From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
For the honourable minister of Budget and Planning and former Edo State Commissioner for Environment, Prince Clem Agba, he was just doing what he has been appointed to do, bringing federal government closer to the people but unknowingly to him, his work could attracts commendations from far and near even from his kinsmen.
Among those who have recently decided to honour the minister is the Weppa Wanno Pyramid Club, who after a wide range of consultation, bestowed on him the award of “Icon of Rural Development in Nigeria”.
The event which took place at the Edo Heritage Hotel, Benin City, saw the cream-de-la-cream of the sons of Weppa Wanno both far and near in attendance to honour the minister for his numerous contributions to the development of the rural areas in Edo State and by extension, Nigeria.
Addressing the invited guests, president of the club, Dr. Austine Aipoh, said the choice of the minister by the club was based on its desire to reward hard-working individual who has contributed to the development of the society.
He said Agba has been able to use his office to put smile on the faces of million of Nigerians by linking up a lot of rural areas in the country to the major cities.
Accepting the award, the honourable minister, said 60 percent of Nigerians are in the rural areas and that the desire to better their lots, compeled him to draw the attention of the federal government to those communities.
“60 percent of Nigerian population who live in these rural areas, the poorest of the poor, the very vulnerable ones who produced the foods that we eat at least 90 percent of it, because of this commitment, I pushed very strongly in the various committees that I belong even in the Blueprint Advisory Committee which is chaired by the Vice President, that we should not want to copy Americans who are racing to space because they have conquered hunger. They have taken care of basic infrastructure. If we copy them, we will miss our way”, he said.
Agba said we have to go back to the basis, and for him, that basis is rural development, ensuring that we create the environment to encourage value-adding industries, build those value change, that will ensure that we have storage facilities, processing facilities that would reduce if not totally eliminate post harvest losses which is currently put at 50 to 60 percent depending on what type of commodities.
He said for every ten thousand tonnes of food we produced, we loss 6,000, adding that it doesn’t get to the market and for him, he does not think that increasing the number of acreages is the solution because if we increase the number of acreages to produce more, we are also invariably, geometrically increasing the percentage of post harvest losses.
Agba said he would do his best to make those in the rural areas feel the impact of federal government’s presence.
“I will do my best to continue to promote rural development across Nigeria.
” I was just telling senior high chief,
Izuagbe last night, about two days ago, I got a letter from the people of Enugu that they want to confer on me a chieftaincy title, I said why, he said I opened up the place, for 40 years, they have no road, they have never seen a federal minister that came all the way to inspect roads, I saw that the road was halfway, and through that additional N17b, we put more funds there and the road is almost completed and they are indeed very grateful and for that reason, they want to honour me. What more can I ask for? So, I just ask for your prayers, and God continue to grant us the wisdom, the knowledge and the understanding to do that which is right because the best thing to do, is to do what is right”, he said.
Now that more rural roads are being connected to the cities, the honourable minister, charged various regions to look inwardly and find out what it can produce with ease in exchange for what it can’t produce.
“I just came back from Rome where I went to state Nigeria’s position on our food systems because if you look at the different regions of the countries, we have different comparative advantage in terms of the type of foods that we produce and we say we should have a dashboard approach that shows what can grow well where you have those advantages and ensure that the foods that we eat are fortified, then we will be able to eliminate the stunting and wasting that is taking place among our children”, he said.
The minister maintained that the federal government is committed to improving rural life.
“The federal government is doing a lot, we just talked of N34b rural roads, additional N17b added under the sustainability plan, N8b in the 2021 budget for rural development. Those were supposed to be responsibilities of subnational government, so the federal government is doing a lot”, he said