The Federal Government has decried the continued reliance on imported food and raw materials by Nigerians, saying there is no reason for this given the abundant resources and knowledge available in the country.
In particular, it said the agricultural sector, apart from helping the nation attain food security, “remains the major driver in industrial development, and diversification from heavy dependence on non-renewable mineral oil.”
President Muhammadu Buhari, stated this on Saturday at the 10th convocation ceremony of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), Abia State.
Buhari, represented by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, said the government expected the Universities of Agriculture to drive the rapid development of the knowledge and skills to increase local production of food and raw materials.
He said: “We can and should be able to feed ourselves on the rich soils and diverse ecologies that God has endowed Nigeria with. We should be determined to wisely exploit the natural resources and inheritance of our nation to feed our people and possibly export to other nations.
“Government expects that Universities of Agriculture should bravely confront the heavy dependence of our nation on imported food and raw materials with the view to reducing it to the barest minimum at the shortest possible time.”
There is, therefore, a crying need for significant infusion of funds for the upgrade of our physical environment, especially when it is realised that this university is among those universities that started with the disadvantage of not having a take-off grant from the government.
Buhari said the agricultural policies of his administration were focused on achieving a sustainable green economy, and emphasised that the Universities of Agriculture must play their crucial role in catalysing the development of the agricultural sector to achieve the government’s goal.
He assured the school that efforts were ongoing to initiate policies and programmes to strengthen agencies and parastatals to provide the enabling environment for increased production.
“To this end, NALDA has been reconstituted and re-established to promote mechanised agriculture. Government expects that specialised Universities of Agriculture will collaborate with NALDA to ensure increased local production of food.
“We shall not relent, rather we shall double our efforts at creating an enabling environment for our specialised Universities of Agriculture to fulfil our collective dream of self-reliance in food production,” he added.
Commenting, Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, commended MOUAU for its immense record of achievements in manpower training, research and innovation since its inception.
Represented by his Deputy, Ude Oko Chukwu, the Governor noted that the cancellation of some courses that were part of the academic programmes of MOUAU has adversely affected the chances of Abia youths hungry for university education.
He appealed to the Federal Government to reintroduce the scrapped courses, saying they would create more opportunities for young persons desirous of making a career in those programmes.
Earlier in his address, the Vice-Chancellor of MOUAU, Prof. Maduebibisi Ofo Iwe, pointed out the inadequate infrastructure and physical facilities in the institution, saying: “It belies our collective commitment to provide quality education for our students.
“There is, therefore, a crying need for significant infusion of funds for the upgrade of our physical environment, especially when it is realised that this university is among those universities that started with the disadvantage of not having a take-off grant from the government.”