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Nigerian Farm
Published in Issues

IF I had a wish list,” says Luka Abgu, a farmer from Taraba state, in eastern Nigeria, “I would like a tractor.” “Farming is slow back-breaking work and I often have to employ labourers,” says Mr Abgu, who thinks he is about 60 years old. Though agriculture is still Nigeria’s largest employer, most of it is for mere subsistence. Farmers use age-old rudimentary methods and basic tools. Things are changing in some parts of Taraba—but too slowly. Akinwumi Adesina, the country’s latest and—in recent times—most dynamic farms minister, is determined to speed things up.

 Nigeria’s governments all talk grandly about the potential of large-scale agribusiness but the country still awaits its green revolution. Some 60% of Nigeria’s 167m people are farmers, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The Central Bank says farming accounts for 41% of GDP, though this is likely to drop when the overall figure is “rebased” later this year.


Nigeria should be able to feed itself but patently fails to do so. It spends about $11 billion a year importing food and is the world’s largest buyer of rice. President Goodluck Jonathan says he wants to raise food production by 20m tonnes within four years and end the need to import rice by 2015. But it is hard to see Nigeria feeding itself soon, given its swelling population. The UN says it could exceed 400m by 2050, whereas farm output is rising by 5% a year.

Before the discovery of oil in the 1970s, Nigeria was the world’s biggest exporter of peanuts and palm oil. But since then farming has been neglected and yields have stagnated. Less than half of Nigeria’s arable land is now used; only 10% of farmland is “optimally” used, says Mr Adesina. For instance, shea nuts, an ingredient in beauty products and moisturisers, rot on the ground, though some say they could be worth around $2 billion a year.

Promoting cassava as a wheat substitute could reduce wheat imports, which add a lot to the country’s food bill. SABMiller, a multinational London-based beverage company with big interests in Africa, wants to expand its sales of the cassava-based beer it has pioneered in Mozambique—and notes that Nigeria produces more cassava than any other country in the world. Nearly 90% of the crop is consumed by the families of the smallholders who grow it. Yet yields are still very low and could easily be doubled.

Aid agencies have helped farmers in Taraba grow better varieties of cassava, which can then be mechanically processed. Farmers receive cash in hand that can be invested back into their farms. But such schemes have been tried before. “[Former President Olusegun] Obasanjo got us all to grow cassava,” says Yusuf Tsunbuji, a Taraba farmer, “and we ended up using it as firewood.”

Another snag is that the farming workforce is ageing, though 70% of Nigerians are younger than 30. “I have had my own farmland for three years,” says Mikha Saleh, another Taraba man, explaining that his father gave him a piece a land to own and manage when he was 12. “I work on the farm for three hours or so every day as well as going to school,” he says with a grin. “I enjoy the independence.”

But the government has failed to excite young people with the prospect of farming as a career. Most prefer to head for the burgeoning cities in the hope of getting rich quick. “Farming has become a vocation for people with nothing else to do,” says an aid worker. Though a new lending scheme was initiated in 2011, banks are still loth to lend to farmers, since returns take too long. Training opportunities are still few. But Mr Adesina is also keen to provide farmers with better advice. Some 4.2m of them, he says, have recently been registered on a national database. The number should rise, he hopes, to 10m by the end of the year.

Too far from farm to fork

The biggest impediment may be lousy infrastructure: crumbling roads and patchy supplies of electricity and water. That, says Mr Adesina, is why 45% of Nigeria’s tomatoes are ruined every day.

Women, who make up a good half of the farming workforce, are often forced into farming by marriage. “When it comes to discussing the cost of planting, the men beat the prices down,” says Victoria Lucas, a widow of 40 in Taraba, who grows cassava, yams and maize with her six children. “They know I can’t do it alone.”

Mr Adesina is trying to help farmers by, among other things, extricating government from the business of procuring and distributing fertiliser. Nigerians proportionally use a tenth as much fertiliser as their Indian counterparts. Subsidies for it have existed for more than three decades but red tape and corruption hamper distribution and limit production. “We were subsidising corruption,” says Mr Adesina. “We were not subsidising farmers.”

So he has introduced a system whereby dealers accept vouchers as payment for fertiliser. And foreigners are being encouraged to invest in local fertiliser companies in the hope that they may drive down prices and thus, in the end, increase yields. An Indian-owned company, Indorama, says it plans to set up a $1.2 billion fertiliser plant in Nigeria.

\"\"As thousands of Nigerians flee to their home regions following a spate of Islamist killings of southerners and revenge attacks on mosques and northerners, the BBC\'s Abdullahi Tasiu Abubakar considers whether the situation has parallels to the 1967 civil war, which left some one million people dead in Africa\'s biggest oil producer.

Ochenna Ike is an Igbo trader from south-eastern Nigeria who had relocated to the northern city of Yola in Adamawa state, where his business has been flourishing for the last four years.

But when masked gunmen shot dead 11 people in an attack on a church in Yola last Friday, Mr Ike decided that it was time to head back home.


On the same day as the church shooting, unknown gunmen killed 12 people, mostly southerners, in Mubi town - also in Adamawa state.


\"With all these,\" he told the BBC, shortly after loading his goods into a coach at the Yola Motor Park on his way home, \"there is no option but to pack and go back to my village.\"


Continue reading the main story

Start Quote


I have been living here for 30 years. This is where I raise my family; this is my home and I have no problem with anyone”

End Quote Tony Ologbosere Southern engineer resident in the north


Unfortunately for him, and others such as a young man and woman who wished to travel in the same vehicle, the coach was unable to move as a nationwide strike begun on Monday to protest at the removal of a fuel subsidy has affected inter-city transport across the country.


They hope to travel over the weekend, now that protests have been suspended for two days.


Following the killing of southerners and the warning from the Boko Haram Islamist sect which says it carried them out for all southerners to leave the north, there have been reports of reprisals against Muslims living in the south.


Tanimu Abu, a northerner who last week fled the southern town of Sapele in Delta state after youths attacked a mosque and Islamic schools and threatened northerners with death, considers himself lucky.


He had spent more than 10 years in the oil-rich Niger Delta working for a federal institution, he says, but had to run back home because he feared for his life.


A few days after his departure, five people were killed by unidentified youths who attacked another mosque in Benin City in neighbouring Edo state.


\"Fire Muslim sites in Benin City in the south have come in for revenge attacks


Some in the Nigerian media talk of a \"massive exodus\", but there is no evidence to show that the movement has yet reached a big scale.


The vast majority of Nigerians living in regions other than their birthplace have not run away - and apparently many have no intention of doing so.


Tony Ologbosere is an engineer of southern extraction who has been living and working in Yola for the past 30 years.


He told the BBC that he was not going anywhere, and even pleaded with those who are fleeing to rescind their decision.


\"I have been living here for 30 years. This is where I raise my family; this is my home and I have no problem with anyone,\" he says.

\'Double jeopardy\'

Nigeria\'s 160 million people are roughly equally divided between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian and animist south and there is a long history of tensions between the two regions, as well as the country\'s many ethnic groups.


Many argue that the current movement of people is nowhere near the mass exodus witnessed in 1993 following the decision by the then-military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, a northerner, to annul the presidential election presumed to have been won by a southerner, Moshood Abiola.


Nor is it on the scale of the 1960s crisis that led to the three years of brutal civil war in the country.


Still, some prominent Nigerians, mainly southerners - including President Goodluck Jonathan and head of the Christian Association of Nigeria Ayo Oritsejafor and even Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka - are drawing parallel between this crisis and the 1967 conflict.


\"Demonstrators The strike over the fuel subsidy may help unite northerners and southerners


\"The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought,\" President Jonathan said, alleging that members of Boko Haram have infiltrated even his government.


Pastor Oritsejafor said his members would do \"whatever it takes\" to defend themselves from the pattern of killings which suggested \"systematic ethnic and religious cleansing\".


Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

The major problem is that there is a huge deficit in the understanding of the situation, particularly by the government, leading to its inability to address the problem”

End Quote Kyari Mohammed Modibbo Adama University


Nigerians - both Muslims and Christians - take their religions very seriously.


In a 2004 survey by the BBC, Nigeria came out as the most religious country in the world with 90% of the population believing in God, praying regularly and affirming their readiness to die on behalf of their belief.


Professor Kyari Mohammed of Modibbo Adama University in Yola admits that the current situation represents a \"very dangerous trend\" and has a similarity with the opening phase of the 1967 civil war.


However, he says, the key difference is that Boko Haram is a fringe group fighting both the government and mainstream Muslims in northern Nigeria.


\"The major problem is that there is a huge deficit in the understanding of the situation, particularly by the government, leading to its inability to address the problem,\" he notes.


\"For an average northerner it is a double jeopardy. He is targeted [in the north] by the Boko Haram that does not believe in his version of Islam, and in the south by the people who feel that the attack by Boko Haram is an attack by Muslims.\"


What helps unite the country now, he says, is the commonality of economic hardship suffered by everyone in Nigeria.


Christians and Muslims, northerners and southerners, are marching side by side in the ongoing national strike against the removal of a fuel subsidy.


During the protests in some cities this week, Christians have formed human shields while Muslim prayed - and Muslims have responded in kind.

Ending the Subsidy of Corruption in Nigeria
Published in Issues

The Nigerian government has so far been able to fool most Nigerians into accepting that there is a subsidy on premium motor spirits, commonly called petroleum. Nigerians, who have since independence subsidized corruption leadership, are being paid back in an offensive and reprehensible way by a president they least expected to hurt them. The nation woke up in awe and shock by the sudden announcement of gasoline price increases on New Year day. How they will take the hard blow from their very gentle president is yet difficult to predict but if what the media have been reporting is credible, Nigeria will be flattened by angry protests when the citizens recover from the heavy punch. Sadly, the same media organizations are the medium used to deliver and serve ordinary Nigerians, who will surely suffer if the new prices stand, on the dinner plate of Aso Rock.

The media have never seriously challenged the government\\\\\\\'s assertion of a subsidy with facts and have almost acted entirely in agreement with the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Going by the accounts of the newspapers online on January 1, 2012, there is an agreement that there was indeed a subsidy on end-user petroleum products. The Guardian admitted in its lead story that \\\\\\\"...subsidy on petrol had finally been removed.\\\\\\\" The Nation capitulated in a flashy headline, \\\\\\\"Subsidy removal: Tougher times ahead in 2012.\\\\\\\" The Vanguard was as lame, when it wrote: \\\\\\\"Fuel subsidy removal: Pro-Labour groups call for mass protest.\\\\\\\" Daily Sun would not be outdone in laziness and ignorance, as it plastered a flash headline titled: \\\\\\\"Fuel Subsidy Gone\\\\\\\" on its home page. Nigerian Tribune, joining the bandwagon, announced: \\\\\\\"FG removes subsidy on petrol.\\\\\\\" PM News went further, reporting that \\\\\\\"Thus, Nigerian petrol consumers are expected to start buying petrol at this price with the announcement of the end of subsidy regime today.\\\\\\\"
Thomas Jefferson, founding father and former United States president wrote in 1816 that when the press is free and people are able to read, all is safe. How myopic he was in his assumption, you would think. The press is free in Nigeria and most of the people are able to read, yet all is not safe. Thomas Jefferson deserves a pardon since the Nigerian factor could never have been imagined in his days.
It is so easy to get in the unnecessary and unfruitful discussion of whether or not the so-called subsidy should have been removed at this time. However, launching that discourse at all is based on a false premise. We need to retrace our steps and ask simple questions to rationally challenge any statement that claims there was a subsidy on Nigeria\\\\\\\'s gasoline as sold through the media. The simple fact is that there was never a subsidy and the Federal Government, through the overwhelming inducement of the media, has been able to force the nation into admitting that there was assistance on petroleum products. The government information machinery has succeeded in making the word subsidy stick through preponderant usage. We should attempt to detach that word from our national vocabulary until we get the facts straight.
It is not too difficult to understand the issues involved in the politics of oil marketing if we use common sense. Without understanding the basic arguments of the price increase, we will be awarding free money to the already gravely corrupt government officials in Nigeria. These are the same officials who are only so smart to buy the most expensive cars anywhere with stolen money, for use on the worst roads they can be driven on. We cannot possibly want to award more money to the greedy loafers who have run the nation aground through policies that put expensive cars on bad roads.
I will use a simple analogy to illustrate the non-existence of oil subsidy. Nigeria is this groundnut farmer in Kano who sells his entire groundnut when it is clear to him he will soon need groundnut oil for cooking. This seller grows each nut for one naira and sells for five naira, but buys back the cooking oil for 8 naira. He has many other options. First, he could convert the nut to oil by himself. However, through mismanagement and corruption, he has damaged the tools he requires for self-production. Secondly, he could give the nuts away at no cost and pay the external producer just the production cost of conversion to cooking oil. Thirdly, he could bring others in to his farm to convert the oil for him for a profit.
Our groundnut seller has, however, ignored all these options, deciding greedily to sell his nuts for the market price, knowing fully well that he will also be forced to buy back the finished product at the going market rate. When he buys the end product, he fails to tell members of his household about the profit he already pocketed through sale at the market rate. Instead, he tells his wife and children the cooking oil is priced at 8 naira, without declaring the five naira he already pocketed. Neither would he tell them about the various fees which he charges through his workers to buy back the oil; and how the selling and buying process exponentially increases the cost of the finished product by the time it gets to his kitchen.
Nigeria is buying oil back at the same rate that countries like Sierra Leone, India or Jamaica would, but it does not buy with an empty hand. The cost of Nigeria\\\\\\\'s refined oil is not being computed with a deduction of the profit on the crude oil. That is where the math is all wrong. That is where the government has not been honest with its own people by presenting fuzzy math. That is where the media should have started the discussion. I have read a few complex explanations by subject matter experts- it is now time to simplify this debate for the public so that our citizens can embark on the \\\\\\\"oil subsidy\\\\\\\" protests with a clear understanding of the issues.
If there ever was a subsidy in Nigeria, it is the subsidy of corruption and mismanagement of the oil sector by ordinary Nigerians. Nigerians have subsidized for far too long incompetent leadership, visionless administration and all manners of opportunists who lurk around the high places. Important Nigerians live off the oil wealth, before, during or after their lives in public service. Ibrahim Babangida, Abubakar Abdulsalam, Theophilus Danjuma, Olusegun Obasanjo, among others, as well as their families and associates have lived and continued to feed off the petroleum sector like saprophytic fungi. Yet, none of them in or out of power have worked hard enough to make Nigeria free from the reliance on foreign refining of oil products. Instead, they are either actively involved in squeezing more money out of the immoral downstream oil marketing business, using their cohorts - who are on the Forbes list of the wealthiest - to whom they gave the incalculable opportunity, to draw blood from the veins of hard-working ordinary Nigerians. The wealthiest, which benefit from the cooked subsidy, are the cream of the society.
The so-called subsidy that the government is touting is the sum total of its own crude oil sale, cost of export, cost of import, sales tax to itself, custom charges, demurrage, production and distribution costs, plant and maintenance costs and other overhead charges calculated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, whose officials, we all know, are as corrupt as they come. The Yorubas call them the \\\\\\\"jegudujera.\\\\\\\"
Among nations endowed with oil resources, Nigeria sells gasoline at one of the most expensive rates to her citizens, with the exception of developed and emerging nations where oil pricing is derived from complex economic parameters. Countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Venezuela, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates and Turkmenistan sell gasoline in their countries at rates that are lower than the one the Jonathan administration is bickering about. Yet, the economic conditions of the citizens of these other countries are far better than that of Nigerians.
In countries such as Norway, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, the oil pricing structure that NNPC strives to post on the billboard is nothing compared to what obtains in Nigeria. In the United States for instance, oil pricing differs from state to state and it is used for many economic objectives, ranging from financing road maintenance or improving education to redistributing wealth. This is why in America, New York\\\\\\\'s gas price is much higher than New Jersey\\\\\\\'s, although both states are close to each other in every sense. In New York, the average cost for regular fuel is $4. Of that amount, 33 cents goes to the New York State Government, 15 cents goes to the county government and 18 cents goes to the US Federal Government. That comes to 66 cents in taxes. The actual cost of oil is much lower but the total cost is meant for other purposes that are approved through legislation. The cost of crude oil and refining is factored and known by the citizens, unlike in Nigeria where this figure is lost in translation.
If the current increase, camouflaged as subsidy, is allowed to stand, automobile gasoline will be cheaper in much of the United States than Nigeria. At the reported rate of 141 naira per liter, oil per gallon in Nigeria will total 564 naira, which at the currency conversion rate of one dollar to 160 naira translates to $3.25 dollars per gallon. Well, I am able to buy gas at $2.97 per gallon in northern New Jersey, USA, on New Year day, 2012. The Nigerian government is selling gasoline at a rate that is more expensive than what an American buyer pays when the product is also imported. The Nigerian government is lying in order to rob its own citizens.
At the end of the day, the Jonathan administration will gain some respect if it repairs all the refineries, builds even new and bigger ones, then invites honest discussions about what it costs to refine oil within Nigeria. The cost of refining crude oil without any crude oil sales costs is the true value of premium motor spirits in Nigeria. There is no reason why Nigeria should be buying refined gasoline from overseas. It cannot afford to, it cannot continue to. If it does, that is not a true cost and should continue to be paid as the cost of mismanagement and corruption by the government. In the end, you pay a price for your avoidable problems.
There is too much lying surrounding the question about subsidy of oil products in Nigeria. Nigerians should have been asking questions - but how could they when the media has been reporting only \\\\\\\"President Goodluck Jonathan has said?\\\\\\\" There have been few investigative and elucidative articles and stories and the government has almost run away with a scam!

We must get answers to important question about the oil price increase quickly and each media organization must take a position in support or against of charging more for gasoline. Any worker who dies as a result of the ensuing protests need to be convinced he is dying for an issue he clearly understands. Who is better to explain the issues at stake than the mass media in Nigeria?
As the nation gears up for protests against this flagrant and wicked oil price increase, I would hope that this becomes our own opportunity for a revolution - a repudiation of bad governance, mismanagement, corruption and all the factors that gave rise to a cold and impassioned gift of continued poverty to Nigerians. This issue of subsidy is comparable to the June 12 election cover-up, the Odi killings, the lying that surrounded Yar\\\\\\\'Adua\\\\\\\'s presidential illness or the faces behind Boko Haram. We can stop subsidizing bad governance if we use the subsidy scam as a symbolic issue to clean up the nation and create a new society that works.

How Legislators Bilk The Nation
Published in Issues

We now know why the Central Bank of Nigeria cried out: each senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria earns N15.18m in salaries and allowances monthly, just as each member of the House of Representatives takes home N10.59m a month. For the Senate, each senator (excluding the Senate President and his deputy) takes home about N198.54m annually (N16.64m per month). This translates into a total of N21.243bn. The figure, staggering as it is, still excludes the lawmakers‘ constituency votes, which are not paid directly to them.

To keep the federal lawmakers in office for one year, the Federal Government spends a staggering N67.32bn on their salaries and other allowances. There are 469 federal lawmakers, comprising 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.

The amount includes each senator‘s N45m quarterly allowance, which amount to N180m annually for the four quarters of the year, and the official N18.54m that goes into their individual accounts annually as salaries and other emoluments.

An investigative report by Punch reveals that every member of the House of Representatives takes home about N127.18m annually (or N10.59m per month).

The amount includes N28m quarterly allowance for each member, which translates into N112m annually for the four quarters of the year. It also includes the official N15.18m annual salary and other emoluments of each member, contained in a document obtained from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

This implies that at N127.18m per member (excluding the Speaker and his deputy), N45.466bn is being expended as wage bill annually on 358 legislators in the House of Representatives.

According to available statistics, the Speaker takes home N117.20m annually (N9.76m per month), while his deputy gets about N116.80m annually (N9.73m per month). The seemingly lower pay for the leadership of the House is explained by the fact that the officers are entitled to full provision of some items that had been monetised for other members.

The allowances that are not monetised are for vehicle maintenance and fuelling, personal assistants, house maintenance, domestic staff, entertainment, utilities, wardrobe, newspapers and periodicals.

When the wage bill of these principal officers of the lower chamber is added to the total take-home (N45.466bn) of the other 358 members, the total wage bill of the entire House of Representatives adds up to N45.699bn.

Further analyses of the RMAFC document revealed that the Senate President gets N188.94m annually (N15.74 per month), while his deputy takes home N188.31m annually (N15.69m per month) as salaries and allowances.

As with the leadership of the lower chamber, the amounts exclude other allowances, which are not monetised.

When the wage bill of the Senate President and that of his deputy is added to what the other 107 senators earn, the total take-home for the entire Senate becomes N21.621bn.

But some of the legislators have insisted that the quarterly allowances are for running their offices and so, should not be included in their take-home.

However, there are other earnings not captured in the above figure because they are not fixed.

For instance, each senator is entitled to a severance package of N6,079,200 upon successful completion of a term; duty tour allowance of N23,000 per night when they travel within the country and estacode of $800 per night when they travel out of the country. Should they desire, they are also entitled to a car loan of N8,105,600 each. This is, however, refundable.

Each member of the House of Representatives is also entitled to a severance package of N5,955,637.50 upon successful completion of tenure; refundable vehicle loan of N7,940,850; N21,000 duty tour allowance per night when they travel within the country and $550 estacode per night when they travel outside the country.

However, senators who obtained car loans at the beginning of the legislative session had, through the President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, reportedly made an official request that the loans be converted to grants since they were not told at the onset that the money would be repaid.

A source at the RMAFC told one of our correspondents that any earning by the legislators outside what was approved by the commission and ratified by an Act of Parliament was illegal.

He, however, added that the commission was not in the position to monitor such illegal earnings that members of the National Assembly could appropriate to themselves, noting that it could not also penalise them for such illegal earnings.

The earnings of legislators and other political office holders had been controversial, especially in recent times. The controversy reached its high point when the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, alleged that 25 per cent of Nigeria‘s annual total overhead cost was spent on lawmakers.

The worry of Nigerians, however, has not been about the official earnings, as the legislators are constantly accused of appropriating huge amount of money to themselves as constituency project funds on a quarterly basis.

It is alleged that these funds, which run into billions of naira, end up in the pockets of legislators as the constituency projects are hardly executed and the exact amounts of money collected are hardly known.

The Federal Government has yet to implement the reduced emoluments of political office holders and judges recommended 18 months ago by the RMAFC.

Sources close to the commission confirmed to THE PUNCH that the recommendation had not been implemented because it lacked the force of law.

The commission had forwarded a bill, titled, ”Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances etc) (Amendment) Act, 2008,” to the National Assembly through the Federal Executive Council to legislate upon.

If the bill had been passed and implemented, the official emolument of a senator would have reduced to N12,209,060 per annum, while that of a House of Representatives member would have been N10,273,474 annually.

14 March 2010

419 Examined