By Chinyere Anyanwu [email protected]
With the National Assembly’s passage of 2023 appropriation bill into law on December 28, 2022, totalling of N20.5 trillion in budget tagged, “Budget of Fiscal Consolidation and Transition”, Nigerians agricultural stakeholders have come hard on the Federal Government for being unserious toward the development of the sector.
This is because out of the total amount, the agriculture sector was allocated N228.4 billion, representing 1.11 per cent of the total budget. A breakdown of the 2023 agriculture budget reveals that the sum of N136.68 billion was allocated to capital expenditure, which is equivalent to about 59.84 per cent of the budget, while the recurrent expenditure got N85.42 billion, which is about 37.39 per cent.
In its analysis of the agriculture sector budgetary allocation, ActionAid Nigeria reveals that out of the N228.4 billion, about N131.7 billion (57.7 per cent) is allocated to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) headquarters in Abuja while the over 45 agencies under it, including the Universities of Agriculture, share N96.7 billion (42.3 per cent).
The analysis said, “stakeholders think that the sharing ratio is unfair and should be adjusted so that the implementing agencies can have more funds to execute projects and the main ministry focuses on its fundamental roles. Going forward, MDAs, particularly research institutions, should have innovative proposals on developing new varieties of crops and livestock and transferring innovative technologies to farmers.”
For a Federal Government which has repeatedly declared its vision to diversifying the economic growth and sustenance from oil to agriculture, and holds the sector as the key driver of job creation and food security, the 1.11 per cent allocation to the sector leaves much to be desired.
The agricultural sector, according to available data, contributes between 22 per cent and 26 per cent to the country’s GDP, while employing over 70 per cent of its population, particularly in the rural areas. This is in addition to bearing the burden of ensuring food security and import substitution, among others. To adequately achieve these targets, the agricultural sector needs to be sufficiently funded but reverse is the case.
Nigeria’s 1.11 per cent budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector is a far cry from the 10 per cent stipulated in the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) signed in 2014 at Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, by African Heads of State. The agreement was reached by African heads of state to allocate at least 10 per cent of each country’s annual budget to agriculture to enable the continent achieve food self-sufficiency but Nigeria, like most countries on the continent, has never met that goal.
Analysts have listed reasons the government at various levels in Nigeria have failed to commit to this agreement, to include lack of political will, poor prioritisation of the agricultural sector, and inefficient and corrupt management of budgetary resources.
A major stakeholder in the agricultural sector, Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere, the Vice President of Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), reacting to the 2023 annual budget to the sector, said it shows lack of seriousness on the part of government in developing agriculture to replace oil in Nigeria.
Ijewere who regretted the failure of the government to recognise the importance of agriculture, said, “Nigeria signed the Maputo Agreement where all countries of Africa agreed that a minimum of 10 per cent of their budgets will be spent on agriculture. Nigeria is spending just 1.11 per cent of the entire country’s budget on food. You are aware that a lot of that money is not likely going to be judiciously used going by what has happened all these years, so to say that 1.11 per cent is going to agriculture does not tell the truth.”
He further said, “if you look at that budget, you will discover that very little of it goes to capital expenditure; most of it goes to going to conferences and running the ministry. It’s not enough to just say 1.11 per cent is going to agriculture, a lot of that money will not be used in developing agriculture. There’s no seriousness whatsoever in scaling up agriculture. Nigeria wants to use agriculture to replace oil, but unfortunately, we are not doing that.”
The NABG vice president, who is pained by the situation, stated that, “the budget was declared by civil servants who are not farmers, who are not transporters, who are not processors, who are not aggregators. They do it all by themselves. What role did the actual players – the farmers, the processors, and all the other inputs providers – play in planning the budget? All these players are not being brought into its planning to determine what is good for them. If you prepare a budget where the private sector is involved, they will bring in their own private investments into it but if it is a budget prepared by people who have no idea of what needs to be achieved, they are only looking at what will satisfy them either at the National Assembly level or at the Villa level or the ministry level. So the farmer gets absolutely nothing.”
He concluded that unless the major players in the sector are involved in budget planning, the country will never have a good budget, adding that, “this budget is just a waste of time. It’s just a document for the sake of sharing money.”
For Babatunde Olarewaju, Lead Strategist at Futux Agric Consult Ltd, who spoke with Daily Sun on the 2023 agriculture budget allocation, the 1.11 per cent allocated to agriculture is extremely low and cannot tackle the enormous problems facing the sector.
He noted: “If you ask them how they were able to arrive at that figure for agriculture, they can’t give you any data that can explain how they arrived at that allocation. For me, it cannot have any meaningful impact. Allocating less than 2 per cent of the national budget to agriculture will not even solve the surface challenges confronting the sector now, so I don’t see how the sector will be made attractive because the government is not funding it.”