The porosity of Nigeria’s border and the unabating corruption at all the entry points, both for human and materials, which has made the country a ‘dumping ground’ for toxic materials, is now receiving attention. CALEB ONWE writes
Nigeria has inadvertently and unfortunately taken upon itself the toga of ‘free import zone’ for all manner of things, that cut across board. To put it more precisely, the porosity of Nigeria’s border and the un-abating corruption at all the entry points, both for humans and materials, have made the country a dumping ground for every toxic materials that are rejected by less rich countries in the African region.
The situation is not just creating a conduit pipe that is constantly draining the country’s economy, since most of these imported “junks” are not properly taxed and channelled to add value to the country’s fiscal status, but is also reducing the viability of many of the nation’s economic sectors.
Apart from those who directly deal in the animal genetics resources in the livestock sector, not many are aware that there is an “uncontrollable” importation of animal genetics and semen into the country for various reasons.
Imports of agricultural products into the country have continued to allegedly gulp up to $2 billion annually. Besides the chunk of the money spent on import of rice, flour, fish, tomato paste, eggs, textile and sugar, a great percentage of the money goes into import of animals and animal related-products.
In one of the reports credited to the Minister of Transport, Chibuike Amaechi, in which he buttressed the position of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh. Amaechi was quoted to have observed that “about 30 per cent of live animals slaughtered in Nigeria are imported from neighbouring countries.
“Like other subsidiaries, livestock industry development is constrained by low productivity breeds, inadequate access to feeds and grazing lands, frequent farmers-pastoralists conflict, lack of processing facilities and low value addition and low technical inputs in the management of animals, including diseases.”
These and other reports expose not just the inhibiting factors to the development of several Nigeria economic sectors, but the depth of danger facing the livestock sub-sector of agriculture.
Animal semen importation
The need for cross breeding of animal species is said to have necessitated the quest for animal semen collection and importation. Experts explained that semen collection is the process of obtaining semen from male human or other animals with the use of various methods for the purpose of artificial insemination, or medical study, usually in fertility clinics.
In addition, semen can also be collected via masturbation, according to some medical reports. When animal semen is collected for artificial insemination, it is also said to have the capacity of being stored either for short or long-term period.
And to assess the potential fertility, the experts usually subject some of these animals to clinical test to obtain relevant diagnostic information.
While some stakeholders argue that nothing is wrong with the desire to acquire special breeds of animals, hence the importation of the semen, majority also affirmed that with all the necessary research facilities put in place in the country, there are seasoned breeders and animal genetic resources professionals that can develop whatever kind of animal species or breeds that can add value to the nation’s livestock sector.
One of such experts, Dr. Chris Onikun, has in one of the media reports, allegedly urged the government to set up breeding and multiplication centres in the country to curb the incessant depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves through animal semen and genetic resources import.
He also said that there is need for a centre for production of animal semen for artificial insemination, as one release of semen from an animal could be taken to the laboratory where it can be processed and given to more animals for reproduction.
Underdevelopment Media reports have it that most of the mega farms in Nigeria import livestock semen from different countries to breed various species of animals found in their farms. According to Dr. Poopola Mustapha, a reproductive biotechnologist, the danger in importing animal semen into the country, is that each time there is such im- portation; “jobs are exported from Nigeria.”
He also suggested that the neglect of animal genetic research in the country due to the frenzy of big farm owners in the importation of some animal genetic materials and semen from other countries, and the outright abandonment of research by the government have remained the bane of continuous under-development of the sector and incapacitation of professionals and animal genetic researchers in the field who are not given the opportunity for capacity building.
Mustapha also noted that there are diseases not meant for this country that finds its way to the nation’s livestock industry due to unregulated importation of animal semen and other genetic materials into the country.
Floating semen collection centre Apart from reducing the awful depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves through importation, experts in the livestock sector have also said that establishing a centre for animal genetic resources and semen collection in the country will further boost development in the sector and create jobs, as well as opportunity for professional capacity building among the practitioners in the sector.
Responding to the urgent need to establish such centre in the country, the Director General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) Prof. Lucy Ogbaudu, convened a workshop for Animal Genetic Resources Research Group in the country recently.
The aims and objectives of the workshop were said to includeworking out a modality for the establishment of a centre for animal semen collection and preservation protocol in the country.
It was also stressed that apart from the policy document, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, presented and was adopted by the National Council on Agriculture at the Port Harcourt Conference, there is no standard regulations for an import transaction in livestock industry, such as semen collection and preservation protocol in Nigeria.
It is a well known fact that animal agricultural research is not well positioned in this country.”
She also stated that the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), as a research development agency, will continue to support researchers, both nationally and internationally to provide affordable solution, using different biotechnologies available to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians in the areas of food and nutritional security.
Almost all the professionals in animal breeding and genetics agree that establishing an animal genetics and semen collection in Nigeria was over due and lack of it was a negation of the Global Plan of Action on conservation of animal genetics resources agreement Nigeria joined other countries to sign in Switzerland since 2007.
Sokoto introduces tractor hire scheme
Sokoto state government said it will start a tractor hire scheme to boost mechanization in farms and assist farmers to enhance their production capacity.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal stated this in Kware LGA when he inspected agricultural processing machines to be distributed to farmers under the state’s FADAMA III additional funding scheme.
“We are starting with 30 tractors, with each of the three senatorial districts to have 10 tractors each. This initiative will be implemented with the collaboration of the FADAMA III coordinating office, the state ministry of agriculture and the state investment company which will provide the tractors,” the Governor stated.
He said a strict vetting process will be implemented for those to benefit from the gesture.
“We want to ensure that both the small and large scale farmers have access to the tractors and other machineries.
“We hope to expand the scheme to ensure we have enough tractors to help our farmers have access to modern farm tools at affordable prices,” he added.
Tambuwal said 127 farmer Processing Groups, made up of 1,385 small-holder farmers, have benefitted from the agricultural processing machines and equipment distributed to farmers across the state by the FADAMA III office in Sokoto.
According to him, in addition to the creation of two agricultural produce aggregation centres in the state, eleven tomato production net houses have been established at various locations in the state.
“This gesture is part of our collective efforts towards modernizing our farming techniques so as to improve yield and income of our farmers,” he stated.
The Governor further revealed that 243 unemployed youths have been trained to embrace agriculture, saying this was done with a view to exploring the agribusiness sector and instilling in the youths and women the technical and practical skills that could enhance their competitiveness in agri-prenueship.
GMO: Who blinks first – NBMA or HOMEF?
Efforts to establish Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria are currently enmeshed in controversy as two key agencies- National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) accuse each other of sabotaging the nation’s food security. Taiwo Hassan reports
Indeed, Nigeria is one of the luckiest countries in the world that is blessed with large span of arable lands for planting of crops to ensure food productivity and security.
But in spite of the oil, which currently account for 90 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue and foreign Exchange earnings, agriculture remains the base of the nation’s economy, providing the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians. The sector, no doubt, faces many challenges such as outdated land tenure system that constrains access to land (1.8 ha/farming household), a very low level of irrigation development (less than 1 percent of cropped land under irrigation), limited adoption of research findings and technologies, high cost of farm inputs and poor access to credit. Also included are inefficient fertilizer procurement and distribution, inadequate storage facilities and poor access to markets, which have all combined to keep agricultural productivity low (average of 1.2 metric tons of cereals/ha) with high post-harvest losses and wastes..
Despite these challenges, agriculture still remains the largest sector of the Nigerian economy -employing two-thirds of the entire labour force.
Over the past three decades, value-added per capita in agriculture has risen by less than one percent annually. It is estimated that Nigeria has lost $15 billion in annual export opportunity from groundnut, palm oil, cocoa and cotton alone due to continuous decline in the production of those commodities. Food (crop) production increases have not kept pace with population growth, resulting in rising food imports and declining levels of national food self-sufficiency.
The main factors undermining production include reliance on rainfed agriculture, smallholder land holding, and low productivity due to poor planting material, low fertilizer application, and a weak agricultural extension system amongst others
Introduction of GMOs
Meanwhile, the introduction of GMOs into the country’s agriculture may not have gone down well with many Nigerians over lack of empirical evidence to ascertain and certify
them safe for human consumption, even though the country is facing challenges in meeting food production for its teeming huge population.
Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that food production will need to double in some parts of the world by 2050 and this translates to the need for more land for cultivation, which will not be readily available. Hence, the introduction of GMO crops to make enough nutritious food available with limited land, water and other resources was one of the reasons GMO was approved to compliment food security in the world.
The Nigerian authorities had given legislative approval (‘junk science’) to the NBMA.
Those in support of GMOs said population growth will necessitate the need for more food production.
But this may not be suitable yet for Nigerians who are yet get acquainted to GMO products locally except the foreign nationalities living in Nigeria.
Besides, findings have shown that GMO crops are reportedly resistant to droughts, pests and crop diseases, while some are purported to be packed with extra vitamins, minerals and other health benefits.
However, in order to buttress its stance on aggressively developing of GMOs in Nigeria, the NBMA accused an advocacy group- HOMEF for opposing GMOs empirical test and alleged that it was trying to sabotaging Federal Government’s efforts at moving Nigeria towards food security through the application of technology in food production.
The NBMA in a statement, said it was not established to halt the use of GMOs, but to ensure the safety of GMOs on human health, plants, animals and the environment.
The agency said: “The agency has no intention and will never verbally engage HOMEF, but these statements made against the agency are not only incisive but negate the efforts of the Federal Government to ensure safety in the application of the technologies that assure Nigerians of food security and food safety.”
NBMA accused HOMEF of being unpatriotic, noting that it had never breached the law in the discharge of its duties.
“The attention of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has been drawn to a series of incisive and unpatriotic statements peddled by the Health for Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) about the agency and its activities,” said the agency in a statement..
“While the agency does not want to banter with HOMEF or any of its kind, it is important to state here that NBMA is a government agency established by law as a regulatory agency to ensure the safe handling and use of modern biotechnology and its products, which includes Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).”
It will be recalled that HOMEF and its partners had last September criticised the approval by the NBMA for the confined field tests of genetically modified cassava in Ibadan, Oyo State – a move they said was designed to flood the country with genetically modified foods.
But the agency in the statement defended its approval of the field tests of some genetically modified crops, stating that the approval followed due process.
Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, accused the NBMA of abandoning its regulatory mandate.
“The NBMA are not the federal government, they are just an agency of the government and they are the ones that are inciting Nigerians because when they say that GMOs are safe and their job ought to stop GMOs but they are bringing GMOs. It’s completely what a regulatory agency should not be doing,” Bassey said.
Despite the controversy trailing GMO crops in the country, the multimillion dollar questions anti-GMO campaigners are asking is the safety of the environment and food
FG okays 2nd consignment of yam export to UK, U.S.
Nigerian yam exporters are set to export second consignment of yams to the United Kingdom and United States of America in the first quarter of this year. Prof. Simon Irtwang, Chairman, Technical Committee on Yam Export inaugurated by the Federal Government, disclosed this in Abuja.
The move, according to the committee, would eclipsed the 72 tonnes of yam that left the shore of Nigeria through the Apapa port to the U.S. and UK in June last year, which was widely reported as being rejected because it did not meet international specifications.
The chairman said that the committee had embarked on a tour of major markets, particularly those in the South-West, to ascertain the quality of the yams at hand.
According to him, the Federal Government is doing everything possible to ensure that yam rejection is not associated with the second phase during the export of the commodity.
“Not all species of yam are good for export. So, yam farmers and traders need to know the species that are good for export. They also need to know how to select, store and preserve them to increase their freshness and ability to stay long without decaying. We also have to let yam farmers know the seed yams they will plant that will be good for export,” Irtwang told newsmen in Abuja, last Tuesday.
He revealed that there would be no publicity for the second export as the flag-off had already been done last July by the Federal Government. He said that yam exports would be done without much publicity until the National Assembly repealed the Export Prohibition Act.
Irtwang said there was constant communication between the committee and companies involved in the production of cartons for yams packaging as well as those receiving them abroad.
He noted that with the lessons from the first export, the second export would not witness any challenges.
However, some stakeholders believe that the Federal Government’s move to commence second phase of yam export in the country will trigger outrageous price of yam and scarcity in the marketplace.
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