What Council of State members discussed on Thursday

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Thursday’s Council of State meeting, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, and attended by former presidents, former chief justices of Nigeria, senate president and state governors, discussed Nigeria’s economy, security and 2019 elections.

The council recommended for approval the proposal by the federal government to increase funding for agricultural special programme from $200 million to $1 billion.

The funds will be disbursed through the CBN’s Anchor Borrower and Cart Programmes in order to encourage diversification of the economy and promote food security.

Ogun state governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who addressed journalists after the meeting said the council deliberated extensively on how to diversify the Nigerian economy. The meeting started at about 11a.m. and lasted over six hours.

He said, “Council advised that we improve on the funding on agriculture. That the paltry sum of $200 million when compared to what is being pumped into the oil sector is insignificant.

“Council recommended that at least about $1 billion be pumped into agriculture.

“Council noted how Nigeria moved the budget from about N4 trillion to now about N8 trillion. It also noted that when this President came in, he was jostling at a very deep position because oil had nosedived from $112 in 2014 and in 2016 it was $30.

“Council also appreciated the efforts of the ministers of agriculture and budget and national planning after their briefings, on the support they are giving to Mr. President and agreed they should continue in what they are doing,” he said.

Ibikunle also disclosed that the council advised that farming should be all year-long activity so that Nigeria can grow what it needs without having to rely on imports.

“The era of wasting our very scarce foreign exchange on everything that we need is over,” he said.

He said the council also noted that Nigeria has moved 24 places up in the ease of doing business index but said that a lot more needed to be done.

Jigawa state governor, Abubakar Badaru, who also spoke at the briefing, said the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, briefed the council on security situation across the country.

“On the security situation in the country, we received a very long brief from the national security adviser, ranging from Farmers/herdsmen clashes, Boko Haram, militancy in the Niger Delta, kidnapping and cattle rustling,” he said.

The Jigawa governor also disclosed that many suggestions were made after deliberations.

“Farmers/herdsmen clashes were discussed thoroughly and we learnt that this takes three dimensions. First is the real farmers/herdsmen clashes, where the normal herdsman moves around with his cattle and get into a farmers land and eats up his crops.

“In some situations it’s pure banditry. Some of the pastoralists that are not herders, attack, steal and kidnap and that has to be defined as such. Some of them rustle cattles and move into the deep forests. And because of the thickness of the forests response are usually very difficult. That was also discussed today and solutions were proffered on how to get deep into the forests, to check those bandits that hide and continue to commit havoc.

“The third aspect usually classified as farmers/herdsmen clashes is also the settlers and indigenes clashes like in Southern Kaduna. Some migrant farmers or herders stay in an environment for a very long time and when you have such clashes, they are also classified as farmers/herdsmen classes.

“So we understand and acknowledge these three aspects and all have different approaches in solving the whole problem. And from the discussions today, a lot has been done, solutions have been proffered and the government believes solution is near,” he said.

Badaru said the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, also presented a position on how to resolve the first part of the farmers/herdsmen clashes, “that is the actual migrating herdsmen that pass through towns and farms, eats up crops in the farms and create a lot of problems.

“He proffered a lot of solutions ranging from those states that have already designated cattle routes, grazing reserves and activating the grazing reserves to ensure the farmers and herdsmen live in harmony.

“That is for those states that have the capabilities to do this. And in the states that do not have the capabilities to do this, ranching was proffered and the federal government has promised to support the states and indeed the Fulanis or the livestock producers to settle in one place and do businesses like it is done in the modern way.

“Already, Kaduna State has visited Denmark with some Fulani leaders, to study a kind of livestock production with the aim of establishing same in the country,” he said.

The Jigawa governor said the council believes that the model is possible and profitable to do and that was recommended for those states that want to key into the option to do so.

“Generally, we believe that every state has its own peculiar problem and each state will be analyzed and solutions will be proffered so that these farmers/herdsmen will be a thing of the past.

“That is what has been discussed and we believe that with the commitment shown at the council to bring this to an end is so clear and we believe we will put an end to these frequent clashes as most of the Governor were in council,” he said.

On his part, the Anambra state governor, Willy Obiano, said the Council approved the appointment of two non-legal practitioners to the Federal Judicial Service Commission and a national electoral commissioner for INEC and the 23 members of National Population Commission.

Former leaders absent at the meeting are Ibrahim Badamasi Babamgida, Goodluck Jonathan, Shehu Shagari and Earnest Shomekan. Only Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar as well as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo were the former leaders present at the meeting.

Obasanjo, who came about five minutes late, rushed to greet Buhari before taking his seat.

The duties of the council of state include advising the president in the exercise of his powers with respect to the National population census and compilation, publication and keeping of records and other information concerning the same; prerogative of mercy; award of national honours; the Independent National Electoral Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission); the National Judicial Council (including the appointment of the members, other than ex-officio members of that Council); the National Population Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission).

The council also advises the president whenever requested to do so on the maintenance of public order and on such other matters as the he may direct.

This is the third of such meeting since Buhari assumed office about three years ago. The first one was on October 21, 2015; and the second, September 7, 2016.

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