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Introduction

Agriculture largely contributes to the Nigerian economy accounting
for over 25% of the Nation’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP), it is also
responsible for 30% of the existing employments in the country. However, the
country remains behind its counterparts in developed countries as it still
relies on crude implements and obsolete technology in the agribusiness, a
practice fuelled by Nigerian farmers opting for subsistent agriculture as a
means of survival and not with the goal of contributing to the nation’s
economy.

 

Therefore, the “International Bar Association, 2020: Virtually
Together Global Influential Session”hosted by Omaplex Law Firm was indeed
timelyas it provided an avenue for speakers from various sectors of the
Nigerian economy to speak on the modalities necessary to make agribusiness in
Nigeria technology driven.It is indeed against the backdrop of this
enlightening session that this article is written with a view to ensure that
innovative ideas do not terminate at the point of mere intellectual
discussions, rather, that they are to be dissected and elucidated for proper implementation.

 

This article shall be giving an insight into the transformation of
the Nigerian agricultural sector from ‘cutlasses to drones’as expounded by the
speakers in the convention, highlighting the challenges the sector faces and
finally making recommendations on probable steps required to develop an
agricultural sector that can compete globally.

 

Some challenges
faced by Agriculture in Nigeria

 

Africa indisputably has the largest arable land in the world. It
is therefore rather surprising that more than 50% of Africans go to bed hungry.
The reason for this sad reality is not farfetched: a lot of indigenous farmers
are still confined to the use of ancient farming tools used by their forefathers.
In the opinion of Mr. Kingsley Okorie, the Deputy Governor on Economic Policy
of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the deplorable state of the Nigerian
agricultural sector, has prompted CBN to developprograms and projects geared
towards empowering local farmers and those interested in using technology to
improve agriculture in other to develop a system of farming that can compete favourably
globally.

 

Dr. Manzo Daniel Usman, the Director General, Nigeria Agribusiness
Group when speaking at the convention pointed out in detail the failure of
Nigeria as a country to meet up with international best practices in
Agriculture globally. As a country, Nigeria is far from where it ought to be as
a leading country in agriculture despite having at its disposal favorable climatic
conditions and massive lands good for crop production and animal husbandry. The
country suffers a majorsetback because of its failure to harness these God
given blessings optimally. A lot of countries with smaller lands for
agriculture like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are thriving in world markets
through rice production and other countries like Libya, although located in a
desert region dominates the wheat and barley market by employing irrigation. It
therefore rests withNigeria as a country to set standards that in turn form
specifications across the boardthat can be certified as the ideal to which
every agribusiness enterprise must attain in order to scale this industry to a
more befitting place in the agribusiness world over.

 

In Africa, agriculture is approached merely as a means of
survival. Small scale farmers that make up 80% of farmers in Nigeria engage in
farming as an avenue to feed themselves and their immediate families and
sometimes in good seasons of harvest, to sell what is left. This is however a
very myopic approach to agriculture. According to Dr IkechukwuKelikume, the
Programme Director, Agribusiness Management, Lagos Business School, agriculture
is a business and farmers are to see themselves as entrepreneurs who must
approach the business of farming as such.He further reiterates that 50% of the
output gotten yearly from crop farming in Nigeria is lost to postharvest
mishaps because the 80% of farmers that makeup the upstream of the Nigerian
agricultural sector are small scale farmers who are not enlightened or welcoming
of the basic technologies necessary for preserving their crops. Regrettably,
farmers in this part of the world have not fully accepted the use of technology
in agriculture for two major reasons namely: illiteracy and lack of capital.

 

Law is an important factor in any thriving sector. It is the laws
and policies available that gives any sector in which it operates the leverage
to grow and expand. Lamentably, majority of the Nigerian lawyers have failed to
make their input in boosting the country’s agricultural sector which has
resulted in the stagnant growth currently plaguing the sector. In the opinion
of Mrs. OnyinyeChikwendu-Ikechebelu, International Trade and Commerce Expert of
O. M. Atoyebi, SAN (Omaplex Law Firm),lawyers play a key role in using their
legal and business know-how in
bringing policy makers, agribusiness
owners and end-users together to match value and in that wise arrive at the
desired goals of each stakeholder.

 

A lawyer is properly placed amongst other
agriculture industry professionals to understand the agricultural industry, and
the value chain that it operates under. We understand the need for finance and
favourable governmental policies, and the indisputable role of technology to
increase productivity while also being cognisant of the role of education and
knowledge sharing to ensure that the ultimate purpose of growing the
agricultural industry, is achieved.

 

Our role is vital not only because we
understand the challenges that the sector faces but we have the legal
proficiency to provide and create solutions to these challenges which we have
done
in the Oil and Gas
sector, as a result of which the industry has seen tremendous growth over the
years because of the input of lawyers, while the agricultural sector has been
relegated to a pastime for the uneducated and elderly.

 

The Future of
Agriculture inNigeria

 

It is certainly not implausible to desire a nation with an economy
empowered by different sectors. Agriculture has proven in the years past and
even in present times to hold amazing potential if adequately harnessed. The deplorable
state of the agricultural sector in Nigeria currentlydenies Nigeriansthe opportunity
to harness the boundless possibilities within the sector. Indeed, agriculture
in Nigeria has the capacity to become a profitable and powerful sector with the
capability to feed the nations ever growing population and significantly
contribute to global trade.

 

The future of the Nigerian agricultural sector as such is one which
ought to be characterized by policy adaptation and technological improvements
that will transcend the present reality of things, literally taking it from an
era of cutlasses to one of drones. An age where there will be increased
productivity through the use of technology. Some instances that comes to mind, is
the use of technology to prevent postharvest losses by monitoring climate
change, using drones for soil and field analysis by producing precise maps for
early soil analysis, using drones to plan seed plating and gathering data for
managing irrigation.

 

The future of the Nigerian agricultural sector can be one in which
our youths develop genuine interests in farming, availing the industry of the manpower
and innovation that comes with the input of the young and wecan harness the
diversity in growing this sector of the Nigeria economy.

 

Recommendations

 

No doubt, turning back the clock by embracing agriculture is one
of the best solutions that can help reposition Nigeria’s fragile economy. With
food insecurities on the rise in Nigeria, small scale farmers are encouraged to
accept technology in improving their products. With global population predicted
to grow by 2 billion in 2050 and with more than half of that growth from
Sub-Saharan Africa, it a necessity to improve food production through the use
of technology in agriculture.

If the nation continues in the use of hoes, cutlasses and other
crude implements, it will one day ultimately depend entirely on other countries
to feed.For this reason, there is an urgent need to embrace technology. Dr.
Francis DubemChizea, the Acting Director General National Space Research and
Development Agency (NARSDA), in making his contributions to the convention,
encouraged the government to relax the strict rules and policies surrounding
the use of drones, so that farmers can enjoy the benefits drones and technology
in general can offer agriculture.

Agriculture remains one of the most unregulated industries in
Nigeria, in the circumstance, the need has arisen for lawyers to make their
input in facilitating the growth of the sector. In this regard, Mr. Kingsley
Okorie in sharing his thoughts emphasized the need for lawyers to look into the
legal aspects of agriculture by developing effective legal frame work to ensure
data privacy/security and intellectual property protection to budding
technology driven agricultural start-ups which is necessary in safeguarding and
promoting investor interests in the agribusiness.

Lawyers have a role to play in stabilizing the agricultural sector
in numerous ways which include: obtaining licensing and permits that
agricultural entities  may need to
operate, such as setting up corporations and partnerships; assisting in
succession planning to help preserve agribusinesses for future generations,
provide information to those in agriculture on labour and employment laws;
provide guidance to ensure regulatory compliance; give general legal counsel to
individuals, companies and organizations on agriculture related matters
etcetera.

In the opinion of Mrs. OnyinyeChikwendu-Ikechebelu, the time has
come for lawyers to input their expertise to ensure that Nigeria’s agricultural
sector grows into one capable of competing globally.

Additionally, it is necessary for the upstream stakeholders in the
agricultural sector, namely government and policy makers to develop policies
that are not only workable but also in tandem with modern realities. In the
opinion of Dr.Monzo Daniel Usman,such policies should be developed to encourage
cost sharing and clustering because it is more beneficial and ensures the
increase in co-operation as well as competition amongst farmers. 

Lastly, itis pertinentto buttress the growth and innovation the
active participation of youths in the agricultural sector can bring. Youthscan
be encouraged to invest in activities that support agricultural production,
capacity building and the improvements of goods and services in the
agricultural sector.

This can however not be achieved in isolation, therefore, it lies
on the government to develop incentives to attract the youths to this growing
sector. It is also necessary to fuel as well as build the drive and enthusiasm for
agriculture from the early years of education by inculcating in the formative
years of the Nigerian child,the importance of agriculture as well as providing
avenues for them to practice agriculture and agribusinesses.

Some decades ago, Agriculture was central to Nigeria’s Economy,
until the oil boom in the 1970s. However, the time has come to create a stable
economy that thrives on various sectors,since the Nigerian economy cannot
thrive on one sector, there is an urgent need to develop a system of
agriculture that can be welcomed by all and sundry.

 

 

Written by:  OyetolaMuyiwa Atoyebi, SAN.

Mr.
OyetolaMuyiwaAtoyebi, SAN is the Managing Partner of OMAPLEX Law Firm, he is
one of the leading Senior Advocates of Nigeria in Information Technology, Cyber
Security, Fintech and Artificial Intelligence (AI). He is the youngest in the
history of Nigeria to be elevated to the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
At age 34, he was conferred with the prestigious rank in September, 2019. He
has a track record of being diligent and he ensures that the same drive and
zeal is put into all matters handled by the firm. He is also an avid golfer.

LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/atoyebi-oyetola-muyiwa-san-804226122/