By Inalegwu Abounu
The Federal government in its desire to achieve food security for the nation has taken further steps to improve farmers’ lot with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Nigerian Agricultural Mechanization and Equipment Leasing Company (NAMEL), Tractor Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria (TOOAN) and Tractor Owners and Hiring Facilities Association of Nigeria (TOHFAN) under the Private Sector Driven Mechanization Programme (PSDMP) in Abuja.
The key objectives of the joint MoU is to effectively make mechanized services available, accessible and affordable to Nigerian farmers through a public private partnership; to increase yields per hectare and move closer to attaining national food security.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh decried the high interest rate on loans for farmers in the country which he described as not conducive for agricultural production in the country.
He maintained that the current high interest rate for Nigerian farmers does not encourage agricultural production in the country.
He gave an assurance that the reforms that are currently ongoing in the Bank of Agriculture would soon be completed thereby making Nigerian farmers enjoys low interest rate on loans and become shareholders in the bank.
The Minister who noted that government has no capacity to manage tractors, commended the Nigerian Agricultural Mechanization and Equipment Leasing Company (NAMEL) and the Private sector Mechanization Service Providers (Tractor Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria TOOAN and Tractor Owners and Hiring Facilities Association of Nigeria TOHFAN) for their support and expressed the Federal government’s commitment to give the service providers necessary support to grow and provide quality services for farmers.
The Minister described the project as a good innovation, the country hoped for and should never be allowed die, noting that, using Agriculture to bring life into the rural areas is one of the policy thrusts of President Buhari led administration.
He stated that “The Memorandum of Understanding that we are signing today is one of the greatest innovation in Agricultural Sector because government cannot manage tractors, with the experience of so many years the tractors never last, they were supposed to last for 15 years but due to poor handling they only last for two or three years”.
In his remarks, the Chief Executive of Nigerian Agricultural Mechanization and Equipment Leasing Company (NAMEL) Dr. Ahmed Adekunle said the partnership between NAMEL and the Mechanization Service Providers (MSP) would not only provide equipment to Nigerian farmers but also build local capacity to operate, maintain and maximize their uses; he promised that the partners would remain committed and change the narrative of mechanization in the country.
He announced that NAMEL in collaboration with Heavy Duty Equipment Giant Mantrac would soon launch a Nationwide Integrated Agricultural Land Development Scheme (INALDs) to open more lands on a flexible payment term.
The National President of Tractor Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria (TOOAN), Engr. Elesa Bitrus Yakubu in his goodwill message said TOOAN which has been able to provide up to 450 new tractors to their members through banks, vendor financing and federal/ state governments is presently in operation in 27 states including FCT with over 3,000 financial members.
noted that the use of traditional farm tools for agricultural production could no longer meet the demand posed by the annual increase in population of the country and expressed optimism that the signing of the MOU would enhance access to mechanization services in all wards in the country.