I am delighted for being invited as Guest of Honour on this important occasion of the 5th Annual Lecture of the Centre for African Israeli Development (CAID).The theme of this auspicious lecture, bothering on “Food Security: Pre-requisite for Sustainable Development” is by no less timely, as the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the able leadership of Dr. GoodluckEbele Jonathan (GCFR), has made agriculture one of the cardinal policies in his Transformation Agenda.
My conviction is that the outcome of this lecture will be of immense benefit, not only to the Federal Government, participants and other stakeholders, but also to my dear State, Bayelsa.
I must commend the CAID for its peace initiatives, in a time that terrorism, violence and killings have become the most worrisome issues in different countries of the continent and the world at large. Indeed, the quest to maintain food security is as important as maintaining peace itself. This is because, without peace, no development can take place in any sector, including agriculture which is the main source of livelihood to mankind.
It will be recalled that in Nigeria, cash crops such as groundnut, palm oil, cocoa, and rubber latex, were the mainstay of the nation’s economy, until the discovery of crude oil in 1956 at Oloibiri in Ogbia Local Government Area of present Bayelsa State, which relegated agriculture to the back seat.
The over dependence on the booming crude oil sector, coupled with the non-diversification of the economy, led to food scarcity, unemployment and increase in crime rate. As the popular saying goes, ‘a hungry man is an angry man,’ as such the attainment of peace and security will be elusive if there is no food on the common man’s table.
Agriculture is therefore, one of the effective remedies for driving the economy to tackle the social and economic insecurities bedeviling the society. In line with my administration’s Restoration Agenda, the Bayelsa State Government recently entered into a bilateral agreement with the Israeli Government to partner in the cultivation of large scale fish farms, food crops and vegetables. Other than this, we have a robust policy of making Bayelsa State the hub of rice, cassava and poultry production, for commercial purpose.
Our mission is to diversify the State’s economy from oil and gas sector to alternative sectors in order to provide self-employment as well as create wealth for the unemployed populace.
As part of our economic empowerment and agricultural programmes, we have successfully trained over 500 youths in different aspects of agriculture, in Songhai, Benin Republic. In addition, we are poised to setting up a School of Agriculture to train more youths in farming and agribusiness.
Through the economic empowerment programmes and increased food production, we have been able to maintain social and economic security and peace in the State. These achievements were also made possible by the Doo-Akpo anti-crime team, enactment and enforcement of anti-secret cult law, anti-kidnapping law to re-orientate our people to co-exist peacefully and forge ahead for the common good.
Let me use this occasion to urge Nigerians to support Mr. President’s quest for a peaceful and united Nigeria, despite our ethnic, religious and political affiliations. Violence, whether at the communal, state, national or global levels, deters development. Therefore, it is time for us to take advantage of the proposed national dialogue, to address thorny issues in order to move the nation forward, under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I at this juncture, join the CAID to advocate for the implementation of agricultural schemes to boost food supply, promotion of our core cultural values, and the adoption of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ARD) method at all levels of society and Government, in maintaining security, peace and good neighbourliness.Once again, I thank the organisers of this occasion for giving me the opportunity to address this august audience. Thank you for listening.
HIS EXCELLENCY, HON. HENRY SERIAKE DICKSON,
Governor of Bayelsa State