembly to summon a stakeholder hearing to appraise the matter.
However, Rabiu in his reaction, criticised the former AFAN boss for working hard to obstruct the efforts of the Federal Government and to sabotage the image of farmers.
“We regret bitterly for having an ex-president like him and it is unfortunate that the successes we have recorded for the past three months in office supersede those he recorded in his previous tenure.
“We undoubtedly believe that by now we would have attained milestones more than the landmarks we have achieved during his time.
“Your cataclysm intersects with the locust crisis and COVID-19 pandemic creating a crisis within a crisis, which is subversive at this trying time,” Rabiu said.
According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to create severe food insecurity in Nigeria as elsewhere as agricultural production contracts and food imports decline, including reduced access to inputs and services, labour movement, transport and roadblocks.”
The AFAN boss argued that the fund will focus on providing immediate assistance to poor and vulnerable farmers, herders and rural households to “overcome one of the worst plague hikes in decades.”
In addition he said, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) will use the fund for the purchase of new equipment, refurbishing existing ones, procurement of chemicals, deployment of personnel to the field, as well as engaging local farmers to inform early detection of pests outbreak.
The national president also noted that the fund will help to secure the provision of immediate support to farmers and to invest in the medium-term recovery of agriculture and livestock production systems.
It would also help to secure rural livelihoods in affected areas, he added.
“Besides the chemical approach of pest control, our farmers take part in physical and biological methods of pest control as we encourage them to do so,” Rabiu said.
The AFAN boss also noted that the fund will cover biotechnology research-based approaches towards pest control for environmentally-friendliness.
“The World Bank Group has approved a $500 million (N200 billion) Emergency Locust Response Programme (ELRP) to help countries in Africa and the Middle East fight the locust swarms that are threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people in May.
“With over 80 million farmers out of 200 million people in Nigeria, I think N13 billion is overrated,” he said.
Rabiu in his defence of the fund, also pointed out that damages from locust attacks in the Horn of Africa could reach as high as $8.5 billion by the end of this year, according to a World Bank estimate.
He noted that damage to estimated harvests in hundreds of billions of Naira could mean that 40% of Nigerian farmers will be out of business.
He said, “According to the UN, East Africa has over 20 million severely food insecure people and over 10 million internally displaced persons, and so Nigeria won’t risk falling in such a situation. Hence the auspicated upsurge to uproar the pest control.”
He noted that the former AFAN boss ought to know about the complexities and effects of pests on farming.
“If Kabiru is truly a farmer he would have known the effects of pests. I have been into farming since 1987, and I have never traded a material outside agricultural farm produce.
“You cannot just rear birds in your compound and call yourself a farmer, even the Poultry Farmers Association will disavow you. Association like ours needs an experienced hand, there are things you will never know if you don’t know” he added.