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CBN extends loans to 33,000 farmers

By News Desk,

No fewer than 33,974 rice farmers in Zamfara state are to benefit from the Anchor Borrowers loan of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Zamfara said on Thursday that the farmers have gone through biometric data capturing exercise in the state.

The Chairman of the Association, Isyaku Ajiya-Anka, said each farmer would receive one pumping machine, 30 kilograms of rice seedlings and six bags of fertiliser.

The total loan package is N219, 329.50 per hectare.

As part of the package, the farmers will receive herbicide, pesticide, farming services, which included ploughing, harrowing, planting and harvesting.

Ajiya-Anka said the farmers would not get the cash directly.

“For farmers who do not require all the services, the cost of services not required will be used to offset part of the loan.’’

State Coordinator of CBN Anchor Borrowers , Aliyu Hafiz, said every farmer has a card which contains all his details and the required quantities of inputs he should be given.

He said the distribution of the inputs had started in seven local government areas.

The councils are Gusau, Bungudu, Gummi, Bakura, Anka, Kaura Namoda and Talata Mafara.

Stakeholders advocate organic farming policies to protect ecosystem

By News Desk

Stakeholders in the organic farming space on Thursday in Lagos urged the Federal Government to institute policies that would promote organic farming so as to protect the country’s ecosystem.

The stakeholders spoke at the National Organic Agriculture Business Summit 2018.

The summit is aimed at addressing the various challenges facing the organic agriculture sub-sector, as they affect the people’s health and the environment.

Prof. Akin Abayomi, who manages a 300-acre organic bio-habitat forest conservation project in Osun State, said that there was urgent need for a paradigm shift towards the evolution of a pollution-free environment.

Abayomi, who is also an oncologist and internal medicine specialist, said that the focus should be on organic living that was free of pollution in the real sense.

“Taking organic foods in a polluted environment does not make sense; there is no point in doing that. Hence, we should change our thoughts from organic agriculture to organic living.

“If you want to kill a pest with an insecticide and you are exposed to the same chemical; then, you are killing yourself.

“There should be an urgent paradigm shift towards living in an environment that is free of pollution and doing things that are not harmful to the ecosystem.

“Organic agriculture in its natural habitat should be encouraged; while a stop should be made to the use of harmful chemicals that are harming the country’s ecosystem, ‘’ he said.

Besides, Ayobami said that it would take over 200 years to grow a forest.

He, however, said that with the growing population of Africa and Nigeria in particular, the production of foods via genetic modification was inevitable.

Mr Ajibola Oluyede, the Chairman of NICERT Ltd., said that the movement for organic agriculture was beginning to gain ground, while the issue of certification needed a national plan to ensure international standards.

He said that efforts should be made to separate genuine organic farmers from the fake ones, so as to ensure that all organic produce in the market were of good quality.

“The Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria (NOAN) has encouraged a practice which is built on the standards of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

“The association does certification for some members for the Nigerian practice but in terms of commercial recognition, our organic farmers ought to be accredited by the regulatory bodies involved in that.

“NICERT is credited to enforce European Union (EU) standards for organic products as well as other countries. Nevertheless, Nigeria does not have an organic programme through which bodies may be credited.

“However, if you are producing what is organic, it must meet international standards. We need certification for organic producers because any farming process that does not help the ecosystem is not organic,’’ he said.

Oluyede, who noted that there was a high demand for organic produce in many foreign countries, said that the demand was somewhat insignificant in Nigeria because of the absence of legal standards.

On his part, Prof. Victor Olowe, the National President of NOAN and an agronomist in the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said that the association certified organic products for local consumption.

He said that the association currently used a process called Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for local retail trade in organic produce, adding, however, that any plan to export organic produce would require third party certifications.

“On certification, NOAN certifies organic products for local consumption with the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), which is satisfactory for local consumption and retailers.

“For a producer taking organic products outside the Nigerian shores, he will need a third party certification from the appropriate body.

“All organic products carry labels which distinguish them from conventional farm produce, they also carry the labels to facilitate traceability,’’ he said.

However, Olowe said that the level of organic farming was very low globally, adding that only two per cent of the total arable lands were allocated to organic agriculture globally.

He also said that the association was making tangible efforts to boost organic farming, while working towards the production a bill on organic agriculture that would set an agenda for the development of the sub-sector.

The summit was convened by the Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative in Nigeria, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, NOAN and the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria, among others.

10 die in Kaduna-Kano road accident

By News Desk,

No fewer than 10 people are reported to have died in an accident that occurred on Kaduna-Kano expressway on Saturday.

The accident occurred around Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria, at about 5:30 a.m.

The Head of Public Enlightenment, Zaria Unit Command of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Idris Yahaya, confirmed the accident and casualty.

Yahaya said that the “pathetic’’ accident involved three vehicles, a luxury bus; a car; and an articulated vehicle.

“There are 48 persons in the three vehicles; nine people got burnt to death, while one other woman died in the hospital, 31 persons were injured while seven persons survived the accident.

The driver of the luxury bus is receiving treatment at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Shika, Zaria.’’

The unit commander said that the injured persons were also receiving treatment at the hospital, while the bodies of the dead had been deposited at the same hospital.

He called on drivers traveling long distance to exhibit the habit of stretching their legs by stopping and walking around for a while after four hours of journey.

“When a driver covers a distance of three to four hours, he should stop, relax and stretch his legs to clear the fatigue and carry on with the journey later.

“Drivers should also drive with care, especially in this rainy season; they should ensure that their tyres are good enough for a long journey; and driving with smooth and fairly-used tyres is very dangerous,’’ he advised the drivers.

10 injure in another Otedola Bridge accident

By News Desk,

Following Thursday’s tanker explosion on the Otedola Bridge which led to loss of lives, a fresh accident has occurred along the Otedola Bridge axis of Berger in Lagos, barely 24 hours after a tanker exploded around the same spot on Thursday.

According to the Lagos Rapid Response Squad (RRS), two vehicles, a commercial bus and a Toyota Hiace collided inward Lagos, opposite the scene of Thursday’s accident.

The RRS said the incident was as a result of reckless driving on the part of the commercial bus driver who was going at a high speed against the traffic.

“Reckless Danfo driver speeding on 1 way had a head-on collision with Toyota Hiace bus entering Lagos opposite scene of yesterday’s tanker fire. The buses have been moved from obstruction while wounded passengers hospitalised”.

Details later….

 

Nine die, four injure after fuel tanker explodes in Lagos

By News Desk,

At least, nine people were reported to have died during a fuel tanker explosion which occurred on Otedola Bridge outward Lagos on Thursday evening.

As gathered, the explosion that claimed the nine lives, occurred after tanker, heading outward Lagos, crash on developing mechanical fault, causing panic.

However, the Federal Road Safety Corps spokesperson, Bisi Kazeem, disclosed that nine people died during the incident, while four victims sustained injury, and that 54 vehicles got burnt.

He added that rescue operations were still ongoing.

The incident has led all mode of transportation along the road to be at a standstill as emergency officials at the scene fighting the blaze and attending to affected victims in order to prevent further fire incidents in the area.

As at time of this report, no casualty had been reported by the authorities.

In the information released on the social media account of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), “A tanker which had break failure loaded with PMS caught fire on the Otedola Bridge INW Berger. The number of vehicles affected is 20+, Traffic Situation is @ a stand still, all alternative routes advised ATM”

A fuel tanker caught fire on Otedola Bridge outward Lagos on Thursday evening, with many vehicles trapped in the growing fire.

Officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency and Lagos Fire Service have been mobilised, reports the rapid Response Squad via its Twitter handle, @rrslagos767.

The RRS said its men were “on ground to manage the situation.”

LASEMA officials and other government agents were seen with body bags, confirming fears that many road users may have died in the incident.

The fire was brought under control about an hour after the outbreak, as men of the Lagos State Fire Service tackled it.

The fire involved a fuel tanker and about 30 vehicles.

The Federal Road Safety Corps confirmed the story, even as it warned road users to avoid the scene of the inferno.

As of the time of filing this report, tens of vehicles were caught in the inferno, and many are feared dead.

Reports add that the traffic backlog as a result of the explosion extends as far back as the Third Mainland Bridge, backing up to the UNILAG water-front.

 

Fire guts sugarcane 30 hectares field in Kebbi

By Adewunmi Abodunrin,

A sugarcane field spanning about 30 hectares has been razed by fire which was reported to had gutted the field in Mai-Ramu village, Koko-Besse Local Government Area of Kebbi.

It was reported that the fire occurred on Thursday night in Koko and that crops worth millions of Naira were destroyed.

The  Chairman, Koko-Besse Local Government Area,  Shu’aibu Ibrahim, disclosed that even though fire was heavy, no life was lost during the incident as farmers were at still at home as at when the fire started.

Speaking at the scene of the incident, the Executive Director, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Rabiu Kamba, expressed concern on the level of damage recorded on field, just as he sympathized with the farmers on their losses.

“We sympathize with you and assure you that the state government will assist you to cushion the effect of the disaster,” he said.

FG subsidizes farmers’ insurance by 50%

By Abolaji Adebayo

In a bid to encourage farmers and reduce the risks encountered in their activities, the federal government has declared support of 50 per cent of farmers’ insurance in agricultural value chain.

According to the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC), the gesture by the government was aimed at encouraging farmers to embrace insurance, noting that farmer’s attitude to insurance in Nigeria was not encouraging.

Speaking in Abuja on Monday while briefing newsmen on the activities of the corporation, the Managing Director, NAIC, Folashade Joseph, expressed dismay at the farmers’ refusal to take up insurance despite the benefits inherent in it.

Joseph stated that the insurance would rather sustain the farmer across the agriculture value chain if embraced, adding that it is the focal point of the government to curb agricultural risk.

The NAIC boss urged farmers to insure their farms against natural disasters such as flood, diseases and erosion.

“Agriculture insurance is what a lot of farmers across the value chain do not do. They see it as an additional cost but it is not. We have had testimonies from farmers that went into tomato farming and when there was tomato Ebola, that was the end of their farms.

“Government has subsided insurance for farmers by 50 per cent. For instance, for crops, if you are to pay a premium of N4, NAIC will charge farmers N2.

“That is 50 per cent of subsidy for farmers across the agriculture value chain. So it is an advantage for farmers to take and make sure that they insure their farms and remain in business in case of natural disasters,” she said.

She informed that the corporation would soon start sensitization of farmers by organizing forums to educate them on the importance of insurance.

“If you spend a lot of money across the agriculture value chain and you do not insure, what happens if there is a natural disaster?

“The cost should be taken care of by insurance companies and that is what NAIC stands for.

“We exist so that farmers can smile. We de-risk the natural disasters of farmers across the value chain,’’ the NAIC boss said.

Nigeria’s rice importation drops by 95% – Ogbeh

By Abolaji Adebayo

Nigerian agricultural sector has experienced boom especially in the aspect of rice production as country was said to have substituted 95 per cent of locally produced for the imported one in the last two years, leaving the country with option of sourcing just 5 per cent foreign rice.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who disclosed the drastic decline in the rate of rice importation said that the country had made a lot of progress in efforts to stop rice importation, adding that the feats were a plus to the national economy.

Analyzing the trend at the first Annual NACCIMA-NIRSAL Agribusiness and Policy Linkage Conference in Abuja recently, Ogbeh disclosed that by September 2015, the country was importing 644,131 tonnes of rice which was dropped to 20, 000 tonnes in September 2017, exactly two years later.

The minister said that the achievement was aided by the federal government’s policy to stop rice importation.

“The drop is about 95 per cent. However, smugglers have been very busy, trying to sabotage and compromise the country’s efforts to stop rice importation. There are 12.2 million people growing rice in the country, producing paddy for the rice mills.

“In Kano State alone, we have 1,421 rice mills. We have large paddy fields in Anambra, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Kebbi state and more are coming up,’’ he said.

He explained that agriculture was strictly private sector-driven, adding that the government did not have any intention to engage in farming but to initiate policies that would be favourable for private sector investments.

“Government has no farm and cannot attempt to farm. If we try, it will be disastrous. Farming business belongs to the private sector.

“That is why in our new policy called the Green Alternative agriculture production programme, we spelt it out clear that agriculture is private sector-driven.

“All that government can do is to lay out policy and try to ensure that the private sector succeeds when it gets involved in agriculture. We cannot solve all the problems in a year or two but we will certainly make some progress,’’ he said.

He stated that the government would also try to reduce interest rate on agricultural loans to single digit, adding that agriculture could not thrive under loans with high interest rates.

On the challenges and recommendations identified at the conference, Ogbeh pledged that the ministry would follow them up and present them to the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development for further action.

The Managing Director of NIRSAL, Aliyu Abdulhameed, said that the conference was in line with the federal government’s policy on private-public collaboration to make agriculture a business.

“What you see today is exactly what the federal government is looking at. How can the private sector lead and how can policy support the leadership of the private sector? What you observed today is the mandate of NIRSAL, as handed to us by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). How do you get actors from the value chain, from primary production, all the way through processes, retailing and domestic markets, to export?

“How do you get the actors financed in a systematic way? NACCIMA represents the private sector here. There are two value chains here too: the finance value chain and agricultural value chain.

“We will all come together, that is NIRSAL and NACCIMA, to operate in the policy space into the public-private partnership (PPP) agenda of the Federal Government to spur progress.

Also speaking, the President of NACCIMA, Alaba Lawson, said that all hands must be on deck to make headway in terms of treating agriculture as a business in the country.

The conference, with the theme: “Implementing the Agriculture Component of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP)’’, was organised by the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), in collaboration with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).

Lagos to prioritize tourism for economy devt, recreation

By Abolaji Adebayo

As part of effort to expand the economic base of the state, Lagos State Government has started the process of developing a tourism master plan, eying the potential of the sector to boost the economy, as well as establish recreation centers for the teeming residents of  and visitors into the state.

Lagos State Government, Akinwunmi Ambode, noted that the government had done a lot in the last 29 months to boost tourism in the state and attract foreign tourists, adding that his government would explore the option of using tourism to engage the people.

The governor spoke at the 2017 Press Week of the Lagos State Governor’s Office Correspondents, with the theme: “Harnessing the Tourism and Entertainment Potential of Lagos in the next 50 years: The Role of the Media,” held at the Event Place, Ikeja, Lagos during the weekend.

Ambode, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Community and Communications, Kehinde Bamigbetan, said the government was in the process of developing a tourism master plan to promote and drive tourism in Lagos.

According to him, the state had the potential to accommodate and engage myriad of immigrants flocking the state on daily basis, adding that tourism would provide a good platform to engage people across the strata as the state has been able to fast-track tourism in the last 29 months.

He noted that the state played host to lots of tourism sites that would excite tourists to want to visit the state, saying that the state had a great future when it comes to tourism.

“However several steps, phased over the 50 year period of this presentation must be considered. First, there must be a tourism masterplan which defines the strategy and execution over the period. The Lagos State government has taken the step in the right direction by advertising for bids for the development of a masterplan. When that process is completed, a clearer way forward will be certain.

“Second, there must be database on both tourism as objects and activity. Third, the value chain around the activities must be determined to determine areas where the government will be most effective and where the private sector will be more efficient.

“Fourth, there must be measurable indices to measure progress, how many hotel rooms were occupied in Lagos in 2017 and what can we do to increase in 2018? What is the grading system saying? Are we attracting global brands of five star hotels or making do with fake franchises,” he said.

On the role of the media, Ambode stressed the need for the media to be educated as there were indifference and ignorance in the reportage which must be corrected.

He believed that the media was in the position to shape the attitudes of Lagosians towards local tourism and demonstrate sensitivity to the issues that matter to tourists, noting that this could be effectively achieved if the media were well educated on the matter.

He added that crime and security reporting were areas where the media needed to be re-orientated to partner with the government and deliver better tourism.

According to him, for purposes of encouraging in-bound tourist traffic, the management of the foreign media is critical, while training of the foreign media to understand the local environment and reflect event positively is a key necessity in achieving the purpose.

The Group Managing Director, CFL Group of Companies, Lai Omotola, said Lagos had become a brand in tourism, especially in the area of entertainment and site attraction.

On his part, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mighty Media, Olumide Iyanda, informed that for a better documentation of the next fifty years, the media must be given a front seat role in all activities of government.

Earlier, Chairman of LAGOCO, Joshua Bassey, said the event was to reflect on the activities of State House Correspondents and also a platform to unwind and network.

This year’s LAGOCO Press Week featured health talks and checks, a novelty match between the Eleniyan boys and the Bolanle Ambode babes, lectures series and a dinner and gala night.

Dry season farmers seek govt’s assistance

By Abolaji Adebayo

As the year rolls by, the dry season farmers in Kaduna State have appealed to the state government to provide adequate inputs to enable them to scale up production in the 2017/2018 farming season.

They expressed their feeling about under-utilization of natural facilities for successful dry season farming leading to farmers’ over-dependence on rain-fed farming of rice, maize, tomato and soya beans that grow very well in the state.

The state Chairman, Fadama Farmers Association, Malam Ahmed Muhammed, made the appeal at the Agriculture Vision Group (AVG) meeting convened to validate the Agricultural Investment Plan for approval by the state government in Kaduna.

Speaking on Wednesday, Muhammed said the state had hundreds of thousands of hectares of arable Fadama land not yet cultivated, which had made the farmers to solely depend on rain-fed farming.

The validation meeting was organised by Synergos Nigeria, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), with technical support from Technoserve.

He disclosed that government needed to pay more attention to Fadama farming due to its profitability advantage over the rain-fed agriculture.

“Government needs to support farmers to access adequate fertilisers, improved seeds, chemicals and tractors as well as credit facilities for dry season farming.

“Government also needs to develop the Fadama areas around its reserved water resources like the Gurara Dam, Galma Dam and Kangimi Dam and others located in different parts of the state.”

According to him, the facilities, if improved, will enhance food security, reduce poverty among communities living around the dams as well as add value to the nutrition of malnourished children and women in the state.

He informed that the association had more than 4,200 registered farmers engaged in tomato, rice, soyabeans and vegetable production across the state.

Meanwhile, Synergos, under the State Partnership in Agriculture (SPA) progeamme, stated that the validation meeting would ensure the production of an agricultural investment plan that would attract both local and foreign investors into the state.

Synergos Field Manager, Victor Adejoh, noted that details of land availability, cost of production of major food and cash crops as well as labour had been incorporated into the plan.

He said the details would attract investments into the state for the commercial production of the food crops.

Data from the State Bureau of Statistics showed that Kaduna state provides more than 40 per cent of the maize produced in the country.

It was also reported to be a major producer of tomato, rice and soyabeans as well as the largest producer of ginger, placing Nigeria third behind China and India in global ranking.