Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has advised the executive arm of government to use the 2021 budget which is yet to be processed by the National Assembly to create employment, especially for the youth as a way to avoid another protest by them.
This was even as he declared that the agriculture sector is still capable of changing Nigeria’s fortune if the government at all levels gives it a practical and radical approach.
Speaking against the backdrop of the recent #EndSARS protests in the country, at a public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Agriculture on 2021 budget defence, particularly urged the government to allocate substantial part of the 2021 budget to job creation, poverty reduction and food security in order to escape another youth’s restiveness in the mode of #EndSARS protest.
Lawan said: “Recently, we had some of our youths protesting genuinely. They were seeking the attention of leaders and they got the attention of leaders.
“So, our budget, especially for 2021 should be mindful of what we do to provide employment opportunities for these youths.
“They demonstrated and protested because they could do so, there are so many other people who may not be youthful but are also in the same need and they didn’t protest.
“Let’s meet them where they are. We don’t have to wait until they also start to grumble or protest.
“We should be proactive, we should reach them and most of them are in the rural areas and give them what we can and what they need to some extent within the purview of our resources and keep them there to live a productive life and that is the only way that we can make a difference in the lives of the people.
“And for us, elected people, we are going to be accountable. If we escape this one (#EndSARS protests), the other one is inescapable and I am sure people will know what I am saying.”
On agriculture, he stressed the need for the private sector participation in the sector in order to achieve the desired food security and youth employment.
He said: “This sector (Agriculture), without prejudice to any other sector, is enough to turn around the fortune of Nigeria, something that the oil has not been able to do.
“But why have we not been able to do so? We need to be very practical and radical. I believe that the way we go will not take us to El-dorado. But there is every potential, every possibility and there are so many experts here.
“Oil cannot give jobs to the youths. Only a few people, mostly white collar jobs. But we know that this sector (Agriculture), from the President, to the last man or woman in the country, and it has all the potentials to create the wealth that we need to have a fairly and meaningful life for everyone.
“So we need to apply ourselves fully to operating this sector. Government alone cannot make it happen. Government can come up with the necessary and desired policies but those that will make it happen are the private sector.”
The Senate President described the agricultural sector as the “mother of all sectors” in the Nigerian economy and urged all stakeholders at all levels of government to accord it more attention.
Earlier in his opening remarks, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC Nasarawa West), decried low budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector over the years.
He said while the Maputo declaration provides that 10 percent of national budgets should go to agriculture, the 2021 allocation to the agricultural sector is less than two per cent of the N13.8 trillion total appropriations.
“Over the years, the sector’s allocation has been abysmally low, a far cry from the Maputo declaration which states that a country should allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budget to the agricultural sector.
“This year’s N139, 458,322,208 billion budget proposal represents less than two percent of the N13.08trillion budget “, he said.
Giving the break down in his presentation, the Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono said personnel has N68,031,135,074 billion overhead with N3,186,608,895 billion while capital got N110,240,253,439 billion allocation.
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