Dr. Enene Ambah holds a Doctorate in Law from Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom (UK). He is the Senior Adviser to Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Agriculture. For the past three and half years, Dr. Ambah has remained the unpublicized repository of knowledge providing necessary guidelines for the mega reforms and diversification in the nation’s agricultural sector, which is a priority of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration.
In the following interview with Abuja Digest Weekly Sennen Udoh, he speaks on Agriculture-related issues and how the Federal Capital Territory has keyed into the ongoing reforms, among others.
Abuja Digest Weekly: As a key player in the transformation of the nation’s Agric. sector, how has FCT keyed into the Agric. reforms and programmes of this Administration?
Dr. Ambah: In all fairness to FCT Administration, the Agric. sector under the able leadership of the present FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, has been very positive, very much forthcoming, and very responsive to the Agric. reforms and programmes of the present Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
From the Agric. Secretariat, relevant departments/agencies, to other relevant stakeholders and FCT-based farmers, all of them have been Agric. reforms-compliant, as far as mechanized farming, improved seedlings, pest control, irrigation farming and other innovative agrarian investments are concerned. These are the policy thrusts of the President Buhari Administration geared at making Agriculture a major foreign exchange earner in the country.
Apart from keying into reforms and programmes at the federal level, I am well aware that FCT, on its own, with the result-oriented and able support of the present FCT Minister, the various stakeholders in the FCT Agric sector have successfully driven the multiple reforms in the sector to the extent that Agriculture stands to be counted as a major employer of labour and a major source of feeding in Nigeria’s Centre of Unity and beyond.
In fact, the depth of Agricultural transformation in Abuja arguably makes the Territory one of the best agro-friendly cities in Nigeria. Probably, part of the reason for this is because the FCT has taken advantage of the fact that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture is located near the FCT Agric and Rural Development Secretariat which oversees the workings of Agric programmes against the backdrop of existing government guidelines and priority index.
On the whole, I think FCT is doing very well in the agro-based transformation and reforms which arguably enjoys the primacy of place in the lifespan of the President Buhari Administration. I hope the FCT Administration would continue to keep the flag flying in the regard.
Abuja Digest Weekly: What are the major highlights of Agric reforms which you think are beneficial to Nigerian farmers in the present dispensation?
Dr. Ambah: In attempting this question, it is as good as giving one the opportunity to exhaustively treat the achievements of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture with specific highlight on farmers as the ultimate beneficiaries. Of course, no matter how you look at it, the target beneficiaries of Nigeria’s Agric. reforms are the farmers.
From the mechanized farming which comes with modern technology and improved seedlings to the inputs, the farmers remain the incontrovertible beneficial end-users. At the state level, the farmers key into our national reforms and transformation programmes established for this purpose. Through the Agric. officials, they deploy due process using interested groups, co-operative societies and others to access farming equipment, machines, inputs and facilities to engage in large scale, medium scale and small scale farming.
Farmers also benefitted a lot from the pest control strategy of the Ministry which has largely reduced the death rate or attack on our crops.
We have also introduced insurance scheme for famers considering the hazardous and challenging nature of work involved in farming today. Efforts are also being finalized to recapitalize a credit scheme to empower farmers through the Bank of Agriculture at single digit interest rate.
As I speak to you, the dividends of these reforms and transformation are already manifesting in our bumper harvests in the nooks and crannies of the country and beyond. Today, we are a proud exporter of our farm products like yams, garri, and so on to countries like Ghana, Chad and the UK.
So, at the moment, by our national mandate, we are not only enjoying self-sufficiency and self-reliance in food production, we have extended our feeding tentacles to our neighbouring countries and beyond.
Abuja Digest Weekly: Apart from targeting the Nigerian farmer as the end-beneficiary of Agric. programmes, is there any other long term target you set out to achieve using reforms and transformation?
Dr. Ambah: Thank you for this question. Every specific reform and programme has an ultimate long term target. We have been talking about farmers as the beneficiaries of our reforms and transformation, but in the long run, we intend to make Agriculture a mega contributor to the nation’s GDP, thereby making Agriculture the mainstay of our economy.
As a matter of emphasis, this is doable and achievable. This is the target after the heart of President Muhammadu Buhari and it’s our long term objective. And currently our GDP is improving tremendously. We want to displace petroleum product as a major foreign exchange earner. This is a task that must be done, because crude oil will arguably finish in a matter of time, but farming and its products are interminable as long as we can explore our land, the relevant human resources and other related agro-based variables.
Abuja Digest Weekly: What words of advice do you have for the youth and indeed Nigerians on the ongoing agricultural reforms?
Dr. Ambah: First of all, I want all and sundry to accept the reality that Agriculture has come to stay as an age-long occupation of our people. We have to disabuse our minds of the negative feelings that Agriculture is for the second-class citizens and therefore inferior to any other means of livelihood.
Nigerians should, as a matter of necessity, learn to be Agriculture-friendly. Right from undergraduates, graduates, in fact the youth, to adults, people should know that with Agriculture, we can assuredly address the problem of unemployment, with passionate commitment to Agriculture millions of our jobless youths stand to be employed, but we can only do this by developing interest in agro-based ventures, synergizing with relevant officials reform in the Agric. sector and following due process.
A good case study is the success story of Agriculture or farming as practiced in the UK, the United States, and others where it has been transformed into a mega business and source of employment for graduates and the citizenry.
Nigerians must swallow their pride and embrace Agriculture and its attendant benefits of self-reliance in food security and self-employment. Together, let’s make Agriculture a likeable option and alternative capable of replacing crude oil as a major economic mainstay for the nation.