Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, has attributed the pervading economic woes besetting the country to its failure to save for a rainy day during the oil boom, which, he said, was worsened by neglect of agriculture.
The governor said this during the State Agriculture Initiative Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum, held at the House of Chiefs, Parliament Building, Ibadan, on Monday.
Ajimobi said that the forum was aimed involving stakeholder in his administration’s resolve to diversify the economy of the state through the exploration of aggressive, all-inclusive and sustainable agricultural value chain.
The forum was attended by royal fathers, including the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji; Baales, local government transition committee chairmen and other stakeholders in the 33 local council areas of the state.
Ajimobi said the dwindling allocation from the Federation Account owing to the fall in the price of petroleum in international market had called for massive investment in farming.
He said, “we did not save for the raining day when there was oil boom in the country. We relied heavily on income from oil. But we have all been jolted into reality now that a barrel sells for all-time low $30.
“Nigeria has depended so much on oil which has now lost its value at the international market. So we have to look for alternative sources of revenue, which is through aggressive investment in agriculture.
“The fall in oil price has done more good than harm as it has opened our eyes to the effectiveness of mechanized farming as our saving grace,’’ he said.
According to the governor, Oyo has the largest expanse of arable land in the whole of the South with 28,545-kilometer square, adding that it also has the largest concentration of agric research institutions in Nigeria.
Besides, he said that the state was strategically located to be the food basket of Nigeria, expressing the regret however that the potentials had remained largely untapped over the years, thus short-changing the state of the huge revenue that could have accrued from agriculture.
Ajimobi, who said 28 out of the 33 local government areas in the state had been identified as agrarian, added that 100 hectares of land would be set-aside in each of the council areas for the purpose of agriculture.
He further explained that the scheme would be all-inclusive, as it would involve students, civil servants, the state-owned College of Agriculture, Igboora as well as other agric research institutions based in the state.
While soliciting the support of the traditional rulers in the scheme, the governor said that it would be driven by the monarch whom he described as not only the custodians of the people’s culture and tradition but also father of all.
He said that the royal fathers should immediately embark on the mobilization of the subjects on the need for them to see agriculture as the major bail out from the economic crisis currently confronting the country.
While speaking on his administration’s efforts at improving the state’s internally generated revenue, Ajimobi said an arrangement had been concluded to also shift attention to mining activities as money spinner.
“The mining sector will be critically looked into as there are federal and state’s laws that stipulate the need for miners to get government’s approval before embarking on mining activities,’’ he said.
The governor said that henceforth, approval for mining activities by mining agents should be sought from the state government through traditional rulers in the affected communities.
“Government agencies will be visiting communities to enlighten royal fathers and community people on ways to go about this without undermining the necessary inputs of the government as it had always been,’’ he said.
The traditional rulers, who spoke at the occasion, lauded the government’s initiative which they described as a veritable means of providing sufficient food for the teeming populace and increasing government’s revenue.
They pledged to mobilize the people in their respective domains to tow the new agriculture initiative of the state government.
The traditional rulers who spoke at the consultative meeting included the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, the Onpetu of Ijeru, Oba Sunday Oyediran, the Akibio of Ilora, Oba Stephen Oyeniyi and the representative of the Soun of Ogbomoso, Chief Samuel Sobaloju.