2022-national budget for agriculture: Another lackadaisical treatment?

With benefit of hindsight, agriculture has been a livewire of Nigeria’s nation with the inordinate potential to make the country great. It is however the most neglected sector, which is lackadaisically served with empty promises and false hopes over the last three decades. This column has written a series of articles on Agriculture with the latest piece on World Food Day, which was published on 14th and 21st October 2021.  

Nigeria’s leadership pays appalling lip service to the agricultural sector at different levels of governance from local government to federal.  Over the years, agriculture receives low investment from both state and federal governments.

For example, the federal government made a budgetary allocation of between 1.3% and 3.4% to agriculture in the annual budget from the year, 2000 to 2007. In the year 2017, combined expenditure of the federal and 30 state governments showed they spent only 1.8 percent of their total annual budget on agriculture. 

The situation has deteriorated as indicated in recent years. In the 2021 budget, federal government allocated a mere 1.73% of its annual budget to Agriculture. Other states like Oyo, Kwara, Borno, and Abia allocated 3.6%, 3.0%, 4.64%, and 1.49% of their annual budgets, respectively. It was only Kano state that allocated 5%, which was the highest allocation by a state.

These allocations are far less than the 10% allocation of the annual budget as promised by heads of government of the African Union tagged “2003 Moputo declaration and 2014 Malabo resolution”. The low investment in agriculture indicates a lack of commitment and seriousness of the country’s leadership to develop agriculture. 

In addition to this flagrant negligence by the nation’s leadership to agriculture, there are diversities of challenges militating against the development of agriculture in Nigeria. The latest and most catastrophic one is the high level of insecurity exacerbated by banditry, kidnapping, raping, and looting in agrarian communities particularly in northern Nigeria, the food basket of the nation.

Back to low investment in agriculture, the National Assembly is currently working on the 2022 national budget, in fact the budget may soon be passed as the year, 2021 is ending this week. Any hope for increased investment in agriculture after a series of previously dashed hopes?

The federal government of Nigeria proposed a total expenditure of N16.39 trillion, which is 12.5 percent higher than the 2021 budget but considering inflationary trend and population growth, the figure may be lower than that of 2021 budget. 

The proposed allocations to Federal Ministries and agencies totaled the sum of N14,272,275,202,608 for the year 2022, approximately N14.3 trillion, which is higher than N13.08 trillion proposed for similar allocations to the MDAs in this year, 2021. 
The budget analysis of the N16.39 trillion estimated budget indicated recurrent spending for the projected year as N6.83 trillion, repressing 41.7% of total expenditure and 18.5% higher than the amount budgeted in 2021. Aggregate expenditure for the capital projects was allocated the sum of N5.35 trillion, representing 32.7% of total expenditure. Further analysis of the budget proposal indicated allocation of 15% of the budget to defense and security amounting to N2.41 trillion, 8.9% to infrastructure (N1.45 trillion), 7.9% to education (N1.29 trillion); 5% to health (N820 billion), and 5.3% to Social Development and Poverty Eradication (N863 billion). How can you address social development and eradicate poverty without giving good attention to agriculture? This is just akin to putting the cart before the horse.

What is the proposed allocation to agriculture?Agriculture was allocated N291,466,466,723 equivalent to N291.5 billion, representing 1.8% of the total budget or 2.03% of the total allocations to the MDAs. This allocation is grossly inadequate to address the catalog of challenges militating against agricultural development in the country. Nigeria is not known to be in a war with any country, other than the persistent internal insecurity, which emanates within, and thus, the allocation of 15% of the budget to defense and security is understandable but seems to be high.  Although, it is more difficult to deal with enemies within but it is still on the high side.

Nevertheless, food insecurity in society is the backbone of other security challenges including that of the military. Can something be done to agriculture? Education and health are equally important and they are not getting their desired allocations as recommended by UNESCO and pledged by the African Union to vote 20% and 15% of the total budget to education and health, respectively. However, agriculture deserves special attention to checkmate the looming food insecurity exacerbated by the population explosion. 

Attention to agriculture will facilitate the transformation of the unlimited agricultural potentials, which are mostly unexploited in every cranny of this nation. Additionally, investment in agriculture can reduce unemployment and create wealth among the populace. 

The 5.3% to Social Development and Poverty Eradication (N863 billion), which mainly consist of “direct money transfer program, dishing out of handouts/freebies, and similar things” are, at best, short-term solutions to poverty. The development of agriculture is the permanent solution to the poverty of the majority of Nigerians. Can we reduce the quantum of freebies and invest in agriculture?

The current trend of agricultural development in this country is certainly worrisome because as there is poor and inadequate provision of extension services. This is principally responsible for the terrible and abysmal level of agricultural productivity. 
The national average yield of cereal crops is a mere 1.2 tons/ha against the potential yield of 8 – 12 tons/ha. An example, the average yields of maize and rice are 1.64 tons/ha and 2.0 tons/ha against the potential yields of 10 tons/ha and 12 tons/ha, respectively.

Even cassava, the crop, which Nigeria is reported to be the leading country in the world for its production has an average yield of 13 tons/ha against the potential yield of 60 tons/ha. This poor productivity is a result of poor or inaccessibility of improved production technologies, improved seeds, practices, appropriate equipment, poor infrastructure, and skill. The main cause of the low agricultural productivity is poor and timely allocation of funds to the agricultural sector.

Nevertheless, hopes are not lost as the budget is before the National Assembly with constitutional power to review the budget proposed by the Executive. All eyes are on the honorable members of the National Assembly with great expectations to salvage the agricultural sector from being in dilapidating condition to a vibrant and promising one. Can members change the current lackadaisical treatment to agriculture? Is it late? Better late than never.