BY CHIBUZOR EMEJOR
About 52 Colleges of Agriculture in Nigeria lack legal framework guiding their operations and their mandates to train farmers both in the formal and informal sectors of the economy.
Chairman, Committee of Provosts and Provost of Federal College of Animal Health Nutrition Vom, Plateau States, Prof. Garba Sharubu, revealed this at the First National Conference and Conferment of Awards at the National Committee of Heads of Colleges of Agriculture and Related Disciplines (NACHCARD) in Abuja.
Addressing newsmen at the event, Sharubu explained that one of the critical challenges confronting Colleges of Agriculture in Nigeria was lack of legal framework to operate.
According to him, “As we are talking to you, there is no legislation establishing particularly Federal Colleges of Agriculture in Nigeria”.
“The proprietorship of Colleges of Agriculture is under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
“The regulatory aspect has to do only with the courses that are being run, so it falls under the polytechnics. For now, we are neither here nor there”.
“We are not under Federal Ministry of Education. We are fully in the Ministry of Agriculture that has no power to regulate our own activities.
“When we have problems with the administrative set up, the legal frame work of any institution, the issue of appointment, training, fringe benefits and of course funding come in.
“Virtually in all the interventions available for tertiary education in Nigeria, the colleges of agriculture are left out.
“For secondary education, SUBEB was introduced and they have to intervene in primary schools and the junior secondary schools.
“For the tertiary institutions, universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, the Central Bank of Nigeria[CBN], Petroleum Trust Development Fund[PTDF], Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation[NDIC] intervene and they have Nigeria Union of Colleges of Education, National Universities Commission[NUC] and of course TETFUND.
In his goodwill message, the Acting Executive Secretary of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) represented by Director of Agricultural Policy and Research, Dr. Kiddah Danjuma said, Agriculture is a key component of Nigerian economy accounting for an average of 23 percent of Nigerian Gross Domestic Product [GDP] and employing about 60percent of the active population.
“A retrospective look at the Nigerian economy and its development showed that agriculture used to be the main stay of the economy and major foreign exchange earner”
“However, with the advent of crude oil, the contribution of agriculture to the nation’s growth has declined sharply over the years,” he said.
“Nigeria has the largest National Research and Extension System (NARES) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, NARES has a critical role to play in Nigerian economic diversification.
He said concerted efforts in the recent past designed to develop and support the generation and adoption of improved agricultural technologies is yet to produce the much desired result of positioning agriculture in its rightful place as a driver of Nigeria’s economy.
Speaking further about the ARCN Bill currently before the National Assembly, he said “The ARCN reform bill which is to be cited as Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (Amendment) Bill 2015 is currently with the National Assembly.
The Acting Executive Secretary further highlighted the summary of ARCN reform bills among others such as, “Transforming ARCN from being a Research Coordinating Council to a Managing Research Council, reforming of the research funding system towards greater financial control as well as for effective control.
He added that ARCN should be established in all Local Government Areas and Technology Transfer Centres to be called Agricultural Research Technology and Innovation Transfer Centres.
In his remarks, Chairman, House Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions, Linus Abba Okorie, observed that agricultural research institutions have been marginalised over the years. He said: “As a farmer and the son of a farmer, knowing the fact that over 90percent of Nigeria’s population is subsistence farmers’ raises critical questions
“You cannot drive agriculture, diversify, mechanise unless you work hard and improve on research and extension”.
“One of the key functions of the ARCN bill is to return Colleges of Agriculture back to the TETFUND and that is very critical because I hold the view that Colleges of Agriculture are like Colleges of Education”
“Indeed, they are polytechnics. Originally, they were within the coverage of TETFUND but unfortunately, you see when you sleep on your rights, when laws are being amended and reviewed, and you don’t step forward as stakeholders to protect your interest.
“Lawmakers are not magicians they only act like judges and work on information before them.
“We have done public hearing public hearing on it. We are hoping that the stakeholders will rally round so that before the end of 8th Assembly it will be passed and presented to Mr. President for his assent.
“What this actually means is that when this particular bill is passed into law, funding constraint will be reduced in terms of infrastructural development especially for research”.
“You cannot achieve so much success in the ARCN Reform Act without the bill becoming law.”