NIGERIA’s former Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbe has suggested that the country should create a new ‘Ministry of the Future’ to deal with youth restiveness, insecurity and plummeting state of the economy.
Ogbe said the ministry would be tasked with weighing the consequences of government policies in the medium and long term, as well as creating job opportunities for youths to forestall restiveness and related crises.
The chairman of a northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), gave the advice on Wednesday when he featured as a panellist in a webinar organised by The ICIR titled, ‘Solving Nigeria’s Security Conundrum: A Pan-Nigerian approach.’
He said the current insecurity, pervasive joblessness, divisions among ethnic nationalities and other issues resulted from actions taken by the country’s leaders decades ago.
“There were decisions we took three decades ago, which are having terrible impacts on us now. We are devaluing our currency almost every week for nearly three decades. Industries have collapsed. In the South-East, close to 400; in the North, about 200; in the South-West, about 200. We become a nation of importers of everything.
“Just two days ago, they gave a profile of imports: N40 trillion on imports and four trillion on exports. No country can survive by merely importing and importing,” Ogbe said.
He added: “Not finding enough foreign exchange to pay and hope to find happiness in the land. A million Naira in 1981 was $1.571 million. Today, a million naira is 2000 dollars. And, it is getting lower and lower by the day. Where are our industries? Who is responsible for the insecurity apart from the herdsmen crisis? It is the youth. How did the youth become a problem in society? They have nothing to do. They have no job, and they have no hope.”
Ogbe, who had served as a minister in 1983 under late former President Shehu Shagari (1982 – 1983) and President Muhammadu Buhari (2015 – 2019), said he had been kicking against the devaluation of the Naira since 1986.
He quoted former Brazillian President Lula da Silva as saying that a nation faced a Third World War when its schools, healthcare and economy were failing, and poverty was worsening.
While emphasising the need for his proposed ministry, Ogbe said by 2050, Nigeria population would have jumped to 450 million from the current nearly 212 million projected by the National Population Commission.
He said there might be no schools, hospitals, jobs and infrastructures for the population by then, which according to him, would further push the country into worse crises.
The former chairman of the opposition People’s Democratic Party and now a chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) said youths engaging in criminal activities were quick to attribute their actions to biting poverty and shrinking opportunities.
He decried the rising cost of food in the country and blamed the skyrocketing price on insecurity.
To curb the farmer-herder menace and allow agriculture to thrive, Ogbe urged the Nigerian government to review a Trans-human Treaty signed in Nigeria by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1998.
He said the treaty permitted any herder to move from any ECOWAS member country with their cattle to another and depart anytime they chose.
“There is an agreement between ECOWAS countries, signed in Nigeria in 1998. They called it a Trans-human Agreement. Cattle can come from Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and graze and go back as they wish. Most Nigerians are not aware of this. It was signed here in 1998.
“In other words, cows can come from anywhere, come in here and go off. Even if you have your cattle under control, the foreign ones coming, with their herdsmen carrying AK-47 cannot be controlled. That is a law that has to be amended. Every country in West Africa has to take care of its own cattle because we can no longer afford that method of cattle rearing. It’s becoming too much a problem,” he said.
Among other issues, Ogbe backed the calls for a rotational presidency but said it was not the solution to Nigeria’s woes.
He said the North that had enjoyed power more than the South had had more challenges, adding that industries in the North had collapsed due to insecurity.
Other panellists at the meeting included: Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the South-West socio-cultural group, Aferenifer.
Adebanjo blamed the nation’s crises on its current constitution and called for a urgent review to fully restructure the country.
Former Senator from Cross Senator River State Florence Ita-Giwa said, but for the intervention of leaders of thoughts in the state and other parts of the Niger Delta, militants would have picked up guns.
President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo George Obiozor blamed the country’s current crises on the failure of leaders to be fair to all regions and promote justice, equity and merit.