It is hard to tell if President Muhammadu Buhari finally got the message that incompetent ministers cannot add value to the country, but the sack of Sabo Nanono as Nigeria’s minister of agriculture has been described as ‘good riddance’.
Hardly was there strategic or policy direction since Nanono became minister until his sack, with players across different value chains always lamenting what they termed ‘acute incompetence’.
“It is good riddance to bad rubbish,” Emmanuel Ijewere, vice president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group told BusinessDay.
Since the last agriculture policy code-named ‘Green Alternative’ terminated in 2020, there has been no new policy to drive a sector the Buhari administration has repeatedly claimed it is betting on to stimulate Nigeria’s ailing economy, and contribute towards creating the millions of jobs it envisages. Nanono as agric minister simply went with the flow, and made little or no effort to innovate.
When for instance, this reporter attended a closed-door meeting between the former minister attended in Lagos in January 2020, Nanono was asked how the ministry would deploy the year’s budget of N138 billion to advance agricultural development in the country. Nanono said, “In the first place, do not worry too much about budget.”
He further said, “This budget, just probably is an appetizer, but the real money comes from CBN, NIRSAL and foreign investment coming massively into the country, and we will see results in the next one or two years.” Nanono seemed eager to sit back and watch other players advance growth in the sector.
Even as 2020 being the pandemic year saw a general slowdown in economic activity, BusinessDay reported bank lending to the agric sector in Nigeria was N3.73trillion last year, increasing by over N1trillion from N2.72 trillion in 2019. The value of credit provided to the sector was also the highest in five years since 2016.
A 37 percent increase in lending to the agric sector in 2020 is however not reflecting in availability and affordability of food for millions of Nigerians. Food inflation at 22.03 percent in July, even though declining after months of accelerating, has been driven by wide-ranging price increases across virtually all food items from staples such as yam, cassava, to cereals including maize and beans, then protein, especially fish, fruits and many others.
“The Buhari Administration is committed to achieving food security within the shortest possible time that’s why the change was found to be necessary,” said Kabir Ibrahim, national president, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), in a statement shared with BusinessDay following Nanono’s sack and replacement.
When Ibrahim spoke with this reporter over the phone before sharing the statement, he had remarked there is no celebration over the minister’s sack, as it serves no purpose other than agitations for the right thing to be done in driving development of the sector.
Nigeria was at various times referenced in the quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, by FAO’s Markets and Trade division, among countries requiring external assistance for food.
With the appointment of Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, formerly Minister of Environment, agric stakeholders wait with bated breaths to be see how competent and visionary he would be as Minister of Agriculture.