By Aaron Ossai
Before oil was discovered in commercial quantities in Nigeria, agriculture was the mainstay of her economy. Products like Cocoa, groundnut, palm oil, rubber, cotton among others were massively produced for both local consumption and export.
However, when oil was discovered in commercial quantities, the government at the time was said to have declared that the problem was how to spend money and not how to make it. More people, especially the youths, abandoned agriculture and opted for what is known today as “white collar jobs.”
Between the 1990s and 2023, agriculture was completely relegated to the background. As the farmers who are mainly in rural areas fade out due to old age, the younger generations see farming as an odd job that is only good for those who cannot afford to migrate to the city in search of white collar jobs despite the fact that Nigeria has vast arable lands uncultivated.
Governments at all levels then did not also help matters as they failed to provide incentives for the few who had interest in farming. Instead of encouraging them to embark on mechanised farming by providing tractors and other farm inputs, these few were left with local tools like hoes and machetes.
Worried by this development and the fact that Niger state is blessed with massive arable land that if properly cultivated cannot only provide enough food for her citizens but also for the entire nation, the state governor, Rt. Hon. Mohammed Bago has come up with incentives to encourage youths in the state to go back to farm.
To actualise his dream of engaging the youths in farming activities to ensure adequate supply of food to the citizens and as well keep them away from being ready made tool for criminal elements, the governor recently announced that the sum of N3.5 billion has been earmarked as incentive to 1,000 youths as part of measures aimed at boosting agricultural development in the State.
Governor Bago who also reeled out the first Executive Order on tree planting, expressed his administration’s readiness to create all and necessary environment for business to thrive directed all Niger State residents to plant a tree, saying that for 1,000 youths to go into this agro initiative would be incentivized with a million naira each.
He reasoned that while talking about green economy, his administration understands the strength of the state as a people and understands the peoples’ strength as a State, saying “what’s there for youths? Incentives will have to come first before any other thing.”
“I am also on behalf of every Local Government Area in Niger state pledging the sum of N100 million each into this fund. So, as a government, we have seed money of N3.5 billion for people to enroll back into farming for a sustainable future.
“This fund will be growing and revolving, these are not going to be loans; they are going to be grants.
“Again, another initiative is that in every Local Government that wants to establish agric extension school, so that these extension schools will have a nursery where these plants, now one hectare – one family will give us one million tubers of banana, nobody knows how to plant bananas”, he stated.
In the bid to fast track the initiative, he disclosed that all Local Government Secretariats will establish an Extension College and Nursery to be located on between two to three hectares of land within each Local Government where the trees will first germinate and later be transferred.
To ensure sustainability of such novel initiative, he underscored the need for Federal Government and key institutions like Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL), Tetfund and other stakeholders to key into the initiative as a renaissance for Nigeria.
Also at the event, Governor Bago reeled out the first Executive Order on tree planting and the need for all the people of Niger state to key into the laudable Green Economy Initiative.
“We need to educate our people for them to understand the comparative advantage of doing a green economy, we have to be realistic, everybody, as a state policy should plant one tree in his or her compound, so, if we have 10 million houses, it means we have just planted 10 million trees but people need to understand the positivity of this.
“The next is the cost, the Niger State Government will give anybody that comes back to farming N1 million if you renege, it becomes a trust and reputation issue. So, the agric support fund must meet the expectation.
“We are going to create a Niger State EFCC and NFIU and ICPC to make sure that this money goes to the Farmers. We will execute and prosecute people publicly. When you turn funds meant for the public to private use, we will disgrace you. And that is what will bring trust and confidence to the people.
“Fairness – I like it when you talk about fairness, to be fair to people, don’t give them the tall-order. Start it and scale it up, it’s very important, so that presentation will be very apt”, the governor said.
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas noted that the summit provides a major milestone in a collective determination to promote sustainable development and tackle the challenges caused by climate change.
Hon. Abbas who was represented by the Majority Chief Whip, Hon. Usman Kumo averred that it is a significant event that promoting and highlighting the potentials of green technology, renewable energy projects, sustainable agriculture, and eco-tourism in Niger State.
“This platform serves as an opportunity to attract both local and international investors who are interested in supporting green initiatives and creating employment opportunities within the state. Additionally, it offers a chance to gain insights from experts and learn about best practices from around the world for implementing effective green solutions.
“Therefore, I would like to express my appreciation to my friend, colleague, and brother, Rt. Hon. Bago for initiating this endeavour that brings together experts, policymakers, investors, and stakeholders from various sectors to discuss and explore opportunities for a greener and more prosperous future for Niger State and the entire country.
“The concept of a green economy is rooted in the recognition that economic growth must be pursued in harmony with environmental sustainability. In essence, the development of today must not jeopardize the capacity of future generations to utilize the blessings of nature for their own development.
“A green economy emphasizes the need to decouple economic development from resource depletion and environmental degradation, aiming to foster low-carbon, resource-efficient, and socially inclusive growth that promotes the well-being of both present and future generations.
“In recent years, there has been a growing global consensus on the urgency of transitioning towards a green economy. The adverse impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events, perennial flooding, rising sea levels, and loss of biodiversity, has become increasingly evident.
“These environmental hazards not only threaten our means and sources of livelihood but also pose a great challenge to our very existence in terms of the insecurity that they breed. These challenges require us to rethink our approach to economic development and embrace innovative solutions that conserve natural resources and promote sustainable livelihoods.
“Niger State, with its abundant natural resources and diverse ecosystems, has a unique opportunity to lead the way in promoting a green economy in the country. The state is blessed with vast and fertile agricultural lands, mineral deposits, renewable energy potentials, forests, water bodies, scenic landscapes and rich biodiversity. All of these nature’s blessings are avenues for prosperity and economic development. By harnessing these resources sustainably, we can create new economic opportunities while preserving our natural heritage for future generations.
“To achieve this vision, we must adopt a multi-faceted approach that encompasses various sectors of our economy. In agriculture, we can promote organic farming practices, agro forestry, and sustainable land management techniques that enhance soil fertility and water conservation.
“By investing in renewable energy infrastructure such as solar and wind power, we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Furthermore, we should prioritize the conservation and sustainable management of our forests, wetlands, and wildlife habitats to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services.
“Transitioning to a green economy requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses strong political will, effective governance, collaboration among stakeholders, an enabling environment, and alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We must enact legislations that promote renewable energy development, establishes green financing mechanisms, and encourages the adoption of eco-friendly technologies. Additionally, we should invest in education and capacity-building programs to equip our citizens with the skills needed for a green economy.
“Policymakers therefore, have a responsibility to create an enabling environment that incentivizes sustainable practices and supports green businesses. Niger State is on the right trajectory in taking bold steps to green its economy and make it more resilient, inclusive, and prosperous. By launching the Niger State Green Economy Blueprint today, the state is setting an example for the rest of the country on how to harness green assets and innovation for sustainable development,” Speaker Abbas noted.