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Indications Emerged Yesterday That President Muhammadu Buhari Would Not Change Agricultural Policies Adopted By His Predecessor

Tony Ailemen, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday continued his meetings with Permanent Secretaries to update himself with the actual state of affairs of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.

The meetings, aimed at comparing the handover notes of former President Goodluck Jonathan with the actual situation, has so far featured the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance, the newly appointed Accountant General of the Federation, with Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and that of Water Resources taking their turns yesterday, at the Presidential Villa.

Speaking with State House Correspondents after meeting with President Buhari, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Sunny Echeno, said President Buhari had assured that there would be no policy change to affect already running programmes in the Ministry of Agriculture, especially the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) programme, which was set up by his predecessor.

He has however, directed the Ministry of griculture to adopt, and fine tune a blueprint formulated during his tenure as chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) for ending farmers/ herdsmen clashes across the country.

The Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) is a Federal Government initiative instituted by the past administration to actualize the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), aimed at subsidizing costs of major agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer and seedlings for farmers. Based on the GESS policy, the Federal and State Governments are to equally contribute the balance of 50 per cent being the approved subsidy amount for onward payment to participating inputs (fertilizer) suppliers.

Speaking on why Kano state Government procured fertilizers from open market for its farmers, he stated that the state intervened because of bureaucratic delays that cropped up during the transition period. “It was one of the issues we discussed with the President and based on the directives that we will get very shortly, we will be able to get across to all the other states.

“There will be no policy change, the GES is the most effective, transparent and accountable way of ensuring that farm inputs get directly to the farmer without intermediaries and without all the various corrosive behaviour that used to attempt the process. So we are on course with the project and we have the support of all the states”, he said

. Speaking further on the continuation of policies in the ministry, the Permanent Secretary noted that the President, who is a farmer, has been following new development in the sector, not only in dairy and beef where he has personal investment but various other aspects. “So it a continuum, we did not envisage much change in terms of policy but ensuring that those things that work, actually does work , and correcting those things that are not working very well to ensure that we derive maximum efficiency from our efforts” he added.

Speaking on the directive by the President to study the blue print to end the cattle rearers-farmers crisis, the permanent secretary said they were expected to peruse the document and come up with proposals on the way forward. He said already the ministry was considering some measures in checking the attacks including, designation of stock routes with monuments, establishing grazing reserves, ranches across the country and addressing the cost of pastures.

“Incidentally the President had received a detailed report on this when he was at the PTF on how to resolve this problem. The blueprint is going to be made available to us, together with experts and others who have also worked on the subject including the recent national economic committee resolution chaired by one of the state governors, we are going to look at all of this and come up with proposals that will address this problem”, Echeno said.

Echono said the President also asked the Ministry to work towards restoring the agriculture extension services scheme; and to create employment for the youth through agriculture. He added that issues of c‎ limate change and late arrival of rains as they affect programmes of the Ministry were also tabled at the meeting with the President.

The President also met with officials of the Ministry of Water Resources, led by the Permanent Secretary, Musa Istifanus,‎ who he d‎irected to re-prioritize issues of importance to the Ministry and report back to him.

I‎stifanus told journalists after the meeting that the team reviewed the Ministry’s handover notes with the President, informing him of immediate challenges of flooding and how River basins in the country could be of immense help.

“While a number of dams are controlling the River Niger basin, only one is controlling the Benue River basin which gets tragically flooded whenever the Lado Dam in Cameroon is opened.

“The River Basins issue will be given highest priority when the team reports back to the President as it can also give employment”, Istifanus added.

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