It makes sense to subsidise agric than petrol – Hon. Adebutu - THE NEW DAWN ONLINE


Saturday, January 02, 2016

It makes sense to subsidise agric than petrol – Hon. Adebutu

Hon. Oladipupo Olatunde Adebutu represents Ikenne, Sagamu and Remo North Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. He is the Chairman of the House Committee for Rural Development.   In this interview,   he speaks   on rural development and other issues in Nigeria. Excerpts:
During the Committee’s interactive session with the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Devemos, Chief Audu Ogbeh, it emerged that the issue of outstanding payments on fertiliser subsidy may be an impediment to the country’s growth. What is your view on this?
I have said clearly that as a nation, we have to choose clearly which subsidies to prioritise and those we can do without. The Honourable Minister informed us that there is a N42bn deficit the nation is currently carrying on subsidies on fertilisers. We should ask ourselves, should we go through tough times to pay trillions on petroleum subsidy or billions for fertiliser subsidy. I think we must address the issue of petroleum subsidies vis-à-vis the release of funds to implement capital projects for Nigerians. There are key frontline sectors such as education and health which can benefit from more funding to improve the lives of Nigerians.
I believe that in comparison to the petroleum subsidy, the fertiliser subsidy is money better spent because of the nature of agriculture.     Gradually, we are practising intensive farming and we need fertilisers and other supplements to boost our annual yield. If we must pay to get better yielding seeds and inputs then it is imperative we do so to achieve the boom in yield. We must bear in mind that Governments all over the world intervene in agriculture to promote and sustain their farmers; therefore denying farmers necessary support is unfair, unkind and outright immoral.
Do you see this issue as one of protecting   the nation’s farmers?
Let us look inwards. I am a livestock farmer and some years ago, I recall we were confronted with issues of a price ceiling and how much our livestock could sell for. Given that in Europe, it is cheaper to fill an aircraft with surplus subsidised meat for export to Nigeria, our industry came under immense pressure. However, the Obasanjo Administration said rather than export our jobs, we should produce here and protect our jobs, so a ban on meat products was put in place; livestock farmers had a reprieve and we succeeded in keeping the jobs on our farms. Hence we were able to prosper and lay a solid foundation for Nigeria’s livestock industry.
In Europe and America, agricultural programmes are subsidised by the European Union (EU)/ the United States government respectively, hence they ship their surplus subsidised agricultural products to Nigeria and in the process kill our own industry. Protection   is neither here nor there in the circumstance; if some must go without jobs, I’d rather it not be Nigerians. Billions are spent on importing agricultural products yet we can produce them here, generate jobs, secure our self-sufficiency and enhance National pride.
As Chairman of the House Committee on Rural Development, how does the Committee intend   to fulfil its mandate and make an impact on the vast areas in rural Nigeria?
First and foremost, rural development does not refer to the villages in Remo or Kaduna alone. Rural areas include places that show similar levels of development indices such as parts of Ajegunle in Lagos State and the likes, which lack basic amenities and living standards. Virtually nowhere in Nigeria escapes being called rural. If you go to Orile-Oko communities in Remo North Local Government Area of Ogun State, some of the villages have never had potable water; I am sure you will find areas in Lagos experiencing the same neglect.
All these indices make our work on the Committee more compelling. After 55 years of independence, some very basic things are still not guaranteed. It is an abuse of fundamental human rights to be denied potable water.   This must be seen as such in recognition of the fact that we can fast and go a distance without food but not without water. Our citizens must have access to safe drinking water; we must set a basic minimum target everywhere there are 500 Nigerians gathered, there should be a water project.
How do you factor your constituency into this task before the Committee?
Prior to my becoming a federal legislator, I provided bore-holes from my personal resources for communities in my constituency.   The same applies to rural electrification. I have personally donated numerous transformers to various communities.   I have also constructed flood control structures, culverts, etc to make life easier for rural dwellers especially relating to movement of goods and services.
I have lived in rural Remo since 1991 and have a deep understanding of requirements for rural development.
The truth is that most of our rural communities lack basic amenities to improve their standard of living.   God in his infinite wisdom deemed it fit to place me at the helm of a committee that focuses on rural development.     As Chairman of the House Committee on Rural Development I will seize the opportunity to effect with public funds, the things which for many years, I have struggled with using my personal resources.   God willing I shall make sure rural projects go around my constituency and Nigeria as a whole for the betterment of our people.

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