From Olanrewaju Lawal, Ilorin
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali, has warned that the 12.1 million figure of hungry Nigerians would worsen unless Nigeria addresses the problem of over-dependence on oil and develops the agriculture sector.
Ambali said the 2014 Africa Multiple Indicator Scorecard on Hunger and Food Security Report has indicated that Nigeria has 12.1 million hungry people and said only the agriculture sector has the potential of feeding the nation’s teeming population.
The Vice-Chancellor, who stated this in his address, delivered at the opening ceremony of the 58th Annual General Meeting of the Association of Deans of Agriculture in Nigerian Universities (ADAN), hosted by the University of Ilorin, entitled: “Lost Heritage: Let’s Reclaim it”, said despite the challenges faced by the sector across the world, the sector remain the hope of feeding the nation.
“These challenges, among which climate change is critical, are compounded by our over-dependence in Nigeria on petroleum, as if we can drink it. We are proud of it, as our traditional occupation, but we largely pay lip-service to it.”
Ambali, who believe that Nigeria could reclaim this heritage, said “because our development efforts would be ultimately counter-productive when millions of our people are not able to meet their basic needs, i.e. food, clothing and shelter, which all border on agriculture.”
The Vice-Chancellor, who declared that the time has come for the country to stem the tide of food insecurity currently facing it, said “in recent years, the University has invested massively in the growth of economic trees, with over 600 hectares of plantations, including those of Teak, Mango, Jatropha and Moringa”. We recently hosted the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who flagged-off our 1,000-hectare oil palm plantation, into which N1.2 billion is committed.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the chairman of ADAN, Prof. A. S. Fasina, revealed that the meeting would focus on agricultural training and curriculum review, update on Bill for the Nigerian Institute of Agriculture, and harmonisation of B.Sc. Agric. programme in the nation’s universities.
According to Prof. Fasina, the meeting would also look at entrepreneurship training and innovation in advancing agriculture in Nigeria as well as agricultural production and value addition.