By; SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
The Federal Government has approved the sum of N5.5 billion Naira for the third quarter soil control acceleration for the different geopolitical zones in the country.
This was disclosed by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja
He was joined at the briefing by the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh and his Aviation counterpart, Hadi Sirika.
Adesina said: “Let me start by saying that the third quarter soil controlled acceleration has been approved for the different geopolitical places in the country. This will be in Kano, Sokoto South local government, Ondo, Osun, Enugu and Bayelsa states. The total for the Soil Erosion Controlled accelerated project is N5.567, 314,541.76 only.”
On his part, the minister of agriculture said council also gave approval for the development of foundation seeds for maize to the Institute of Agricultural Research, ABU Zaria .
He pointed out that one of the challenges is that Nigeria does not have the right variety of seeds so the yield per hector is very poor,noting that Nigeria has the lowest in the world.
“So, that is research is going on and the funds in N155 Million for 30 tones of foundation to multiply to 230 tones of improved seeds which will be given to seed companies to multiply,” he added.
He also disclosed that the federal government has read the riot act to smugglers saying the government will no longer tolerate their activities.
He stated “The other issue was the question of smuggling. In Mr. President’s speech to the National Assembly yesterday, he gave very strong warning about smugglers who bring in unauthorized commodities through the unauthorized borders into the country.
“We have to deal with that because, while we are making a great deal of progress in our grains productions, smugglers are busy compromising the success we have achieved.
“Between September 2015 and now, rice importation through the ports has dropped from 644,131, tones to 20,000 tones in September, this year. This means that by the early part of next year, we can literally say, that we are closed to total self sufficiency in rice.
“On the other hand, to the west of Nigeria, rice importation has increased to 1.33m tones at the Republic of Benin. They don’t eat parboiled rice but the white rice. So, every grain of rice landing there is heading for Nigeria through illegal smuggling. ”
“Some of it also come in through Niger Republic. These are issues we gave to deal with because we are creating jobs through our local rice production. There are 12.2 million rice farmers in the country now.
When asked on specific actions,the government is taking to tackle smuggling,the minister recalled that there is an MoU between Nigeria and Republic of Benin, entered into, when former President Obasanjo was in office, that the two countries would work together not to compromise each other’s interest.
According to him, that MoU has not been implemented fully, so the government is going to take it up.
He added that already, the Vice President has been working with the committee which he heads and he is working with the minister of finance, comptroller general of customs and also the ministry of agric.
The minister also gave reasons why Nigeria is yet to achieve self sufficiency in rice and why the price of rice has not crashed as earlier projected.
He explained that “I was in the largest mill in the country in Kano two days ago, they were selling rice for N15,000 for 50kg. You know your country very well, there are middlemen who do all kinds of things and I told the millers to increase the number of their distributors because there is no point saying it is N15,000 in their factory when out there, somebody is hoarding.
“The same thing happened to maize. Some people filled their warehouses with maize and shut the place so that the prices were so high that poultry farmers could not get access to maize in the market. So, people went to import, crash the prices and they started complaining. There is no where rice is selling for N20,000.
During his briefing, Hadi Sirika said as part of efforts to connect every Nigerian engaged in trade and commerce to business, the FEC approved bilateral air services agreements between Nigeria and the state of Canada.
He said this will open businesses, connect Culture trade and Commerce between Canada and Nigeria.