It was not a coincidence that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) which focused on incentivising the local people to accept agriculture as a veritable means of making contributions to the economy through job creation and economic empowerment, was kicked off in Kebbi State by President Muhammadu Buhari himself. It was a policy thrust that reminded the people that in the past, pre- and immediate post- independence era and before hydrocarbons were discovered, agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Before then, the State government under the leadership of the Governor, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, had initiated an agricultural revitalization, transformation and diversification drive through partnership with the Bank of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The sustained effort to develop the agricultural sector has attracted investors from far and near. Invariably, Kebbi had become and still is a model and a hub in rice and wheat production. ABP which soon caught on with many other states, resulted in what is rightly known today as the Agricultural Revolution. It took on a life of its own due, mainly, to the financial assistance of the CBN and the personal drive of the Kebbi State Governor who was also appointed the chairman of a Presidential Committee put in charge of ensuring that local production of rice and wheat were such that could render the importation of the commodities unnecessary.
That, in our view, jump-started the federal government’s policy of diversifying the economy through the expansion of the non-oil sector, especially, agriculture. Before then, the Governor had already commenced the mobilisation of the people of the state whose occupation is agrarian into going beyond the perception of agriculture as merely for sustenance and accepting it as business. Before this initiative by the governor, agriculture as business enterprise, was at a very rudimentary level just as agro-processing was almost nonexistent. It was the same in most of the states. But in Kebbi State, in particular, the story is different. The state produces in excess of N150 billion worth of rice yearly. The development, in a remarkable way, has attracted the provision of rural infrastructure on a massive scale to facilitate the evacuation of the commodities.
This has resulted in the construction of over 367km of road network in the three senatorial zones covering all the Local Government Areas to ease, not just the evacuation of produce, but also the movement of agricultural inputs such as machineries and fertiliser. The procurement of farm tractors, harvesters, farm implements for cooperative societies as well as the provision of soft loans to the farmers to encourage and ensure multinationals like WASCOT and Dangote to participate in the business.
This, in itself, has resulted in the deployment of enormous resources by these companies which in turn has given rise to the infusion of private capital into agriculture in the state yielding, in the process, multiple benefits such as eradicating poverty, empowerment of smallholder farmers, channelling the youthful energy into more productive ventures and bringing about the peace required in that agricultural belt of the nation to make it an investment haven it has become. We are familiar with the landmark partnership between Lagos and Kebbi states on rice value chain, which produced the LASKEB rice. And with the pre-commissioning of WACOT Mill recently. To consolidate on the gains recorded in dry season rice farming and to improve output in wet season, Governor Bagudu entered into partnership with Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara states and the Moroccan government to receive the supply of over 300,000 tons of fertilizer.
The administration also procured for distribution to famers, 100 tractors, 1,000 Ox-drawn ploughs, 100 rice threshers and 100 motorcycles for agricultural extension workers. It is pertinent to point out that, Kebbi State, a large producer of onions, soya, sugar cane and pepper, has leveraged on the success of the rice and wheat initiative to go into these other agriproducts. Already the state has entered into an agreement with a local firm for a $300,000 sugarcane project. The new drive into agri-business in the state and elsewhere is yielding the desire result by adding to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The agricultural transformation drive for income and job creation led the state government to empower several vegetable growing communities to produce more to meet the Kebbi- Lagos Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). We urge the government of the state to sustain this tempo of agri-activity because of its potentials for national growth and development over time.