Mbadiwe Jeremiah PhD
Department of History and Diplomatic Studies
Faculty of Humanities
University of Port Harcourt
This paper examines the connections between production and agricultural programmes and projects. Agricultural programmes and projects remain essential in Nigeria’s need for self-sufficiency in basic food supply, attainment of food security, increased production of export crops, and achievement of massive employment for its population. The interplay of the two concepts, no doubt, has a vital role to play in increasing as well as sustaining agricultural production. The extent to which this role is perfumed is determined in part by the implementation process of the and finance instrument provided by the programmes. The past situation of government agricultural programmes and projects in River State was examined situating the analysis in a chronological context. The paper identified that the various programmes and projects of Rivers State and Nigeria in general yielded poor dividends after consuming colossal sums of public revenue due to faulty implementation. Secondly, that lack of proper implementation of the policies and non-involvement of the programmes’ target beneficiaries in the project design, monitoring and evaluation remain the missing link in the realization of the policy objective. The paper therefore concludes that these fundamental issues which ham-string the realization of the objectives of the projects have to be tackled before the programmes can have the expected meaningful impact on the state or country’s agricultural economy.
As a matter of fact, the survival of human beings depend principally on the adequate provision and availability of the most basic social and natural requirement of life such as food, shelter, and good health. It is obvious that food is man’s most basic need and as such, man cannot live without bread. For this reason, food must be guaranteed above everything else (Ake 1981:10).
However, in Nigeria toady, hunger, massive population growth, unemployment and poverty are among the most critical problems of our time. Beginning from the immediate post-civil war years, successive Nigerian governments – federal and state alike, in order to reduce the effect of these hydra-headed economic problems, have regularly designed and launched various agricultural development policies, programmes and projects. These food production programmes and projects came under various names such as Operation Feed the Nation (O.F.N.), Green Revolution, National Accelerated Food Production project (N.A.F.P.P.), River Basin Development Authority (R.B.D.A.), Agricultural Development Projects (A.D.P.), Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (D.I.F.R.I), National Accelerate Fish Production Project (N.A.F.P.P.), and Structural Adjustment Programme (S.A.P.). All these were Federal Government initiatives. And in River state, the School-To-Land Programme and Songhai Farm were famous.
Given the fact that Rivers State in particular and Nigeria by extension, are rich agricultural areas and the larger part of their population are traditionally, farmers and fishermen, one would have no doubt that the programmes would succeed without hitches. It has been observed however, that these government initiatives have ended up with no substantial result. This study therefore seeks to find out why and how these government’s programmes and projects have failed to reduce food shortage, unemployment and poverty in Rivers State and Nigeria at large. This is because to conceive a programme and a catchy name for it is one thing, but to implement the policies of such programme is another.
In order to realize this curious desire, certain pertinent questions need to be asked. These include:
- How effective were the implementation processes of the programmes and projects?
- Were the objectives realized?
- If not, what were the factors of responsible?
- What were the effect of their failure on the citizens and finally, what could be done to realize the objectives of the projects? These questions demand answers and serious attention because with the current phenomenon of food shortage, unemployment, poverty and hunger-induced violence in Rivers State and Nigeria in general, the present democracy and its governance will have no meaning to the citizens.
Agricultural Programmes and Projects in Rivers State
The production of good quality foods and fibres in adequate quantities to meet the needs of the people is the major function of agriculture in any nation. The success story of agriculture in fulfilling such a function depends on the favourable relationship between available resources, objective planning and effective management of resources. In the various national development plans of Nigeria which Rivers State is a component, agricultural policies have always provided for the establishment of agricultural projects and programmes aimed at producing enough food for the people of the country and so make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production.
In pursuance of the Rivers Sate Agricultural development programmes, food production projects were aimed at:
- Producing enough food for the increasing population of the state.
- Expanding the production of crops for export.
- Producing the raw materials for the agro-based industries.
- Creating opportunities for employment in the rural areas and thereby absorbing the increasing labour force in the state, and
- Establishing institutional framework for the gradual introduction of scientific agriculture and modern agricultural practices thereby facilitating a smooth integrated development of the agricultural potential of the state (Rivers State Agricultural Bulletin, 1990: 27).
To achieve these Objectives, successive governments in Rivers State keyed into the various agricultural programmes of the Federal government and to a large extent established her own independent agricultural projects. These projects and programmes include the Risonpalm project, the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority, Agricultural Development Project, Operation feed the nation, Green Revolution, School-To-land programme, and the Songhai farm projects (Ileogbunam, 1989: 56).
A specific analysis of the character process of the various programmes and projects revealed that there was a missing link between the programmes’ policy formulation and its implementation.
The Risonpalm Project.
The Risonpalm nucleus estate was created as part of the national programme for the expansion of oil palm agro-allied in Nigeria. It was incorporated on 24th November 1975 and it took over the management and structures of the dwindling Rivers State Development Corporation (R.S.D.C.).
The industry by the provision of its establishing law was expected to make up about 400,000 tons shortfall of palm oil demand in Nigeria. The 600,000 tons that was being produced in the country could not meet the demand which had increased to about one million in the country (Ministry of Agriculture Bulletin, 1980:14). It was in the pursuit of this, that the project was proposed to establish 10,000 hectares of palm oil nucleus estate; establish a smallholder department within the state Ministry of Agriculture; establish a 120-hectare coconut seed garden; and to conduct feasibility study for the phase two oil palm development at Elele.
The project was expected to cost N 38.3 million but by 1986, more than N54.4 Million had been spent with the funding spreading between the World Bank, Federal and Rivers State Governments, International Agencies and the Commercial Banks with the equity share of 2/3 of their investments (Agaric News, 1987:42). In 1992 the European Investment Bank granted a loan of ECU 11.6 Million for the construction of Elele mill, and by 1990 a sum of N150 Million was also injected into the project (River State Agricultural Bullectio, 2010:54).
In spite of the lofty objectives of the project and its huge capital investment, by the close of 2000 it was clear that the Board and management could not make for the proper management of the project. The project for some years past was grounded due to poor management arising out of poor implementation process. Employment, which was one of its cardinal objectives was not based on merit but on political patronage. Hence, the project could neither fulfil its objectives nor boast to have tackled unemployment as most workers were sacked due to lack of fund to pay salaries (Ebong, 1990: 88-89).
Niger Delta Basin Development Authority
The Niger delta basin development authority is one of the eleven river basin development authorities in the Country. Like the others, it was set up by Decree 37 of 3rd August 1976. Its area of operation was initially restricted to the geographical boundaries of Rivers State but was later readjusted in 1987 to cover Rivers State, Bayelsa, and Nine Local Government Areas from the Delta areas of Delta State.
The co-ordination of Niger Delta Basin Development proved immensely difficult with its politicization whereby each State Governments more or less, owned its own basin authority. Under Buhari’s Military Regime, all non-water assets of the NDBDA were sold to private interest. This rationalization of functions was informed by the fact that many NDBDAs abandoned their central mission of water resources development to engage in rain-fed agriculture (Daramola, 1998: 33).
However, because of poor funding the programme failed. Some contractors abandoned their projects because the required funds were not made available. Apart from this, there were several cases of fraud and embezzlement of funds. Employment, as well, were politically motivated.
The Pabod Food Company
This was the state government establishment with the sole aim of producing more food for local consumption. The company was expected to ensure adequate supply of raw materials for the factory and feed mills at Elimgbu and Atali. More so, the food company was expected to provide employment opportunities in the rural areas. Although the company supplemented the output from Small-scale farmer with organized plantation products, the expected result was notrealized due to bad management and cases of fraud and embezzlement.
Operation Feed the Nation
In an attempt to contain inflation and to boost food production to manage the food crisis, the federal military government under Obasanjo launched the operation feed the nation (OFN) in 1976. According to Nziniro (1985:20), the scheme was devised to stimulate the growth of food by individuals, institution and with the backing of the state through the supply of agricultural input such as improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.
This programme with all its good intentions failed to realize its objectives. Its operation was characterized by several bottlenecks, especially in fertilizer distribution. There were also the factors of inadequate planning of extension services, and cases of fraud and embezzlement. The bourgeois class who controlled and directed the programme were after satisfying their personal interest. Some of the government officials that sold the project retired and became consultants to the very same government. Hence, the operation feed the nation turned to operation feed yourself (Nzimiro, 1985:10). This act is further illustrated by the attitude of Obasanjo when he borrowed $58.6 million from World Bank with the aim of improving rural agriculture, but later used the fund to establish Ota Farm (Olayide 1985:120).
Like the operation feed the nation, the green revolution scheme was established by President Shehu Shagari to boost agricultural development through agro-based industries. The scheme saw the crude system of farming as major obstacle to agricultural food production. As a lasting solution, large and sophisticated machinery, funds and trucks were provided to the rural farmers.
Despite all these encouragement, the green revolution failed. The party in government used the avenue to distribute patronage by awarding contracts to members without proper supervision. Thus, by 1983 when Shagari was overthrown, the country’s food balance sheet remained precarious in spite of the huge amount spent on the programme.
The School-To-Land Programme
The school-to-land project was a career farming and fishing programme of the Rivers State Government. It was established in 1985 to among other objectives, train young school leavers in agriculture, livestock and poultry, and place them on land acquired in all the local government areas of the state. Thus the major aim of the programme became the provision of employment opportunities for the ever increasing unemployed youths, and also to increase agricultural produce of the state.
The number of native farmers and fisherman severely depleted as a result of old age and death. To reinforce the labour force, deployed in the farm, engagement of a new brand of farmers was therefore imperative. The then Government of Rivers State under Fidelix Oyakhilome therefore decided to introduce measures to lure the young school leaves into farming through the school-to-land programmes.
However, as lofty and laudable as the objectives of this programme are, after three years of operation, the school to-land programme failed. For instance, between 1985 and 1987 a total of 1, 909 young school leavers were recruited and within the same interval, a total of 600 withdrew (Nizimino: 1985: 53). The number of withdrawals intensified the already unpleasant unemployment situation in the state. This continuous withdrawal of the young farmers was as a result of poor allowances.
The character process observed in the implementation of the projects and programmes analyzed above were also applicable to both the R.S.S.D.A and the Songhaifarm projects of the then Amaechi-led government of Rivers State. Space will not allow us to make an elaborate analysis on them. But in all, both projects failed as they were characterized by fraud and embezzlement.
The Missing Link
It is obvious that successive administrations had for one time or the other, initiated programme and project aimed at ensuring that food is available, accessible and adequate for the population, and more so, create adequate employment for the citizens. Unfortunately, the sustenance of these laudable policies and programmes to fulfil their mandates has remained a dream. This, however, has been as a result of faulty implementation of the policies establishing the programmes. Projects’ execution were seen as instruments of settling and empowering political party supporters or members of a clique in a military regime. The deviation from the main objectives of the various programmes is therefore manifested in fraud, embezzlement of funds, and unemployment.Hence the beneficiaries were not involved in the programme design, monitoring, evaluation and implementation process arising from the under-rating of the knowledge, ability, capability and sensitivity of the small-scale farmers.
From our analysis, it is clear that the agricultural programmes and projects of both the federal and State governments alike, were all biggest agricultural fraud of the century under which not less than N 2 billion of public funds were wasted. The much promised massive food production became a political gimmick as the projects became their major source of capital accumulation, leaving the masses, poorer and hungry. If Nigeria government has to realize the objectives of any agricultural development project, the missing link, which is, the proper implementation of programmes’ policies and direct involvement of its target beneficiaries, must be followed without compromise.
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