From Magnus Eze, Enugu
Senior Special Assistant to Enugu State governor on Food and Environmental Security and Safety, Dr. Godwin Abonyi speaks on food security in the state.
According to the immediate past National President of the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s rural development programme has boosted agricultural production in the state.
What is the food security status in Enugu State in the face of herdsmen menace and rising incidence of kidnapping and violent crimes?
The slogan of our governor, His Excellency, Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and indeed Ndi-Enugu that “Enugu State is the hands of God” rubs in positively on all facets of the state, including agriculture and food security. As you rightly said the herdsmen menace in the farmlands is a major national challenge, but Enugu State government has proactively put a number of measures in place to forestall threats to farming activities. First is the establishment and deployment of well-trained and equipped forest guards to complement the conventional national security agents. Their presence in all the remote communities reassures and emboldens the farmers to go ahead with their operations. The government intervention through the supplies of improved seedlings, herbicides and requisite fertilizers also help out a lot. The Enugu State strategic partnership with donor agencies like IFAD, APPEALS Project and RAMP of the World Bank, ATASP of ADB are revolutionary and would turn Enugu State as the staple food hub of the nation especially in cassava and rice. The state already is unarguably the hub of fresh fruits and cashew nuts with enormous export potentials.
What’s your take on the general notion that Governor Ugwuanyi has not paid much attention to Enugu capital city in terms of infrastructural development?
The notion is disputable and so can’t be regarded as generalized. This is because he had diligently maintained the urban roads and infrastructure. But his inaugural address as governor clearly pointed his intention to uplift Enugu rural communities as a matter of priority. This takes us back to the boost in agriculture and food security. A number of rural community roads in Isi-Uzo, Uzo-Uwani, Oji River, Awgu, Aninri axis, Ezeagu and Enugu East LGAs which are the major food producing zones of Enugu State have all got wonderful road networks. The effects are enormous. The farmers easily evacuate their produce to the urban areas and get higher values for their produce and eagerly go back to the farms. The huge number of vehicles coming out of these communities into the cities loaded with fresh food stuff is the direct testimonial for this and overall impact in positive livelihood cannot be over emphasized. This administration has achieved this creditably. Moreover, the city dwellers are from these hitherto abandoned rural communities as well as being direct beneficiaries to easily and cheaper availability of fresh food stuff from the hinterlands.
People complain that the wealth of the Igbo are scattered outside the region; what would you say about the Igbo Stabilization Fund and the “Aku Ruo Ulo” (Think Home) initiative?
The complaint is genuine and the Think-Home initiative is most apt. It had always been the wisdom of our forefathers and so we should always embrace the philosophy of Aku Ruo Ulo. More so, the present example of Nnewi people of Anambra State is the typical example of the veracity of the initiative.
Are you disappointed with the decision of the PDP to throw open its presidential ticket for the best candidate to emerge instead of zoning to the Southeast?
I think what came out recently was a committee report that may have considered a number of factors not open to the public for now. All the same, no zone in the country can boast or parade more eminently qualified presidential materials than the Southeast. Nigeria needs the best at this point in time and PDP and Nigeria should look eastwards.
There was crisis at the New Artisan area of Enugu where mainly livestock dealers from northern Nigeria operated. What actually happened?
The unfortunate incident was the handiwork of miscreants and hoodlums who wanted to thwart the peaceful atmosphere prevalent in Enugu State. The state government through the Special Adviser to the Governor on Information made the matter very clear in a press release. The said parcel of land being illegally occupied by some livestock dealers is a property belonging to a foremost traditional ruler in Enugu State with a subsisting court order to the validity of his ownership. It was his attempt to physically take possession of the land that attracted resistance from the illegal occupants and miscreants capitalized on it to cause the disturbance which was promptly brought under control by security agents and normalcy was since restored.
Don’t you think that such affront from miscreants posed serious threat to security and how do you think it could be forestalled?
I agree with you that such affronts pose security threats to the state and government and appropriate security agents are conscious of that. First, Enugu State government in recognition of the importance of the livestock businesses to the commerce and economy of the state has in liaison with the leadership of the livestock dealers allocated a suitable alternate site for the livestock trade. The relocation should be immediate. In addition, it’s clear that some hoodlums may be hiding in the guise of being livestock dealers only to be into various crimes. The livestock dealers like other commodity groups should device a means of identifying their members to enable security agents recognize genuine businessmen and be able to fish out miscreants. An in-house security audit from time to time will save the group from infiltration by miscreants. Relocation of businesses for security or city aesthetic reasons is a responsibility of the government. A popular club at Otigba Junction, New Haven-Ogui Road Junction was some time ago closed for obvious reasons and this was popularly welcomed. The public health menace of livestock market being located not only inside the city but very close to the seat of the three arms of Enugu State government is to say the least unacceptable.
The Federal Government is about locating Trailer Park at Obollo Afor, a place originally designated for Dry Port. Being a veterinary expert, what is the implication for the community and Enugu State?
The Obollo people welcomed the proposed siting of a Dry Port at Obollo Afor with all the attendant facilities including rail line linkage to Eha Amufu train station with enormous enthusiasm. It’s however most unfortunate that the Ministry of Transportation is tinkering with change of the proposed Dry Port project to Trailer Park without recourse to the landlord. Different levels of the Obollo clan have met on the issue and are making their position which is vehement opposition to the use of the land for another project other than a dry port known to all the relevant authorities.