NewsReel 21/5/14 - Agriculture: Amaechi's Antidote To The Menace of Boko Haram And Insecurity In Nigeria

[ Masterweb Reports: Eze Chukwuemeka Eze reports ] - “In a world of plenty, no one, not a single person, should go hungry. But almost 1 billion still do not have enough to eat. I want to see an end to hunger everywhere within my lifetime.” –Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General.
 
 
If there is food for all then we have a rich nation but when we don’t have food for all then we have a poor nation.” –Owelle Rochas Anayo Okoroacha, Governor of Imo State.
 
 
The importance of providing food for Nigeria’s large populace needs not be over-emphasized. But this, as captured in the above quotes, cannot be possible in a country facing the type of insecurity Nigeria is currently facing over the menace of Boko Haram. It is a fact that today, Nigeria is in the news worldwide not for any positive developments but due to its inability to curtail the menace of insecurity spearheaded by a religious jihadist sect known as Boko Haram fighting to end any form of education in Nigeria. This unfortunate scenario has defied any known security strategy by the combined forces of our armed forces, thus necessitating foreign intervention.
 
 
However, as several other foresighted people have warned, military might is not enough to defeat Boko Haram and solve the problem of insecurity in Nigeria. There is need for a more workable strategy that could solve the problem on a permanent basis. Luckily for Nigeria and Nigerians, we have a visionary leader who has come out with a possible way out. He faced similar scenario when he assumed office as Governor and has been able to tackle it decisively. That person is none other but Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State.
 
 
The record has it that the Port Harcourt that Amaechi inherited when he assumed office as Governor in 2007 was more like a jungle where the fittest determined the fate of lesser animals. The once glamorous city was ranked among the four most dangerous cities in the world as at that time. The Human Resources Unit of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos. had ranked Port Harcourt with Baghdad, Yemen’s capital of Sana’a and Khartoum in Sudan, as the world’s most dangerous cities. Going by the ranking published by Bloomberg, Port Harcourt ranked with Baghdad as one of the world’s most dangerous cities for foreign workers as criminal gangs and militia groups seeking greater control of energy revenue stepped up attacks. For Amaechi to have ended this dangerous trend and rescued Rivers State from the menace of militancy demonstrates that he is a leader ahead of his peers. It unquestionably makes him one whose proffered solutions to the Boko Haram menace we should take seriously as the menace can be likened to the challenge posed by militancy when Amaechi assumed office in 2007.   
 
 
Hear Governor Amaechi: “The current problem we are having in Nigeria is tied to poverty and unemployment.  I believe that one solution to this insurgency is education and employment. The easiest employment is farming, because a large number of our youths are not educated and skilled. I applied it here in Rivers State and it worked. We created the Banana Farms that have created jobs for over 2,000 persons. We revived the Risonpalm; it was dead when we came, and it has employed over 5,000 workers. Also, the Songhai Farm has employed over 2,000 workers, while Five Fish Farms in strategic locations have been completed. We have done all that to create employment opportunities for our people. I am very sure that the establishment of farms will go a long way to reduce the recruitment of Boko Haram members. The federal government must take education, employment and reduction of poverty as priority. We do appreciate the challenges the federal government is facing now.”
 
 
As obtainable in other states in Nigeria, agricultural policy was almost nonexistent in Rivers State at the start of Governor Amaechi’s administration. There was therefore no vehicle upon which the sector could be driven. The sector appeared to have suffered from total neglect by previous administrations, leading to the following:
 
 
•The parastatals and companies were in a state of decay, e.g. School-To-Land, Delta Rubber, Risonpalm, ADP, etc. •Non-release of approved budgetary provisions. •There were no functional projects. •Agricultural infrastructure was in a deplorable state. •Counterpart funding on the part of the government was poor. •Staff training or capacity building was nonexistent.
 
 
With the coming of Governor Amaechi all these woes facing the agricultural sector were confronted headlong. He has succeeded to the extent that most world leaders that visited Rivers State commended him for his vision and commitment towards the development of agriculture in the state.
 
 
The first major step Governor Amaechi took was to initiate an agricultural policy that would guide his administration in his vision to create another economic base for the state outside oil. 
 
 
AGRICULTURAL POLICY OF RIVERS STATE
In a broad sense, the policy of government on agriculture is to encourage full private sector participation in order to attain food security, sufficiency and best practices. Government is also to be strategically involved in creating the necessary agricultural environment for farmers by way of providing facilities and promoting programmes in collaboration with external agencies, institutions and Governments for the development of agriculture in the state. It has equally committed itself to invest in agriculture as a foreign exchange earner and use the sector to generate massive employment opportunities for its citizens.
 
 
The second step Governor Amaechi took in his vision to revolutionise agriculture in Rivers State was to appoint a very young, vibrant, unassuming and well focused leader in the person of Mr. Emmanuel Chinda as the Commissioner of Agriculture. This versatile, workaholic, egalitarian, well exposed politician and a University of Nigeria Nsukka graduate was all that Governor Amaechi needed to make much impact in this sector. Born on 18th March, 1970 in Port Harcourt, Mr. Chinda, Emmanuel Okwulogwo was the first Senate President, National Union of Rivers State Students and National Secretary General, National Union of Rivers Students by 1995. By 2002-2008, he was the Organizing Secretary, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Emohua LGA. Chinda was a recipient of award of merit from National Union of Ikwerre Students (NUIS) for the promotion and growth of the Union, Rotaract Club of University of Nigeria, Nsukka award for service to humanity, and award of merit from National Union of Rivers State Students (UNN) for service to Rivers State.
 
 
Chinda before his appointment as the Commissioner of Agriculture from 2009 was the Executive Chairman of Emohua Local Government Area by 2004 and Chief Legislative Aide to the Rt. Hon. Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, from 2004 to 2007. From 2008 to 2009 he was a member of the Rivers State Executive Council as a Commissioner in charge of Employment Generation and Empowerment. 
 
 
AMAECHI’S AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION AND REMARKABLE FEATS      
 
                                                                           
The administration of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi since inception in 2007 has introduced several programmes to revamp the agricultural sector and encourage people to go back to farming. According to Amaechi, agriculture cannot be separated from the state’s overall development plan as the sector is being developed to equally stimulate the state’s economy. His administration has established the Songhai Centre, Fish Farms and Banana plantation as well as revived the Risonpalm in addition to other initiatives to improve agricultural growth and output in the state.
 
 
Under the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD),
 
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