Alhaji Sabo Nanono, Agric Minister

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono has argued that contrary to popular belief that Lagos State has the biggest market in Nigeria and West Africa, the accolade actually belongs to Kano State.

The Minister who spoke on Friday during the First Bank 2019 Agric Expo held at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, rebuked Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere, a chattered accountant and CEO of Best Foods Limited, who had while making his remarks, suggested that Lagos was the biggest market in the sub-region, and that the state government needed to do more in terms of harnessing the state’s potential in the agriculture value chain.

According to the Minister, “it is wrong to suggest that Lagos is the biggest market in Nigeria. The statistics are there. We know that Kano is actually the biggest market in the whole of West Africa.”

The Minister criticised Nigerian banks for not doing enough to support agriculture, arguing that they were never structured to be partners in development, even as he contended that the banks actually belong to the government.

“The banks in Nigeria were never made to be partners in development. But if you look over the years, nearly 70 percent of the banks assets; the resources are from the government: deposits, loans, they are all from the government,” he said.

“So, you can make a case in the light of this, that they are sometimes only being timid or prefer to speak long English for not participating in the financing of agriculture.

“I think there is no denying it. When the banks were in crisis, government came out to subsidize them by taking over the bad loans and handing them over to AMCON. I think at some point, they took over nearly N7.2 trillion. If you compare that against shareholders fund of all banks in Nigeria, which was then about N2.2 trillion, you may want to ask: who owns the banks? Government. And they know. Who is the government subsidizing? Just a tiny elite who are the shareholders. So, the important thing is everybody should come on board.”

The Minister called on Nigerians to support government’s effort to grow the agricultural sector and avoid complaining when certain imports are banned. According to him, fish importation into the country should also be banned.

“But more importantly, when you are talking about these value chains and other systems, Nigerians should also make sacrifices and endure few inconveniences. For example, when government takes a decision for us to ban importation of rice, there were cries and other things like that. But look at what it has done in the last few years. Things are changing for the better.

“Yesterday, I was discussing with some people and the issue of fish industry came up. If I have my way, I will close shop on importation of fish because we have enough fish in this country. And I’m telling you, somebody told me that the marine resources that we have, if we harness them very well, it will be equal to what we are getting in the oil industry.”