The Senate Monday called on the Federal Government to dedicate substantial part of the 2021 budget to create employment opportunities, reduce poverty and ensure food security for Nigerians in order to prevent another youth uprising similar to what was witnessed following the recent #EndSARS protests.
This is even as the upper chamber decried what it described as “abysmally low” budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector over the years.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Chairman Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abudullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), made these assertions during the 2021 budget defence session by the Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, in Abuja.
Lawan noted that agriculture can provide jobs for everybody while oil can only provide few white collar jobs.
He said that the Federal Government needed to be “practical and radical” in applying its resources to address the urgent needs of the people.
Lawan said: “Recently, we had some of our youths protesting genuinely. They were seeking the attention of leaders and they got the attention of leaders.
“So, our budget, especially for 2021 should be mindful of what we do to provide employment opportunities for these youths.
“They demonstrated and protested because they could do so, there are so many other people who may not be youthful but are also in the same need and they didn’t protest.
“Let’s meet them where they are. We don’t have to wait until they also start to grumble or protest.
“We should be proactive, we should reach them and most of them are in the rural areas and give them what we can and what they need to some extent within the purview of our resources and keep them there to live a productive life and that is the only way that we can make a difference in the lives of the people.
“And for us, elected people, we are going to be accountable. If we escape this one (#EndSARS protests), the other one is inescapable and I am sure people will know what I am saying.”
Lawan also insisted that agriculture is enough to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria.
“This sector can do something that oil has not been able to do. But why hasn’t it been able to do so? We need to be very practical and radical.
“I believe that the way we are going, will not take us to the El-dorado but there is every potential, every possibility and other countries have made it through the sector.
“Every time we talk about diversification of the Nigerian economy, the first sector they mention is the agricultural sector.
“So it means this sector needs to be given all the support that is possible. Oil cannot give jobs to the youths that we have only few people and mostly white collar jobs but we know that this sector can give everybody a job.
“And it has all the potentials to create the wealth that we need to have a fairly meaningful life for everyone. So we need to apply ourselves fully to operating this sector,” Lawan said.
Senator Adamu in his opening remarks decried low budgetary allocation to agriculture over the years.
He said while the Maputo declaration provides that 10 per cent of national budgets should go to agriculture, the 2021 allocation to the agricultural sector is less than two per cent of the N13.8 trillion total appropriations.
Adamu said: “In 2021, the sector (agriculture) witnessed a slight increase with a total allocation of N139, 458, 322,208.00.
“Over the years, the sector’s allocation has been abysmally low, a far cry from the Maputo declaration which states that a country should allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budget to the agricultural sector.
“This year’s budget proposal only allocated less than two per cent to the agricultural sector.
“The sector’s N139,458,322,208.00 is broken down as follows: Personnel – N68,031,135,074.00, overhead – N3,186,608,895.00, capital – N110,240,253,439.00.”
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However, while the Minister of Agriculture, Nanono, admitted that the current budgetary allocations for the sector have been low, he said that the sector recorded meaningful progress in 2020 and remains one of the fastest growing sectors in the country.”