Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh has revealed that Nigeria spends about $30 billion annually on food importation, saying that the federal government was taking steps to halt the trend.
The minister disclosed this at the University of Ilorin while delivering a goodwill message at the 13th Children and Youths in Agriculture Programme, CYIAP, held at the university yesterday.
Represented by a director in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. A. Efuntoye, the minister said it was the government’s desire to stem this importation that was creating jobs for people of other nations while Nigerian youths wallow in unemployment.
He also disclosed that the average age of farmers in Nigeria was 65, meaning that very soon if nothing changed, nobody would be left to farm.
According to him, “Consequently, government has reached agreement with African Development Bank, ADB, to secure $300 million in the next five years for youth empowerment programme, when Nigerian banks join the fray, we expect about $1.5billion credit facilities for about 85,000 Nigerian youths.
“Also, the Bank of Agriculture, BOA, is being reformed. Government will ultimately hands-off. It will be fully owned by Nigerian farmers. When we finish the reforms, you will not need collateral to take loans and interest rate will be about five percent. We are working to see farmers’ groups and associations owning and managing it themselves.”
The minister further explained that, “To qualify for credit facility under the Youth Empowerment in Agriculture Scheme, one needs to attend a Youth Investor Incubation Programme,” saying that the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan, had been designated for such purpose and that interested universities with Faculty of Agriculture could also be allowed to train youths to access this credit.
During the internship training, he pointed out, each participant would be paid a stipend but upon graduation, they would be given as much as $50,000-$100,000 each to start the business of their choice.
“This is a loan and will be repaid,” Chief Ogbeh said, adding that “monitoring will be strict.”
In his address, the Emir of Shonga, Dr. Haliru Ndanusa Yahaya told the audience comprising students and teachers of Agriculture from the University of Ilorin, Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife; the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, FUNAAB, and the University of Maiduguri, that they would be lucky if one in a million of them got job the month he left the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC.
“You are never too young to lead,” Dr. Yahaya told them, pointing to the fact that General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) became head of state at the age of 32 while General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) also started ruling the nation when he was only 36.
“Leadership is about opportunities,” he stressed, adding that luck does not work for the unprepared.
Meanwhile, the vice chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Abdulganiyu Ambali, who was represented by the deputy vice chancellor (Academic), Prof Sidikat Ijaiya, said “change is a magical word in Nigeria today. The challenge is what change?
“Change is here with us already. If government is fighting corruption and is wining, change has started,” he noted, adding that change was about changing the mind-set not only in one area of life but also when it came to revenue generation, youth engagement and employment.
The vice chancellor counselled that youths must accept the fact that the civil service is already overflowing and the private sector being the real sector and agriculture presenting limitless opportunities.

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