Prof. Job Nmadu, professor of Econometrics, on Thursday blamed the rising cost of food items, on the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Nmadu, Dean, School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology, Federal University of Technology, Minna, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.
The Dean also blamed the strike for the collapse of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
He called for an amicable resolution of the impasse between the Federal Government and ASUU to enable students and lecturers go back to school.
“One factor contributing to increased prices of food items in Nigeria today is the ASUU strike.
“People might think it is just students and lecturers that are suffering it but it is affecting everyone particularly communities around our schools that make a living from them.
“These businesses have shut down for the past six months that ASUU embarked on strike and it is not funny at all.
“Unfortunately, some of these businesses might never pick up again, contributing to more collapse of SMEs, which is not good for national development,” he said.
Nmadu said high cost of production and forces of demand and supply also contributed to the rising cost of food items and business collapse.
“A lot of small scale businesses have closed down because of high cost of production, about a month ago, we were told that over 40 bakeries closed down in the FCT because of rising cost.
“That means that if we are looking at supply of bread alone, there has been reduction in supply and prices will go up because people will scramble for the few supply,” he said.
The don further blamed the current exchange rate which he described as a disturbing trend, on Nigeria industries depended on raw materials from other countries.
Nmadu also President, Nigerian Association of Agricultural Economists (NAAE), said government needed to be particular on the country’s economic indices, Fiscal and Monetary policies among others.
“It is a complex situation but we must start from somewhere to salvage our small scale industries, which contribute greatly to Gross Domestic Product growth.
“So, we have to ensure that prices do not rise and we have to tackle other factors like insecurity, which has prevented many farmers from going to farm,” he said.
Prof. Job Nmadu, a lecturer with the Federal University of Technology Minna, has called on the Federal Government to pay more attention to accurate data gathering, innovation and research.
Nmadu, who made this call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Friday, said more research driven economy would improve productivity in education and other sectors.
According to him, one of the cardinal points to pay attention to as Nigeria marks its 60th anniversary is research.
Nmadu, a lecture in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Farm Management, noted that most advanced countries of the world were able to achieve significant development due to research.
He said it was a veritable tool any government could use for people oriented and solution based policy formulation.
He noted that no country of the world could develop beyond its level of research, adding that to impact positively; emphasis must be placed on accurate data gathering and innovations.
According to him, the new normal created by the pandemic calls for a paradigm shift from the old order.
He said many countries had invested greatly in research, to find vaccine and other forms of lasting solutions to the pandemic and Nigeria could not afford to be left behind.
The don said the world was waiting for Nigeria to get it right, pointing out that once that was achieved, the country would not only be better for it but would compete favourably globally.
Nmadu, who stressed that research was the way to go as a nation, disclosed that he had come up with some facts and figures on the pandemic owing to a research he recently conducted.
According to him, there is a link between the pandemic and the recent hike in fuel and electricity tariffs among others.
“From the finding so far, it appears the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 1.1 per cent rise in inflation.
“Also, based on the research, there is a need to operate NCDC as a research institution rather than a coordinating one.
“In particular, the Ministry of Health should transfer the institution to a teaching hospital for effective work and easy sai,” he said.
The don added that the capacity of our health facilities should be expanded very significantly.
According to him, a situation where Nigeria tested less than 500,000 within the period of the research, which spanned from when the pandemic was first recorded in Nigeria in March, till September, is not encouraging.
“UK for instance started testing 125,000 per day since April and recently, the United States has reached one million tests per day.
“With a population of about 200 million, it means it would take 85,543 years to test all the population for the virus.
“The research also brought to bear the need for welfare of the front line staff in this type of pandemic.
“The various unions under the health sector have embarked on strike at least twice even in a serious emergency as COVID19 pandemic. Let nothing be left to chance,” he said.
Edited By: Abiemwense Moru/Felix Ajide
Boosting agricultural activities, preventing hunger amid COVID-19 pandemic
A News Analysis by Grace Yussuf, News Agency of Nigeria
Unarguably, COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes in virtually all human activities, including farming.
In Nigeria, such as in other developing and some developed countries, the effects of the pandemic are grievous, especially on agriculture and its value chains, threatening food security.
This development has, similarly, informed increased awareness among food producers (farmers) agro-business persons, governments and consumers, on how to make food sufficient to fight hunger.
In recent times, citizens have on many occasions, expressed concern about increasing scarcity of commodities and high cost of food items due to the inability of farmers to go to farms.
Also worrisome is a recent report of UNICEF that the pandemic can push between 82 million people and 132 million people to hunger in the world that analysts describe an emergency situation.
Although, the report says it may be too early to determine the full impact of lockdown as the pandemic is still raging, analysts note that public has got worst time of the pandemic.
For instance, they note, the latest report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says food index rose by 15.18 per cent in June 2020 compared to 15.04 per cent in May 2020, while general inflation increased by 12.56 per cent in May 2020 due to the pandemic.
NBS attributes the rise in food index to increase in prices of basic food items such as bread, cereals, potatoes, yam, and other tubers, fruits, oils, meats, fish and vegetables, among others.
Similarly, some agriculturists have expressed concern about the astronomical rise in prices of food items, making these basic foods out of the reach of the not just the poor even the middle class.
In the same vein, Prof. Job Nmadu, the National President, the Nigerian Association of Agricultural Economists (NAAE), calls the attention of the relevant groups in agriculture to the high cost food items across the country as a result of the pandemic.
Nmadu says the pandemic has disrupted some vital agricultural activities such as the 2019/ 2020 harvest, land preparations and planting for 2020 and 2021 season, leading to the high cost of goods.
He warns that unless something urgent is done by the government and relevant stakeholders to arrest the situation; it will lead to devastating conditions such as severe hunger and starvation.
According to him, some effects of the pandemic have started manifesting with prices of food items rising sharply making it more difficult for most Nigerians to afford food items that will provide balanced nutrition.
“In order to avoid widespread hunger and starvation in future, government must start working on strategies that will ensure that shortages are appropriately supplemented.
“In particular, post-harvest losses which are about 34 per cent of harvest must be prevented as much as possible,’’ he observes.
Reduced agricultural activities brought about by the pandemic notwithstanding, observers note that government has not been able to effectively address the issue of lack of storage of commodities.
According to them, this has resulted in huge loss in agricultural output due to the seasonal nature of agricultural activities in the country.
They observe that the Federal Government’s food security policy is being threatened with trepidation from industry watchers that think that achieving affordable food may after all be a mirage.
They cite recent survey of food prices in some markets in the Federal Capital Territory such as Dutse, Wuse, Utako and Garki that show that prices of foodstuffs have gone up by between 50 and 100 per cent during the period of the lockdown — March to July.
The survey showed that before the lockdown in March, a bag of 50 kilogramme of rice was sold for N17,500, but it now goes for N23,000, a medium measure of beans was N300, but it is now between N400 and N450 and a measure of maize was N180, now going for between N300 and N350.
Also, 100 tubers of yam were N35, 000, but now N75, 000, which has even been affected by the rainy season, while the price of 50 kilogramme of milk increased from between N25, 000 and N27, 000 to between N45, 000 and N47, 000.
Tomatoes price rose from N4,500 a basket to between N12,000 and N15,000, while a dustbin basket of tomatoes sold for N800 before, now goes for N3,000, while a big basket of pepper that was N4,000 before is now N10,000.
Some farmers have, nonetheless, attributed the rise in the prices of foodstuffs and commodities to transportation and other logistics activities during the period of the lockdown.
Many farmers say they find it difficult to transport their food, livestock and agriculture inputs to different parts of the country.
Concerned by the development, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sambo Nanono, set up a joint technical task team on emergency response to COVID-19 pandemic to ensure unrestricted movement of agricultural products across the country.
“Numerous reports have been received by the ministry of agriculture on the problems faced by transporters of food, livestock and agriculture inputs in different parts of the country.
“Available information confirmed that the restrictions have resulted in food scarcity and impacted negatively on the nation’s agricultural production,’’ he said.
Nanono outlined some of the terms of reference for the team to include working with relevant agencies in states and local government areas to ensure unrestricted movement of agricultural products without compromising security.
The responsibility of the team is to ensure adequate information and to clarify that controlled movement of agricultural products is being disseminated by the media to food transporters and security personnel.
However, some agriculture experts say to address the perennial high cost of food and agricultural products, especially with the coronavirus pandemic, more people must be encouraged to go into farming, especially the youth.
According to them, government at all levels should put in place incentives to make farming attractive and high subsidies on machineries and equipment, including financial support in form of soft loans for farmer.
An agriculturalist, Mr Chijioke Egbo, advises the public to embrace farming to combat scarcity and high cost of food in the country.
Egbo, who is a retired palm oil seedlings desk officer, Enugu State Ministry of Agriculture, says the call for public to take up farming is to promote increased food production.
He says reduction in food production will bring about food insecurity and malnutrition among Nigerians, especially children.
“People can stop doing many things in this time of global pandemic but they cannot stop eating.
“If there is shortage of food in the land, malnutrition and starvation will definitely set in as well as diseases.
“To avert this outcome, we need efficiency and innovative technology to continue fueling large-scale sustainable agriculture,’’ he observes.
The agriculturist says reduction in food production, food insecurity and youth unemployment, might have characterised the economy.
He notes that the problems of unemployment and food insecurity have been associated with an increase in population without a corresponding increase in agricultural productivity and favourable policies.
Egbo, therefore, calls on every citizen to engage in farming activities, no matter the size of the lands as it would help to have food in abundance come next harvesting season.
However, the call on everyone to engage in farming to ensure food security will require the support of government at all levels to make the environment conducive for farming, critics suggest.
They note further that accessing credit facilities is the most important of all the support as this will make a budding farmer to stand.
But optimists insist that the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) by the Central Bank of Nigeria is aimed at providing such facilities by creating linkage companies involved in processing and Small Holder Farmers (SHFs) for required key agricultural inputs.
They explain that the thrust of the programme is inputs in kinds and cash for farm labour to SHFs to boost production of cotton, rice, maize, wheat, cassava, potato, yam, ginger, sugarcane, soybean, cowpea, tomato, and livestocks such as fish, poultry and ruminants, among others.
They also advise that the programme should be made to reach the very small farmers in all the states without discriminations and that the support must be sustained over the years to make food sufficient.(NANFeatures)
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the Federal University of Technology (FUT), Minna, has commenced series of workshops to keep its members abreast of contemporary issues during the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19.
The Secretary of the union and anchor at the sessions, Dr Gbolahan Bolarin, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Ilorin on the sidelines of one of the sessions that the virtual fora were being held in accordance with the COVID-19 protocols outlined by government.
The don, who scored the sessions high in terms of the number of participants and scholarly discussions, said they would help provide solutions to the myriads of problems confronting the education sector, particularly tertiary institutions.
Bolarin, a first class graduate of the institution, also urged federal and state governments to improve budgetary allocation to the education sector in line with the 26 percent UNESCO Declaration.
Speaking at one the sessions, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, Coordinator of ASUU’s Lagos Zone, said the COVID-19 had necessitated the need to seek an alternative to conventional teaching and learning methods in form of virtual learning.
Sowande’s lecture was entitled:” Virtual Learning in Nigerian Universities: A facade or Reality. ”
The don said e-learning was designed to create an online communication between the teacher and the student, adding it could complement classroom learning.
“A virtual classroom is where people meet live in order to learn. The software platform allows people in different locations to interact with each other and the facilitator as well as engage in learning activities,” he said.
Other speakers at the sessions were Prof. Clement Chup, a former Chairman of the University of Abuja branch of ASUU, Dr Stella-Maris Okey, National Welfare Officer of ASUU and Prof. Job Nmadu, the President of Nigeria Society of Agricultural Economists among others.
Edited By: Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)
The Nigerian Association of Agricultural Economists (NAAE) has expressed concern over astronomical rise in prices of food items across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof. Job Nmadu, the National President of the association, in a statement in Abuja said the pandemic had disrupted some vital agricultural activities.
He said that the 2019/ 2020 harvest, land preparations and planting for 2020 and 2021 season had been disrupted, leading to the high cost of goods.
Nmadu said unless something urgent was done by government and relevant stakeholders to arrest the situation; it would lead to devastating conditions like starvation.
According to him, some effects of the pandemic have started manifesting.
“Prices of food items have risen sharply further making it difficult for most Nigerians to afford food items that will ould provide balanced nutrition.
“In order to avoid widespread hunger and starvation in 2021, government must start working on strategies that would ensure that shortages are appropriately supplemented.
“In particular, post-harvest losses which are about 34 per cent of harvest must be prevented as much as possible.”
On impact of the pandemic on other areas of life, particularly education, the don said the educational sector was one of the most hit.
He called for more investment in Information Communication Technology (ICT).
Nmadu said that it had become necessary for stakeholders to undertake robust consultations to give online schooling a priority in the country.
According to him, most countries of the world are providing infrastructure for free Wi-Fi in public places, buildings and educational institutions.
He, however, decried that in Nigeria, students and pupils were expected to buy their data, adding that it was not sustainable.
Nmadu said it would be necessary to include provision of Wi-Fi as part of conditions for operating schools.
“The long-term impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the socio-economic and cultural life of Nigeria and Nigerians is disturbing.
“The pandemic led to the closure of all educational institutions in the country since March 2020 and necessary measures must be taken to ensure that students do not lose out completely.”
The don called on relevant stakeholders to ensure that all issues concerning resumption of normal academic activities were properly addressed to ensure a win-win situation for all.
Nmadu also called for resolution of pending issues with Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were addressed as soon as possible.
Edited By: Abiemwense Moru/Grace Yussuf (NAN)
Experts from within and outside Nigeria have called for agricultural research into stemming the problem of starvation, increased poverty and other challenges likely to be posed when COVID-19 pandemic ended.
Prof. Job Nmadu, President of Nigerian Association of Agricultural Economists (NAAE), Prof. Adebayo Shittu from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun, and others made this call in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.
Nmadu said the decisions were reached at an online forum organised by the NAAE in collaboration with Michigan State University.
He said the forum had the theme: “Nigerian Agricultural Policy Research Themes and Focus Post COVID-19.”
The President, NAAE, noted that the place of research in the face of the pandemic could not be overemphasised.
He said the pandemic had added to the plethora of challenges faced in Nigeria, particularly in the agricultural sector and a research into the way forward was necessary.
According to him, research is critical to ensuring rising productivity, reduction in income fluctuations and reduction in poverty among other things.
“Suddenly, everything is changing globally. The way we live and work, our social and community relations. The advent of COVID-19 took everybody unawares.
“The numbers are still counting in Nigeria and we do not have any idea how and when all these will end.
“We in the developing world, especially in sub-Sahara Africa, are still grappling with the impacts of climate change, economic crisis of over a decade ago.
“We are also grappling with unstable political systems, rising
poverty, and unemployment, high levels of food insecurity.
“Now it is COVID-19 with its attendant impacts and a new lexicon and health insecurity,” he said.
According to him, the major task before all, is how to ensure that the food systems and supply chains are adequate to feed the rising population, expected to rise from 198,753,871 in 2019
to 255,774,848 in 2030.
The don noted that how research culture toward policy reforms and interventions would be shaped, post COVID-19 was paramount.
Another speakers at the forum, Prof. Saweda Liverpool-Tasie, from Michigan State University, called for collaboration among agricultural experts for lasting solution.
According to Liverpool-Tasie, research is very critical. It should provide clear thinking and direction.
“Unfortunately, many decisions are based on perceptions and feelings rather than facts and it is a big challenge that plagues many countries especially in agriculture.”
On distribution of palliatives to cushion the effect of the pandemic, Liverpool-Tasie expressed concern over implementation of different policies, saying, “to what extent does research play a role.
“COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to move from business as usual. It has demonstrated the extent of globalisation and the fact that global recession is looming.” he said.
Also speaking, Prof. Adebayo Shittu from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun, laid emphasis on collaboration for result oriented agricultural research.
He said the effect of the pandemic on food security was so huge that more efforts should be geared toward research.
According to him, the pandemic has disrupted supply chains and logistics, and labour flow has also been affected.
Shittu lamented that the pandemic came at a time when Nigerian farmers were expected to be on the farm for pre-planting preparations, affecting the whole planting process.
“Not being able to work within farming season will affect everything and lead to future supply shortages, hunger, malnutrition and starvation.
“Unfortunately, external trade is affected by the development and trade will remain sluggish for a long time, meaning we have to increase our effort to produce locally,” Shittu was quoted as saying.
The don further said, the development, had now forced Nigerians to go for smaller ration at more expensive rate.
“Pregnant women and nursing mothers are greatly affected because of lack of proper nutrition for their children to grow optimally.
“There will also be need to conduct research on growth of children born during this pandemic,” he said.
Shittu, however, harped on the need to pay more attention to value addition as well as creative ways to make farming attractive to young Nigerians and those with erroneous perception about farming.
He said investments in food preservation and value addition needed to be taken seriously.
Shittu added that there was need for value addition for tomatoes, vegetables, fish and other perishable food items.
He also stressed the need for every household in urban areas to grow one food item or the other.
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Felix Ajide (NAN)
Assessing impact of border closure on Nigerian economy
By Cecilia Ijuo, Nigeria News Agency
The partial closure of Nigerian borders with Benin Republic and other neighbouring countries has been adjudged as a major step in tackling smuggling, which has been a major challenge.
The borders closed since Aug. 21, 2019, was mainly to check the smuggling of rice and other commodities into the country.
After the closure, the Federal Government, also tightened security in and around Seme(Lagos State), Jibiya(Katsina State), Idiroko(Ogun),Illela-Koni(Sokoto State) borders, among others, to ensure enforcement.
Alhaji Sabo Nanono, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, at various fora after the border closure had consistently maintained that the move has yielded positive results.
He stated that one of the major impacts of the closure was the increase in demand for locally produced rice and other commodities like fish, chicken and textiles.
He said: “In the southern part of this country, people do not eat foreign rice anymore.
“In fact you can perceive the aroma in the milling plants as opposed to the ones imported into the country that do not even add value to your health, that is not even nutritious.’’
Nanono said that besides rice, the Federal Government has started scrutiny of all commodities imported into the country.
In order to boost fish production, the Federal Government, recently inaugurated the executive officers of the National Fish Association of Nigeria (NFAN).
Mr Edet Akpan, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, while inaugurating the executives, said government would do all within its reach to reposition the economy.
“I am sure the national production of fish will not only increase, the quality and export value will also increase, “he said.
Stakeholders have commended government for taking a bold step aimed not only at curtailing importation of rice, but other commodities like chicken, fish and textiles.
Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, said the National Assembly would ensure that all necessary agreements were reached before the borders would be reopened.
He said: “I stand shoulder to shoulder with the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari on this mission.
“It is one of the few occasions that Nigeria has stood up to protect the interest of Nigerians. Yes we believe in good neighbourliness no doubt about that. We believe in being our brothers’ keeper.
“If we allow our borders to continue to be porous. If we continue to listen to the cries of people who are shedding crocodile tears about the border closure, then we will not be able to protect our own. We will not be able to ensure that we develop policies deliberately to protect the interest of people that we are to protect.
“The hews and cries we hear are sponsored cries. Sponsored in the sense that for whatever reason those who are suffering as a result of the closure, are those who are into the business of smuggling.’’
In the same vein, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, said it was a clear indication that President Muhammadu Buhari was determined to get Nigeria working again.
Uzodinma, who was once Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, said his committee in the course of its oversight functions then, discovered the humongous amount of money the country was losing to rice smuggling and other illicit activities in and around the borders.
“When I was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, I recommended the closure of the borders because of the quantum of illicit transactions taking place at the detriment of the country.
“The security implication of the activities at the borders was also a serious concern to us then, because they are very porous. “Those areas are landlocked with so many track roads and so many things happening there that have not helped our economy,’’ he said.
On his part, Prof. Job Nmadu, President, Nigerian Association of Agricultural Economists, called for measures to cushion the effect of the closure.
He said it was necessary to put measures in place to ensure that the border did not impact negatively on Nigerians, particularly those in border communities.
“On the face of it, it would seem that there are some gains, but such gains might be momentary and may not be sustainable,” he said.
According to him, the sharp rise in price of food items are gains to farmers, adding that at least they will earn more income.
He said that on the long run, the farmers would pay higher price to purchase inputs, thereby wiping out the gains.
Mrs Mary Afan, President of Small Holder Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON), also listed the gains of the border closure.
She noted: “Even though Nigeria is a signatory to the African Free Continental Trade Agreement, the border closure is giving us strength to see how we can stand.
“We can actually feed ourselves and we can produce what other people need. We just heard that Ghana said they are the major exporter of shea butter and this shea butter they are exporting is from Nigeria.
“Now that the borders are closed, they have nothing to export. So, it means that Ghana depends on Nigeria to get her shea butter for the export.
“This is opening our eyes to the fact that we need actually to plan very well to have a large economy of scale of whatever we can produce,” she said.
On his part, Mr Tedheke Retson, National Coordinator, Nigeria Farmers Group and Cooperative Society (NFGCS), called on the Federal Government to enact stringent laws against smuggling before reopening the borders.
He said such step would send strong signals to smugglers that it would not be business as usual whenever the borders were reopened.
“It’s time smugglers were treated as enemies of state because of the dangers they pose to the economy,’’ he said.
According to him, until such is done and urgently, it will be difficult for Nigeria to truly fight smuggling.
“Those who engaged in smuggling had formed strong cabals that could only be broken through stringent punishment. In most of the nations in Asia, when you become an economic saboteur, you are considered as an enemy of state.
“The Nigerian Constitution considers a threat to internal security as a capital crime. So, if you become a threat to our growth, to our economy, we should begin to punish people.
“Yes, the borders are still porous, so smuggled goods are still coming in. What must be done first and foremost is to set the pathway towards criminalising smuggling,” he said.
Mr Noble Adaelu, President of Concerned Youth Empowerment Association, cautioned against selective approach in the effort to rid Nigeria’s borders of unscrupulous activities such as smuggling.
Adaelu, was reacting to reports that the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), Mr Samuel Dentu, reportedly commended the Nigerian government for allowing their products into the country for the last Lagos International Trade Fair in 2019.
According to him, the development can give room to compromise that would make the essence of the closure to be defeated.
Mr Anibe Achimugu, President, National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) said the closure of the borders has not only curtailed importation of smuggled textile materials into Nigeria, but has boosted the reviving of the Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) sub sectors.
Achimugu said that the reduction in the influx of textile materials into the country has boosted the morale of players in the sub sector to get back to work.
According to him, the major advantage of the closure is the control it has brought to the importation of smuggled textile materials, including used clothes.
“The closure has reduced that significantly, but that also put a burden on us to fill the gap. We have to start developing our internal capacities to meet the need of Nigerians,’’ he said.
Mr Ezekiel Mam, President of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), assured that the hardship is temporal, adding that everything will stabilise with time.
He assured that the association would ensure stability of prices of poultry products.
Mam said: “People take advantage of the development to maximize profit instead of expanding the business. Government has helped us to increase demand by closing the borders, so we must desist from taking advantage of the development and look at the long term benefit,’’ he pleaded with members of PAN.
As Mam pleaded, beneficiaries of the border closure should not take advantage of increase in demand of the commodities to exploit the people.