Project Develops First Ever Rice Hybrids for Farmers in Africa

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              Rice farm

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

Rice farmers in Africa are set to dramatically increase their productivity with the new hybrid varieties that are capable of yielding up to 7 tonnes per hectare, courtesy of a public private partnership, Breeding by Design Project.

According to a release issued by the head of Communications and Partnerships unit of the project, Nancy Muchri, the Hybrid Rice: Breeding by Design Project, which developed the first indigenous hybrid rice varieties in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). using the 2-line rice hybrid technology have the potential to produce 7 tonnes per hectare.

It further stated that among countries that would benefit from the hybrid as early as next year, is Kenya considering that two hybrids are already undergoing national performance trials. This will include farmers in Tanzania who are likely to get access to the hybrids in 2018.

The statement quoted the Project Manager, Dr. Kayode Sanni as disclosing that the project was further “evaluating the performance of 127 rice hybrids for advancement to national performance trials,” adding that “hybrid rice seeds currently being planted in Africa are either imported from Asia or America. Egypt, is the only country in Africa that has developed its own rice hybrids. With this breakthrough, Africa will realise its own high yielding hybrid seeds, consequently boosting production and moving closer to self-sufficiency in rice production.”

This is indeed good news to farmers, seed companies and rice consumers in Sub Saharan Africa, because “while global production of rice has risen steadily from 132 million tonnes in 1960 to 491.5 million tonnes in 2015, Africa has not contributed much to the increase, producing only 3 per cent, with Asia accounting for 90 per cent of the global production,” it stressed.

Statistics have it that rice demand on the continent exceeds production and Africa has been forced to rely heavily on importing large quantities of rice to meet demand at a very huge cost. “In 2014, for instance, Africa imported 13 million tonnes costing over US $5billion,” the statement disclosed.

Dr. Sani warns that with demand increasing at between 6-12 percent over the last 10 years, the cost was likely to increase unless there was drastic increase in local production.

“SSA produces 14.8 million of milled rice per year, but consumes nearly double that amount at 26.4 million tonnes of milled rice per year. Except for a few countries that have attained self-sufficiency in rice production, as many as 21 of the 39 rice-producing countries in Africa import between 50 and 99 per cent of their rice requirements.

“Kenya is one of the countries that have had to heavily rely on imports. The country’s annual demand of milled rice is 550,000 tonnes. With an annual production of 102,000 tonnes, the imported 420,000 tonnes in 2015 were not enough to cater for demand, leaving the country with a deficit of 15,000 tonnes. Uganda on her part imported 53.8 percent of her rice requirements of 223,000 tonnes. Uganda produces 143,000 tonnes of milled rice per year,” it further stated.

With an annual production of 1,700,000 tonnes and an annual consumption of 1,770,000 tonnes, Tanzania is the only country in East Africa that appears to be heading towards self-sufficiency in rice with annual imports accounting for only 5.6 percent.

Hybrid rice technology revolutionized rice production in Asia dramatically increasing productivity from an average of 1.89 tonnes per hectare in 1949 to 6.71 in 2012, and it will do the same for Africa, states Dr. Denis Kyetere, Executive Director African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), that coordinates the Hybrid Rice project. Now that we have also acquired the 2-line hybrid rice technology, Africa should be self-sufficient in rice production and even compete globally for exports, and not imports, added Dr Kyetere.

Africa’s inability to reach self-sufficiency in rice is the result of a combination of several factors in the rice industry. The continent suffers low rice productivity averaging 2.2 t/ha against the global average of 3.4 t/ha. This is largely caused by lack of high performing varieties, poor seed systems making it difficult for farmers to access certified and high quality seeds, and vagaries of weather brought about by climate change. Farmers are further discouraged from investing in rice due to high production costs that make their products more costly and hence less competitive in the market.

Unlike maize, there is insufficient private sector investment in rice production in Africa, an issue Dr Sanni attributes to lack of hybrid rice technologies. Historically, hybrid crop model has been used to leverage private sector involvement in agriculture. Besides offering significant yield gains to farmers, hybrid technologies also offer viable agri-businesses to seed companies through sustained seed sales. Investment in rice production by seed companies can only be encouraged by using hybrid rice technology. The huge African rice deficits are indeed a great business opportunity for seed companies,” states Sanni

For hybrid rice technology to take root in Africa, both the public and the private sectors will need to appreciate the big business opportunities and increase their investment in rice production. The increased investments could be channeled to addressing the challenges facing adoption of hybrid rice technology such as unavailability of parental lines, lack of capacity on hybrid rice technology, and inadequate awareness on hybrid rice benefits to farmers.

Climate: The Change Is Here

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         Effect of Climate Change

By Dele Oni

The first quarter of the year in Nigeria has always been noted as usually the hottest period with regards to weather variability and default seasonal pattern. This period is characterized with high solar intensity and consequently high temperature build-up, which in a lot of ways, causes a great deal of discomfort to people.

The hot period is often short termed because the raining season breaks the hot cycle with the usually long wet months, which invariably ushers in the period of plenty (Food production).

However, the first quarter of 2016 has recorded the hottest so far in this part of the world. The temperature was unusually higher than favorably normal while the accompanied heat wave broke every precedented record. Just as if the physiological discomfort is not enough, some food items have taken on the side of becoming out of reach for the common man. For instance, the common and once affordable tomato fruit, which has now become so scarce and expensive, is now temporarily classified as food for the rich. An unlikely year as it all seems, it is just reasonable to realize that the problem at hand is an interconnected one, with a pointer in the direction of the changing climate.

Inferences and insights on the prevailing agro-weather situation in the country have shown many links with direct impact of climate change on the weather condition and food production. In a lot of ways, this period seems to have presented a perfect platform to show the vivid picture of what climate change is. Of course, it has related impacts to the hard-to-crack or rather ignorant Nigerians, who overtime have found it difficult to reason with the phenomenon of the changing climate.

While the country is currently facing a steep downturn financially, climate change has further added to the hardship being faced by the teeming population. This is with the essential agro-dependent consumable provisions that are becoming rather out of easy reach.

Agricultural outputs have largely dwindled as a result of weather variability and in turn, impaired food production and availability. Another probable climate-linked impact is the prevalent invasion of the Fulani herdsmen in the south. The aridity status of the northern part of the country, from where these people hail has led to their southward’s migration in search of edible vegetation for their cattle. As a result, a number of farmlands have been destroyed and leveled aground. This has invariably led to a number of mortal clashes with farm owners. The herdsmen in turn, have recorded loss of lives and property.

The variability in weather condition on its own, has a rather constant attribute – heat build-up. This heat build-up arises from the ever-rising temperature through the greenhouse effect. The escalating temperature, in a way, has been linked to some disease outbreak and spread among the human population as well as the incidental rise of pathogenic attack on plants and livestock. Such could be the case with the current problem of the availability of tomatoes in Nigeria. The challenge has been linked to a disease outbreak (Tomato leaf miner disease) that has led to the destruction of about 40% of anticipated harvest. The disease has been noted to be spreading at an alarming rate and this has even called for the declaration of a state of emergency in some parts of northern states.

The leaf miner disease has been on a migratory trend with its point of origin in South America and now spreading fast through Europe and Africa. In the manner of considering the shift in the trend of the global ecosystem as a result of climate change, some localized latent disease have found possible conditions to assuming the status of full-blown epidemics and an above average spread rate potential. The leaf miner disease is on rampage in Nigeria and to a great extent, the possibility of the link with the impact of climate change, is quite on the high side of certainty.

So, in the manner of the unfolding events in the country as of today, climate change seem to bare itself in its absolute nakedness and the clarity of its impacts is altogether becoming more obvious after all. Now seems the time when government should work out a way of facilitating extensive awareness programs. This will accommodate the necessary awareness to effect practices that would ensure adequate adaptation to the changing climate. Also, it’s just the right time to speed up the passing of necessary bills that would facilitate the activation of the template of adaptation and mitigation contained in the country’s intended nationally determined contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Oni is CEO of Green Impact International and can be reached @ bamideleoni.greenimpact@gmail.com

Press Release: Agribusiness: Technological Innovation Will Act as Catalyst in Boosting Productivity and Growth in Africa – PwC Report

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 31, 2016/ — Agriculture is currently standing on the edge of a second green revolution. This revolution will entail fundamental shifts in how the agricultural sector utilises and implements innovative technology to improve output in a sustainable manner and address the need for greater food security globally. These are some of the highlights of PwC’s latest Africa Agribusinesses Insights Survey 2016  (www.PwC.com). “Currently, there is a second green revolution underway. There is a desperate need for food security and therefore higher agricultural output without compromising resources in the process,” says Frans Weilbach, Agribusiness Industry Leader for PwC Africa.

“Advances in technology and innovation are the key to the future of agriculture as agribusinesses strive to feed an increasing population against a background of climate change, scarcity of water and a host of environmental concerns.

“Innovative technology and advancements in productivity are becoming increasingly important as pressure mounts on food systems,” says Weilbach. “The global population is growing rapidly and the climate is ever-changing.

“Agribusinesses are making changes to go high-tech. From data-gathering drones to artificial intelligence farming, technology is making the agricultural sector more precise and efficient as agribusinesses push for increased profits.”

The agricultural sector is regarded as one of the most critical industries for the African continent due to economic potential and is projected to become a US$1trillion industry in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2030. More than half (58.8%) of survey respondents consider investment in Africa as an opportunity for their businesses to expand. The top four countries they are planning to invest in are Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania and South Africa.

PwC’s Agribusinesses Insights Survey 2016was carried out among a group of African agribusinesses that are mainly focused on delivering agricultural and related services to primary producers. The survey focuses on the strategic challenges that agribusiness leaders face in their businesses, while on the other hand it highlights areas where technological innovation is already taking place and where it can make a difference in the future. In addition, the survey provides viewpoints on the agricultural sector in Nigeria and Kenya.

Survey respondents, however are less optimistic about revenue growth over the next 12 months compared with their expectations a year ago. The majority of agribusinesses (46.2%) are expecting revenue growth of between 0-5%, and 26.9% of businesses expect it to be between 6-10%.

The biggest challenges to business growth cited by business leaders were access to technology, the scarcity of natural resources and supply-side uncertainties. African agribusinesses also feel that there is a long way to go toward better support from government in the sector. For example, businesses are of the view that government does not offer sufficient tax incentives to ensure international competitiveness. Furthermore, they say government is not doing enough to develop skilled workers in the sector.

Edward Kerich, PwC Director in Kenya, says: “Kenya relies heavily on the agricultural sector as the mainstay of its economy, with agriculture contributing 29% of GDP. Kenya is SSA’s leading tea exporter and one of the world’s largest black tea producers. A significant development in the agricultural sector is growth in the number of privately owned tea factories outside of those owned by the KTDA and the large multinationals in the country. The contribution of the tea industry to the Kenyan economy is expected to continue growing, and the benefits realised will be enhanced as some factories move to cheaper renewable energy such as hydropower production.”

Rasheed Rahji, PwC Partner in Nigeria, says: “Agriculture contributed 24.18% to real GDP in Nigeria in Q4 2015. This is mainly due to mechanised farming and to other activities in the agribusiness value chain. It is being fuelled by the Government owing to its focus on agribusiness as a driver for poverty alleviation, and in part by continued investment by commercial farmers. Given the fall in the international price of crude oil over the past 18 months, the Government has encouraged agricultural exports as an alternative foreign exchange earner. A number of challenges in the agricultural sector remain to be addressed. These include inadequate infrastructure, access to credit, and the training and education of smallholder farmers in modern farming techniques. Adequate focus on these matters would certainly assist in improving Nigeria’s food security, grow its GDP and increase its foreign earnings.”

African agribusinesses also indicated they have maintained focus on risk management, with the majority of survey respondents (95.2%) periodically conducting a formal risk assessment. It is also positive to note that 53.8% of respondents prepare an integrated report.

Human resources (HR) models and processes are beginning to evolve, with more emphasis being placed on technology to improve networks and data. Agribusinesses are looking to their HR teams to provide not only basic services and transactional activities but also strategic insights and workforce intelligence. Businesses indicated internal HR capacity, labour unrest, employee turnover, and communication between employees and management as the most challenging human resources matters.

Although there is widespread consensus on the reality of global climate change, much uncertainty still exists when it comes to the exact measurable impact of changes in climatic conditions on agriculture and food security. The majority of agribusinesses are of the view that climate change will have a significant impact on SSA agriculture in the future – 41.2% indicated that there will be a significant impact in the short term and 35.3% that there will be an impact over the next 20 years. In addition, 35.3% of agribusiness leaders indicated that they are considering investment in renewable energy, while 29.4% have already done so. The main forms of renewable energy that agribusinesses have invested in are solar energy and biogas.

Increased pressure on the profitability of farming and agricultural business activities is forcing the agricultural sector to be an early adopter of new technologies in order that it may improve the productivity and profitability of the sector. Survey respondents noted the availability of real-time data as the biggest opportunity for technological innovation. In addition drones are fast becoming a real green-tech tool. Global research also shows that artificial intelligence (AI) farming will be the main enabling factor in increasing the world’s agricultural production capacity to meet the demands of the growing population. This goes hand in hand with precision farming and other technology trends. The majority of survey respondents (76.5%) agree that AI farming will make a major contribution to increasing capacity in Africa over the next ten years. Only 47% of businesses had already invested or plan to invest in the development of AI farming capabilities for primary production. This could be due to the cost of implementation, which was noted as the biggest restriction to the use of AI farming capabilities (64.7%).

All agribusinesses indicated that they felt a responsibility towards food security. Food quality and safety is the one pillar of food security that respondents indicated they can contribute towards the most followed by availability and affordability.  It is also positive to note that all businesses indicated their agribusinesses contribute towards corporate social investment (CSI). The top three areas of investment are: healthcare, education and personal upliftment.

“It is predicted that technological innovation will act as a catalyst in lifting agribusiness to the next level in Africa. The winners will be those agribusinesses that seize the opportunity to create new opportunities through technology – they will be able to reach their strategic goals faster and more efficiently,” concludes Weilbach.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).

PRESS RELEASE: Coalition of Activists Chart Bidco Abuses on New Platform

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BidcoTruth Coalition unites groups to demand accountability for Bidco

A Ugandan group of more than 100 farmers lost their land to Bidco

KAMPALA, Uganda, May 31, 2016/ — The Bidco Truth Coalition, an online activist organisation, has launchedwww.No2Bidco.org, a platform dedicated to charting the human rights and environmental violations of Bidco Africa, the Kenya-based edible oil producer headed by CEO Vimal Shah.

No2Bidco.org includes a catalogue of Bidco’s violations, including illegal labour practices in Kenya, deforestation in Uganda and tax evasion across East Africa. The platform also provides visitors with the ability to add their voices to a global campaign of petitions and letter-writing to reveal Bidco’s business practices.

No2Bidco.org’s central archive of independent reports about Bidco provides activists, businesses, governments and NGOs unfiltered access to information free from Bidco’s influence on the media.

The platform’s anchor organisation is the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), the respected Uganda-based Friends of the Earth affiliate. Other organisations include the Bugala Farmers Association, a Ugandan group of more than 100 farmers who lost their land to Bidco; Citizens for Tax Compliance, a Kenya-based group that advocates corporate tax compliance; the Association of Non-aligned Bidco Workers.

Founded in 1997, NAPE has been instrumental in giving a voice to farmers displaced by Bidco’s deforestation on Uganda’s pristine Ssese Islands. NAPE and its dedicated staff have a history of exposing corporations and governments that collude to earn vast sums of money at the expense of poor individuals.

The Bugala Farmers Association, which has successfully challenged Bidco in court for more than a year over its members’ loss of land, recently submitted a petition to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for partnering with Bidco. As a result, UNDP has launched an investigation into its partnership with Bidco.

The Association of Non-aligned Bidco Labourers is a group in Kenya and Uganda that gives informal representation to aggrieved casual workers at Bidco’s factories. Most workers supported have been terminated illegally, experienced abuse by Bidco management or been injured at the workplace.

The Bidco Truth Coalition invites other like-minded organisations to join the No2Bidco.org platform to demand change at Bidco and accountability for those who support the company. 

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of The Bidco Truth Coalition.

Fraud Puts Inauguration of Elected LG Chairmen on Hold in Sokoto

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By Abdallah el-Kurebe

Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state has revealed that fraud discovered in the local governments’ salary vouchers had put on hold the inauguration of the elected officials about two months after they were elected.

The governor who made the revelation on Monday during a Media Chat held at the Government House on Monday, said that the discovery of irregularities in payment vouchers was responsible for the delay.

According to Tambuwal, the state government had recovered over N300 million in one month from the payrolls of the 23 local government councils as a result of the ongoing verification exercise, adding that “in only one local government council in the state, an official sold 200 appointment letters to a contractor in Zamfara state.

“This fraud was discovered when the contractor sent a text to the Secretary to the Sokoto State Government, complaining that he had an agreement with an official who sold 200 appointment letters to him on an agreement that salaries of the 200 persons would be remitted to him, monthly.

“When the official could not send salaries of a particular month to the contractor in Zamfara, he then sent a text to the SSG while we were together. The SSG showed me the text message, which informed our full-scale investigation into local government salary system,” Tambuwal told Journalists.

He lamented that since all the local government areas had their payrolls padded with ghost workers, it was only reasonable for the state government to do staff audit and handover clean payrolls to the new local government officials.

“Federal allocation to the local government councils have not been sufficient to pay staff salaries over the months. We have had to look for money to top up for them to be able to pay,” Tambuwal disclosed.

The governor, who expressed sadness that most of the workers in the local councils were idle and fraudulent, also disclosed that the state government discovered incidences where some staff collect salaries from different local government councils. “In fact, we found out that one staff was collecting salaries in four various local government areas,” he said.

Tambuwal said that similar verification exercise was going on in the state civil service, to curb the menace of ghost workers.

Democracy Day: Why We Are Focusing On Agriculture, Gov. Tambuwal

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      Tillers Distributed to Farmers

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

As part of activities to mark Democracy Day, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto state on Sunday distributed farm implements and other poverty eradication tools to farmers and women, respectively.

While the implement included 1,350 pumping machines, 1,000 tiller machines, the poverty eradication tools were 265 tricycles to beneficiaries in the 23 local government areas of the state.

Earlier in his Democracy Day broadcast, the governor said that the challenges of dwindling revenue sources owing to the fall in oil prices, was why his administration was focusing on agriculture.

According to Tambuwal, the development had “necessitated a paradigm shift in our approach to economic matters and financial management. We therefore decided to focus our attention to Agriculture for the sector has the potential to adequately bail us out from the unfortunate situation.”

He stated that the stark economic realities had strengthened his government to execute programmes that would uplift the welfare of the people in all possible ways, adding that apart from projects that were of aggregated public interests and priorities, “We are giving proper attention to revitalising the agricultural sector in all possible ways.

“We have for a start, purchased assorted fertilizers worth N1,207,080,000.00 for this years cropping season. The State Government has also intervened in the provision of water pumps, seedlings, drilling of tube wells and agricultural machineries at the cost of N1,660,000,000.00. Similarly, we have procured 1,000 units of Tiller Machines at the cost of N169,000,000.00,” Tambuwal stated.

The governor enumerated other initiatives to include visit to China in orser to explore areas that could facilitate the state government’s quest for rapid agricultural development in all possible ways. “Accordingly, an MOU was signed on Distance Aid Training to essentially train students on Grains Food Security with Henan University of Technology via Polytechnic of Sokoto State. Similar agreement has been signed for the construction of Agricultural Science and Technology Park in collaboration with Henan Province.

“The State Government has also signed an MOU with Camaco China  Africa Machinery Co-op that provides access for our State to concessionary Chinese funding on the platform of the China-Africa Development Fund (CADF). Currently, Data Base Census is being conducted for all farmers in the State with a view to identifying real farmers and their categories to enable the State Government empower them correctly, and put in place proper budgeting for long-term planning,” the governor further said.

TEXT OF SPEECH OF THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF SOKOTO STATE, RT. HON. AMINU WAZIRI TAMBUWAL ON THE FIRST YEAR ANNIVERSARY

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          Gov. Aminu Tambuwal

A’uzu Billahi Mina Shaidanir Rajeem
Bismillahi Rahmanir Raheem.

1. Fellow citizens of Sokoto State; our brothers and sisters; friends and well-wishers, it is with deep sense of gratitude to Allah (SWT) I address you on this momentous occasion. I salute you all with the blessed greetings of love, brotherhood and fraternity, which Islam enjoins to humanity – Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Ta’ala Wa Bara katuhu. It is indeed, a pleasure to welcome our highly esteemed guests who have come from far and near to celebrate with us the joys of this historic event.

2. Today is exactly a year since we took over the mantle of leadership of our dear State, which commenced on 29th May, 2015. From that historic day, I and other political and public office holders had served our dear State for 12 months. The privileges and enormous pains and burden of leadership were carried by all of us, commensurate to our respective positions and responsibilities. Alhamdulillahi, our taking over has been heralded and cherished by the citizenry, the greatest of who have ardent belief and trust in our great party, the APC. They have the confidence that our party has the required capacity to bring about the necessary input that will positively transform our State in particular and the nation as a whole. Regrettably, some of us who commenced this journey have answered the divine call; others, even if alive, are not in the best of health. We must therefore thank Allah (SWT) that we are today alive, healthy and happily standing to reaffirm our will and determination to serve our people, selflessly and diligently.

3. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we must admit that the commencement of our tenure was full of trials. In fact, in the last two years, our country had battled with unprecedented challenges. More than at any other time in the history of our beloved nation, citizens were plunged in fear and deep concerns over the destiny of the Nigerian polity. The disillusionment with bad leadership at the centre, amidst devastating insurgency, made Nigerians to rise in unison to give our party victory in the last general election.

4. As we took over the baton of leadership, we were fully conscious of the challenges and sacred responsibilities ahead of us. As intimidating as the challenges are, we are certainly not cowered as we have full trust and confidence in Allah’s Eternal promise of assisting those with noble intentions. Alhamdulillah, we have, despite all odds, laid down a durable foundation for the progress of our dear State. While our resources were critical compared to our peers in other States, our resolve to overcome challenges and ensure good governance for the benefit of our citizens has been amply demonstrated. Indeed, we had braced up and ensured that security is consistently given its befitting priority. The result thus far is that Sokoto has remained the most peaceful State in the Federation.

5. The compelling need to ensure the completion of numerous on-going projects inherited from the previous administration, and at the same time address issues of development in all ramifications demanded that we adopt evaluation and review techniques that will enable us forge ahead. For this reason, since the inauguration of our administration in May, 2015, we have been working considerably to make proper appraisal of the policies, programmes and projects of the previous administration so as to align them with realities of our time. As I have stated and as it is indeed quite glaring, our nation is witnessing considerable economic challenges. The dwindling resources owing to falling oil prices necessitated a paradigm shift in our approach to economic matters and financial management.  We therefore decided to focus our attention to Agriculture for the sector has the potential to adequately bail us out from the unfortunate situation.

6. In spite of the challenges and stark economic realities, we are poised to execute programmes and projects that will uplift the welfare of our people in all possible ways. The essence of governance is to ensure continuity, especially where earmarked projects are on the basis of highly aggregated public interests and priorities. Accordingly, we have carefully and critically analysed projects that we wish to ensure their completion. Thus, funding has been sustained within the limit of available resources to ensure that such projects are completed soonest.

7. In this regard, we are giving proper attention to revitalising the agricultural sector in all possible ways. We have for a start, purchased assorted fertilizers worth One Billion, Two Hundred and Seven Million, Eighty Thousand Naira (N1,207,080,000.00) for this year’s cropping season. The State Government has also intervened in the provision of water pumps, seedlings, drilling of tube wells and agricultural machineries at the cost of One Billion, Six Hundred and Sixty Million Naira (N1,660,000,000.00). Similarly, we have procured 1000 units of Tiller Machines at the cost of One Hundred and Sixty Nine Million Naira (N169,000,000.00). Other initiatives include; visit to China to particularly explore areas that could facilitate our quest for rapid agricultural development in all possible ways. Accordingly, an MOU was signed on Distance Aid Training to essentially train students on Grains Food Security with Henan University of Technology via Polytechnic of Sokoto State. Similar agreement has been signed for the construction of Agricultural Science and Technology Park in collaboration with Henan Province. The State Government has also signed an MOU with Camaco China – Africa Machinery Co-op that provides access for our State to concessionary Chinese funding on the platform of the China-Africa Development Fund (CADF). Currently, Data Base Census is being conducted for all farmers in the State with a view to identifying real farmers and their categories to enable the State Government empower them correctly, and put in place proper budgeting for long-term planning.

8. In our determination to up-turn the saddening tide of the educationally disadvantaged position of our State, we have declared a State of Emergency in the educational sector. Our objective is to improve enrollment at all stages—basic, secondary and tertiary. We also hope to improve quality of teachers by training and retraining. The ultimate aim is to improve human capital capacity in the sector, improve numeracy and literacy as a key to sustainable development. From the beginning of this administration, over N1Billion was expended for the payment of tuition/living expenses to our students studying in various disciplines across the globe. Presently, we have over 342 foreign students under full sponsorship by the Sokoto State Government and we also have over 17,000 students studying various courses in Institutions of higher learning, across the country. In 2015, we employed 500 new teachers to augment the manpower needs in our secondary schools.

9. Some of the areas that are visibility touched in the provision of basic education are to do with conduct of enrolment drive campaigns; training of relevant personnel to essentially support School Based Management Committees (SBMCs); procurement and distribution of instructional materials and construction and renovation of 51 Blocks of 3 Classrooms in a number of Local Governments and conduct of Pilot Breakfast Feeding in some selected Rural Primary Schools at Betere, Rundi, Kwagel, Kubodu and Dankyal, among others.

10. We are indeed resolute in our determination to increase access to education and improve quality of education through the expansion of schools and construction of new ones; continued sponsorship of students for educational training at all levels, both within and outside the country. A cogent indication of our commitment is reflected on our 28% budgetary provision to the educational sector, which has exceeded both national and UNESCO benchmark of 26%. Presently, contracts have been awarded for the renovation of the following schools:-
i. Gamji Girls College Rabah – N   301,442,835.00
ii. Govt. Girls Model Sec. School Illela – N  174,571,772.00
iii. Govt. Secondary School Tureta – N  241,305,893.00
iv. Govt. Girls Arabic Day Sec. School S/Birni- N  134,101,534.00
Government is determined to establish a new Secondary School in Balle, an initiative which is considered laudable by all stakeholders, in view of the poor state of education in Gudu Local Government. The fact is that despite concerted efforts by successive Governments, the level of educational development in Gudu Local Government has consistently remained lowest in the State. So the establishment of Boarding School in the area will invariably improve enrolment, retention and transition of pupils from Primary to Secondary Schools in the Local Government and its neighbours, such as Tangaza and Illela. The sum of One Billion, One Hundred and Ninety Four Million, Seven Hundred and Forty One Thousand, Four Hundred and Seventy Naira (N1,194,741,470.00) has been appropriated for the project.

11. The Health sector has equally been accorded the desired attention. To ensure greater efficiency in healthcare, we have paid particular attention to the maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading of existing healthcare facilities. We are also making efforts in the provision of additional manpower and huge investment in primary healthcare administration. Under the sector, capital projects embarked upon have reached various levels of completion. Proper attention has been given to ensure that contractors handling various health projects are making efforts to complete them on time. Some of these projects include; repairs and renovations of the Maternity Unit of Specialist Hospital and General Hospitals of Tangaza, Illela and Wurno, costing Two Hundred and Thirty Six Million, Four Hundred and Twenty Six Thousand, Forty Three Naira and Forty Three Kobo (N236,426,043.43). Works on the upgrading of Primary Health Centres at Sabon Birni, Balle, Dange and Kware are being executed at the cost of Five Hundred and Eighty Five Million, Two Hundred and Eighty Seven Thousand, Six Hundred and Eight Naira, Sixty Eight Kobo (N585,287,608.68). Other construction works at Primary Health Centres of Romon Liman, Sabon Garin Dole, Araba, Dingyadi and Salame are being executed at the cost of Two Hundred and Eighty Two Million, Two Hundred and Eighty Four Thousand, Five Hundred and Seventy Eight Naira, Ninety Three Kobo (N282,284,578.93). Concerted efforts are being made to ensure completion of the second phase of the Murtala Muhammad Specialist Hospital, comprising of 47no. Staff Housing, 2no. Wards and Landscaping, involving the sum of One Billion, Four Hundred and Twelve Million, Five Hundred and Sixty Five Thousand, Five Hundred and Ninety Three Naira, Eighty One Kobo (N1,412,565,593.81).  As you are aware, we signed an amendment to the state Primary Healthcare law. What is obtainable now in the state is a revamped sector that aggregates all PHC institutions under one roof. We will continue to strengthen the sector for the benefit of our dear citizens.
12.      Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is pertinent to mention here that on taking over the mantle of leadership, one of the serious issues of concern that we have noted was the accumulation of large volume of refuse within the metropolis. The disturbing situation was quite detrimental to health and general well-being of the populace. Past Governments have undoubtedly made their efforts to address the situation but growth in population and the lukewarm attitude of our people has undermined such efforts. We thus, firmly stood to address the issue holistically by first and foremost ensuring a quick and timely evacuation of refuse and consequently mobilising the citizenry to be concern with the promotion of environmental cleanliness. In this pursuit, we have employed 500 youths for evacuation of refuse within the metropolis. This initiative has enabled us achieve tremendous success in addition to providing employment to our teeming youths, thereby reducing indolence and youth restiveness. In addition to this, we have purchased 30no. Refuse Evacuation Tricycles, which are being used for refuse collection on regular basis. At this juncture, I would like to re-echo my appeals to the general public to be proactive in promoting environmental cleanliness. This will surely improve the quality of our habitat and reduce possibilities of epidemic outbreaks. Certainly, personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness have tremendous impact in promoting sustainable development, as spread of diseases and many ailments are mostly facilitated by a dirty environment. It is therefore our ardent hope that all citizens will continue to rededicate themselves in this lofty pursuit.

13. We have also made concerted efforts in improving public service machinery; implementing worthy initiatives aimed at promoting welfare of women, children and especially the physically challenged persons, through payment of monthly allowances. We have particularly ensured payment of accumulated life, death and contract gratuities and pension arrears of retired civil servants in the State. The last we have paid was for the period between December, 2011 to August, 2015, amounting to Two Billion, Six Hundred and Forty One Million, Three Hundred and Forty One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty Eight Naira, Sixty Four Kobo (N2,641,341,988.64), of which 1,901 civil servants benefited. We have also sustained payment of regular monthly pension to retired civil servants. The sum of One Billion, Two Hundred and Forty Seven Million, Seven Hundred and Three Thousand, Five Hundred and Forty Seven Naira, Forty Three Kobo (N1,247,703,547.43) has so far been expended from June, 2015 to May, 2016, in which over 5,000 pensioners are involved. With regards to training, the sum of Seventy Million, Eight Hundred and Ninety Thousand, Eight Hundred and Seventy Naira (N70,890,870.00) has been expended for the payment of tuition fees and maintenance allowances for 20 Medical Doctors and 2 Engineers who are currently studying at various institutions outside the country, through the Higher Scheme Programme. It is gratifying to note that the relationship between the State Government and the organised Labour has remained cordial. We have remained consistent in ensuring regular payment of staff salaries, retirement benefits and other remunerations to workers. In fact, all demands made to the Government by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) have been met. 

14. Fellow citizens, in the face of the prevailing economic downturn, it is imperative to emphasize on the need for continuous prayers to Allah (SWT) to deliver us from these challenges. It is also essential to be conscious of the fact that the change that we had craved and worked for must be jealously guarded. Certainly, nothing worth gaining is ever gained without efforts and sacrifices. We ought to be broadminded to know that we need good citizens, those who are ready to strive with honesty, dedication and self-denial. Exemplary leadership and good governance cannot be achieved without active participation of the citizenry. We must therefore be ready to individually and collectively give our modest contributions. We should be ready at all times to love for others what we love for ourselves. Indeed, the virtues of selflessness and dedication to the cause of fellow beings have been cardinal pillars, which all societies that have achieved greatness in history had imbibed.

15. I wish to in this regard, sincerely cherish the love and support of the legislature, as nothing would have moved without their understanding, support and co-operation. I wish to also express my profound gratitude to those working in the Judicial Arm of Government; our Royal Fathers, Civil Servants, Elder Statesmen, Politicians, Religious Leaders and the entire good people of Sokoto State for the support and goodwill extended to us in discharging the onerous responsibilities of steering the affairs of the state. I will hasten to say that the journey has just begun. And it has begun amidst multifarious challenges. I will thus crave the indulgence of all to understand the prevailing circumstances. Patience is a jewel of iman; and a virtue that ultimately facilitates success. On our part, we are conscious of the enormity of the trust and the fact that we shall be held accountable for our actions; we require prayers, objective criticisms and proper counselling to succeed. I am indeed, largely indebted to our Royal Fathers. The fatherly support and counselling of His Eminence, the Sultan is one of the greatest blessings and privilege at our disposal. I must therefore thank him most profoundly for his support and counselling.  I pray to Allah (SWT) to reward us individually and collectively for our sacrifices.

16. I once more thank the good people of Sokoto State for their wonderful support and good will, it is my appeal that all shall continue to extend their support and co-operation so that we can lift our dear State to greater heights. While praying to Allah (SWT) to continue to guide and give us the required vision in facing the challenges of leadership and upholding our civic responsibilities, it is also my ardent prayers that He will continue to guide, bless and protect us in all our endeavours.

17. Thank you and Wassalamu Alaikum.

Text of President Buhari’s First Year Anniversary

Health

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        President Buhari

My compatriots,

It is one year today since our administration came into office. It has been a year of triumph, consolidation, pains and achievements. By age, instinct and experience, my preference is to look forward, to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead and rededicate the administration to the task of fixing Nigeria. But I believe we can also learn from the obstacles we have overcome and the progress we made thus far, to help strengthen the plans that we have in place to put Nigeria back on the path of progress.

We affirm our belief in democracy as the form of government that best assures the active participation and actual benefit of the people. Despite the many years of hardship and disappointment the people of this nation have proved inherently good, industrious tolerant, patient and generous.

The past years have witnessed huge flows of oil revenues. From 2010 average oil prices were $100 per barrel. But economic and security conditions were deteriorating. We campaigned and won the election on the platform of restoring security, tackling corruption and restructuring the economy. On our arrival, the oil price had collapsed to as low as $30 per barrel and we found nothing had been kept for the rainy day. Oil prices have been declining since 2014 but due to the neglect of the past, the country was not equipped to halt the economy from declining.

The infrastructure, notably rail, power, roads were in a decrepit state. All the four refineries were in a state of disrepair, the pipelines and depots neglected.

Huge debts owed to contractors and suppliers had accumulated. Twenty-seven states could not pay salaries for months. In the north-east, Boko Haram had captured 14 local governments, driven the local authorities out, hoisted their flags. Elsewhere, insecurity was palpable; corruption and impunity were the order of the day. In short, we inherited a state near collapse.

On the economic front, all oil dependent countries, Nigeria included, have been struggling since the drop in prices. Many oil rich states have had to take tough decisions similar to what we are doing. The world, Nigeria included has been dealing with the effects of three significant and simultaneous global shocks starting in 2014:

A 70% drop in oil prices. Global growth slowdown. Normalization of monetary policy by the United States federal reserve.

Our problems as a government are like that of a farmer who in a good season harvests ten bags of produce. The proceeds enable him to get by for rest of the year. However, this year he could only manage 3 bags from his farm. He must now think of other ways to make ends meet.

From day one, we purposely set out to correct our condition, to change Nigeria. We reinforced and galvanized our armed forces with new leadership and resources. We marshaled our neighbours in a joint task force to tackle and defeat Boko Haram. By the end of December 2015, all but pockets and remnants had been routed by our gallant armed forces. Our immediate focus is for a gradual and safe return of internally displaced persons in safety and dignity and for the resumption of normalcy in the lives of people living in these areas.

EFCC was given the freedom to pursue corrupt officials and the judiciary was alerted on what Nigerians expect of them in the fight against corruption. On the economy, in particular foreign exchange and fuel shortages, our plan is to save foreign exchange by fast tracking repair of the refineries and producing most of our fuel requirements at home. And by growing more food in Nigeria, mainly rice, wheat and sugar we will save billions of dollars in foreign exchange and drastically reduce our food import bill.

We resolved to keep the Naira steady, as in the past, devaluation had done dreadful harm to the Nigerian economy. Furthermore, I supported the monetary authority’s decision to ensure alignment between monetary policy and fiscal policy. We shall keep a close look on how the recent measures affect the Naira and the economy. But we cannot get away from the fact that a strong currency is predicated on a strong economy. And a strong economy pre-supposes an industrial productive base and a steady export market. The measures we must take, may lead to hardships. The problems Nigerians have faced over the last year have been many and varied. But the real challenge for this government has been reconstructing the spine of the Nigerian state. The last twelve months have been spent collaborating with all arms of government to revive our institutions so that they are more efficient and fit for purpose:

That means a bureaucracy better able to develop and deliver Policy. That means an independent judiciary, above suspicion and able to defend citizen’s rights and dispense justice equitably.That means a legislature that actually legislates effectively andAbove all; that means political parties and politicians committed to serving the Nigerian people rather than themselves.

These are the pillars of the state on which democracy can take root and thrive. But only if they are strong and incorruptible. Accordingly, we are working very hard to introduce some vital structural reforms in the way we conduct government business and lay a solid foundation on which we can build enduring change.

An important first step has been to get our housekeeping right. So we have reduced the extravagant spending of the past. We started boldly with the treasury single account, stopping the leakages in public expenditure.

We then identified forty-three thousand ghost workers through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information system. That represents pay packets totalling N4.2 billion stolen every month.  In addition, we will save Twenty-Three Billion  Naira per annum from official travelling and sitting allowances alone.

Furthermore, the efficiency unit will cut costs and eliminate duplications in ministries and departments. Every little saving helps. The reduction in the number of ministries and work on restructuring and rationalization of the MDAs is well underway. When this work is complete we will have a leaner, more efficient public service that is fit for the purpose of changing nigeria for the good and for good.

As well as making savings, we have changed the way public money is spent. In all my years as a public servant, I have never come across the practice of padding budgets. I am glad to tell you now we not only have a budget, but more importantly, we have a budget process that is more transparent, more inclusive and more closely tied to our development priorities than in the recent past. 30% of the expenditure in this budget is devoted to capital items.

Furthermore, we are projecting non-oil revenues to surpass proceeds from oil. Some critics have described the budget exercise as clumsy. Perhaps. But it was an example of consensus building, which is integral to democratic government. In the end we resolved our differences.

We have, therefore, delivered significant milestones on security, corruption and the economy. In respect of the economy, I would like to directly address you on the very painful but inevitable decisions we had to make in the last few weeks specifically on the pump price of fuel and the more flexible exchange rate policy announced by the central bank. It is even more painful for me that a major producer of crude oil with four refineries that once exported refined products is today having to import all of its domestic needs. This is what corruption and mismanagement has done to us and that is why we must fight these ills.

As part of the foundation of the new economy we have had to reform how fuel prices had traditionally been fixed. This step was taken only after protracted consideration of its pros and cons. After comprehensive investigation my advisers and I concluded that the mechanism was unsustainable.

We are also engaged in making recoveries of stolen assets some of which are in different jurisdictions. The processes of recovery can be tedious and time consuming, but today I can confirm that thus far: significant amount of assets have been recovered. A considerable portion of these are at different stages of recovery. Full details of the status and categories of the assets will now be published by the Ministry of Information and updated periodically. When forfeiture formalities are completed these monies will be credited to the treasury and be openly and transparently used in funding developmental projects and the public will be informed.

On the Niger Delta, we are committed to implementing the United Nations Environment Programme report and are advancing clean-up operations. I believe the way forward is to take a sustainable approach to address the issues that affect the delta communities. Re-engineering the amnesty programmes is an example of this. The recent spate of attacks by militants disrupting oil and power installations will not distract us from engaging leaders in the region in addressing Niger Delta problems. If the militants and vandals are testing our resolve, they are much mistaken. We shall apprehend the perpetrators and their sponsors and bring them to justice.

The policy measures and actions taken so far are not to be seen as some experiment in governance. We are fully aware that those vested interests who have held Nigeria back for so long will not give up without a fight. They will sow divisions, sponsor vile press criticisms at home and abroad, incite the public in an effort to create chaos rather than relinquish the vice-like grip they have held on Nigeria.

The economic misfortune we are experiencing in the shape of very low oil prices has provided us with an opportunity to restructure our economy and diversify. We are in the process of promoting agriculture, livestock, exploiting our solid mineral resources and expanding our industrial and manufacturing base. That way, we will import less and make the social investments necessary to allow us to produce a large and skilled workforce.

Central Bank of Nigeria will offer more fiscal incentives for business that prove capable of manufacturing products that are internationally competitive. We remain committed to reforming the regulatory framework, for investors by improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the first steps along the path of self-sufficiency in rice, wheat and sugar – big users of our scarce foreign exchange – have been taken. The Labour Intensive Farming Enterprise  will boost the economy and ensure inclusive growth in long neglected communities. Special intervention funds through the Bank of Agriculture will provide targeted support. Concerns remain about rising cost of foods such as maize, rice, millet, beans and gari. Farmers tell me that they are worried about the cost of fertilizers, pesticides and the absence of extension services. The federal and state governments are on the same page in tackling these hurdles in our efforts at increased food production and ultimately food security.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the increasing role that our women are playing in revitalizing the agricultural sector. Modern farming is still hard and heavy work and I salute our Nigerian women in sharing this burden. In this respect I am very pleased to announce that the government will shortly be launching the national women’s empowerment fund, which I have approved to provide N1.6 billion in micro-finance loans to women across the nation to assist in rehabilitating the economies of rural communities, particularly those impacted by the insurgency and conflict.

With respect to solid minerals, the minister has produced a roadmap where we will work closely with the world bank and major international investors to ensure through best practices and due diligence that we choose the right partners. Illegal mining remains a problem and we have set up a special security team to protect our assets. Special measures will be in place to protect miners in their work environment.

For too long, ours has been a society that neglects the poor and victimizes the weak. A society that promotes profit and growth over development and freedom. A society that fails to recognize that, to quote the distinguished economist Amartya Sen “ poverty is not just lack of money. It is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.”

So, today, I am happy to formally  launch, by far the most ambitious social protection programme in our history. A programme that both seeks to start the process of lifting many from poverty, while at the same time creating the opportunity for people to fend for themselves. In this regard, Five Hundred Billion Naira has been appropriated in the 2016 budget for social intervention programmes in five key areas. We are committed to providing job creation opportunities for five hundred thousand teachers and one hundred thousand artisans across the nation. 5.5 million children are to be provided with nutritious meals through our school feeding programme to improve learning outcomes, as well as enrolment and completion rates. The conditional cash transfer scheme will provide financial support for up to one million vulnerable beneficiaries, and complement the enterprise programme – which will target up to one million market women; four hundred and sixty thousand artisans; and two hundred thousand agricultural workers, nationwide. Finally, through the education grant scheme, we will encourage students studying sciences, technology, engineering and maths, and lay a foundation for human capital development for the next generation

I would like to pay a special tribute to our gallant men and women of the armed forces who are in harm’s way so that the rest of us can live and go about our business in safety. Their work is almost done. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude.

Abroad, we want to assure our neighbours, friends and development partners that Nigeria is firmly committed to democratic principles. We are ready partners in combating terrorism, cyber crimes, control of communicable diseases and protection of the environment. Following on the Paris Agreement, COP 21, we are fully committed to halting and reversing desertification. Elsewhere, we will intensify efforts to tackle erosion, ocean surge, flooding and oil spillage which I referred to earlier by implementing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

We are grateful to the international community notably France, the US, UK and China for their quick response in helping to tackle the recent Ebola outbreak in our sub-region. We also acknowledge the humanity shown by the Italian and German governments in the treatment of boat people, many fleeing from our sub-region because of lack of economic opportunity. We thank all our partners especially several countries in the EU.

We appreciate the valuable work that the UN agencies, particularly UNICEF, ICRC, the World Food Program have been doing. We must also appreciate the World Bank, the Gates Foundation, the Global Fund and Educate A Child of Qatar for the excellent work in our health, education and other sectors.

Fellow citizens let me end on a happy note. To the delight of all, two of the abducted Chibok girls have regained their freedom. During the last one year, not a single day passed without my agonizing about these girls. Our efforts have centred around negotiations to free them safely from their mindless captors. We are still pursuing that course. Their safety is of paramount concern to me and I am sure to most Nigerians. I am very worried about the conditions those still captured might be in. Today I re-affirm our commitment to rescuing our girls. We will never stop until we bring them home safely. As I said before, no girl should be put through the brutality of forced marriage and every Nigerian girl has the right to an education and a life choice.

I thank you and appeal to you to continue supporting the government’s efforts to fix Nigeria.