By JOSEPH CHIBUEZE
The sack of Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development by President Muhammadu Buhari on September 1 2021, did not come to many as a surprise. In fact many stakeholders are of the opinion that the sack should have come long ago.
Nanono assumed duty as Agric Minister in August 2019 at a time there was a lot of expectations from the agric sector because of the level of hunger in the land, (a situation that has persisted till date). It was also a time the administration of President Buhari expected so much from the agric sector for the diversification of the nation’s economy which hitherto had depended mainly on crude oil.
There was no doubt Mr Nanono knew the enormity of the responsibility thrust on him. Unfortunately, because he had no blue print of what he really wanted to achieve as a minister, the ministry under him had been wandering like a rudderless ship. His first sin was that he is not a team player, he sidelined most of the key stakeholders including directors in his ministry. He denied himself valuable inputs from these stakeholders.
Little wonder why the mood at the headquarters of the ministry when the news of his sack filtered in was that of jubilation.
He was also involved in petty politics, promoting a faction of farmers association when he should have been playing a unifying role of galvanising the farmers to produce more food for the nation.
One of his controversial actions that generated a lot of negative publicity for him and the ministry, and which may have caused embarrassment to the President was his ministry’s use of N30 million public funds to build Mosque for herdsmen in Borno State. Nigerians only got to know about the project through a leaked memo.
It was therefore not surprising when one of the reasons given by the president for the sack was the fact that a after a review of his performance it was discovered that he had under performed and therefore necessitating a change of leadership to strengthen weak areas.
But that is not to say that the minister spent the two years in the ministry doing nothing. Of course there were some laudable initiatives including the agric mechanisation hubs in 650 local governments to support the farming communities.
“The mechanisation hubs which will be stocked with modern farming equipment, like tractors, power tiller, and harvesters among others, will also serve as centres for training the farmers on modern farming techniques,” the minister noted.
Eventually, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a loan facility of $1.2 billion to finance the mechanisation of agriculture in the country. Unfortunately, till he was sacked, that project is still in the pipeline.
While the COVID-19 lockdown measures imposed by the government took a toll on agricultural activities and food systems, the government launched the Agriculture for Food and Job Plan, a component of the Nigeria Economic and Sustainability Plan (NESP), to cushion the impacts of the pandemic on the farmers and the economy.
Also, upon the commencement of last year’s planting season, the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) certified 81,000 metric tonnes of seeds across the country, so as to enable farmers’ easy access to viable and high yielding inputs at affordable prices.
In addition, President Buhari directed Mr Nanono and other key players of the sector to join the already existing 12-member Presidential Task Force for COVID-19.
The minister later flagged off the distribution of agricultural inputs to Nigerian farmers across the country.
This, he said, was aimed at boosting agricultural production in the country and averting food scarcity in 2021.
Some of the inputs distributed to the smallholder farmers include varieties of rice, maize, and wheat seeds including cocoa and palm seedlings, among others.
In a quick reaction to the sack of the former minister, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) described it as long overdue.
National President, AFAN, Arc Kabir Ibrahim in a statement shortly after the news broke said, “The former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammad Sabo Nanono, did not in any way contribute to the drive and passion of the President to achieve food sufficiency for Nigeria rather he was doing what he liked and he didn’t want to understand any of the things we were doing to improve the agriculture space.
“He was the man that said there were no seeds in Nigeria, and as the protem chairman of Seed Council Board he never attended so many meetings of the Seed Council.
“In the Ministry, we know that about 70 per cent of the directors were not working with him because he did not want to work with them. He had some favourites that he worked with.
“So many other things went wrong. He also went as far as to pocket AFAN by bringing a usurper from Kano to head AFAN, but he did not succeed because AFAN is greater than an individual.
“Now the President is clear on what he wants to do in the agriculture space, which agriculture will be brought to the front burner.”
He said AFAN is ready to support the new miniter. According to him, “We are ready to cooperate with him, we have already sent congratulatory messages to him, and we are pledging to support him to achieve food security for this country.
“Our advice to the new Minister of Agriculture is to work with all stakeholders. He should not segregate anybody, work with all his staff, allow everybody to do their bit, and make sure that there is transparency in all they do, and drive the vision and passion of the President because the President is very clear and showing the whole world that his passion is on agriculture.
“The interventions and efforts from Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, NIRSAL, and all these stakeholders- Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, Ministries of Transport, Environment, and others so they should all co-live to get the agriculture space effectively working because these are broad issues allocated to them so that agriculture will now take its own place because it will gradually replace oil. So that is what we are advising him to move with stakeholders.”