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Agric Minister Scores Lagos High As Fashola Unveils Co-Operative College, 60 Refrigerated Meat Vans

Jul 10, 2012 - The Lagos State Government on Tuesday received the commendations of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina for using agriculture and food security to mitigate the social security challenges associated with the state's mega city status, just as the Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) declared that Nigeria cannot develop until her people go back to the farms.

Speaking before the official commissioning of the Lagos State Cooperative College, Oko-Oba, Agege, launch of 60 Eko Refrigerated Meat Vans and the flag off of the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme which took place at the Johnson Agiri Complex, Oko- Oba, Agege, the Minister said the road map policy document –titled Strategic Programme for Accelerated Agricultural Growth (SPAAG) which relates all the key agricultural sub-sectors with the singular objective of improving agricultural output, productivity and emphasis on wealth and job creation bears eloquent testimony to the state's commitment.

"Lagos State's plan to create jobs while addressing food security is highly commendable. The "Rice for Job" which is the pioneering rice initiative for Lagos State has moved area of rice cultivation in Lagos from less than 20 hectares to its current 250 hectares and counting. In a sector that is experiencing aging workforce, Lagos State has done well to attract youths and sustain their interest. Employment record from the State has shown an increase from 300 youths benefitting from the State Agricultural Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) project in 2007 to 1500 in 2010", Dr Adesina stated.

The State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) noted that now is the time for Nigerians to think very simply but deeply that the country must tailor its demands to meet its economy because each time the people hold a party and consume foreign food items to the detriment of locally produced items, a foreign economy is being boosted.

The Governor said the nation already possesses the land, water, men and now the policy to let her embrace agriculture and restore it to its pride of place, adding that even when anyone makes money the first urge to be satisfied is hunger.

The Governor supported the Minister's position that the rice that are imported from Malaysia and Thailand are stored rice with no nutritional values to Nigerians, adding that those who export it do not eat such extensively preserved rice but depend on the equivalent of the Ofada rice which Nigerians have abandoned.

He added that Nigerians should also embrace the cassava bread being promoted by the Minister because nothing stops bread manufacturers in the country from adding a little cassava to wheat to produce a good grade of bread and also empower the local farmers.

Governor Fashola said five years ago the state introduced the meat refrigerating vans as a substitute to the open trucks and carts that were used in conveying meat in public, adding that today the state has gone a step further because the refrigeration units of the new vans were manufactured in Nigeria and has generated jobs for people in the company.

He added that in the process, jobs have been created for the meat owners, drivers, loaders all of whom have participated in the value chain, stating that although the vehicles are still imported, the process is just starting.

He added that the vans will convey meat hygienically from the abattoirs to their points of distribution and sale across Lagos State, stating that all illegally operated slaughter slabs at Coker, Matori, Itire and Military Barracks will be closed down and replaced by mechanized abattoirs at Ologe in Badagry and Achakpo in Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government.

The Governor said Dr Adeshina is the first Minster of Agriculture that will agree with the Lagos State Government that the Federal Government should not be involved in financing and distributing fertilizers because they end up enriching middle men and impoverishing the farmers.

He told the farmers that the present arrangement will require them to pay only half of the money for the fertilisers while the state Government and the Federal Government will jointly contribute the half payment.

He explained that before now, the standpoint of the state Government is that its funds should not be deducted for fertliser, but that with the enlightenment from the State Commissioner for Agriculture that fishes will also need feed mill to thrive and grow, the State Government will implore the Federal Government to extend it to feedmills so that farmers can benefit from it.

The Governor also gave kudos to Dr Adeshina for his passion for the job and always identifying with success irrespective of where it is coming from stating that it represents the signs of greatness.

Governor Fashola recalled that July 10 last year was a day that the heavens opened up in torrential rainfall, stating however that this year it is a day, the people are talking about the critical role of government as an enabler that is using tax payers' funds to enable critical organizations and institutions like the Co-operatives to prosper.

"Today, Lagos State has over 12,000 registered Cooperative Societies managed by approximately 36,000 trustees. Together they have a combined membership of over 2 million people and a growing asset base of N40Billion", the Governor stated.

He also thanked Fidelity Bank which is financing the procurement of the 60 refrigerated vans for operating in a way that is clearly strategic by positioning itself to finance and fund the State's initiatives with the private sector.

He also informed that the Cooperative College which is being unveiled will provide training and education in all aspects of the management of cooperative societies because it forms part of efforts to develop human capacity to ensure sustainable economic growth, promote excellence in all spheres of human endeavour and improve the quality of life in the State.

The Governor who also responded to a plea by the representative of the Eko Meat Van Operators that government should permit the refrigerated vans to ply BRT dedicated lanes said the law is very clear on what categories of vehicles should ply the route, adding that the State Government will apply the full force of the law on anyone who flouts it.

The Agriculture Minister who also oversees the Rural Development portfolio said Lagos State has been allocated two large scale integrated rice processing mills with 60,000 metric tons capacity out of the 100 that the Federal Government is facilitating its importation from China.

Dr Adesina gave a commitment that the Federal Government will continue to support Lagos State efforts to feed itself and make agriculture a source of income for its farmers and for farmers from all parts of Nigeria.

The State Commissioner for Agriculture in his welcome address said the Cooperative movement in Lagos has the largest cooperative societies with respect to number, exposure and asset base within the Nigerian federation.

He added that Cooperative education is provided by the Cooperative College in Ibadan which often necessitates staff and trustees of the societies in Lagos travelling to Ibadan on a weekly basis as the case may be, adding that this will be eliminated with the establishment of the Cooperative College in Lagos.

In a goodwill message, the representative of the Lagos State Cooperatives Federation, (LASCOFED), Chief Michael Odunsi described the unveiling of the College as a demonstration of the positive disposition to the affairs of cooperators in Lagos State.

He said considering the size of Lagos State, the state is long overdue for an institution to teach the rudiments of cooperative learning in Lagos State, and thanked the Governor for actualizing the dream.

In recognition of the sterling contributions of the Minister to the development of Agriculture, he was presented with an award of honour by the State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) while the Governor also received an award of honour presented to him by the Commissioner, Mr Gbolahan Lawal .

The Governor and the Minister later jointly unveiled the tape to formally commission the Cooperative College and also hand over the refrigerated vans as well as fertilizers and seeds to the beneficiaries.

The event which also featured cultural displays was attended by members of the State Executive Council including the Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr Wale Ahmed, Rural Development, Mr Cornelius Ojelabi, directors from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the Olu of Agege, Oba Oyedeji Kamilu Isiba, several famers and members of Cooperative societies in the State.


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