The crème de la crème of agribusinesses in Nigeria’s South-Western geo-Economic region recently gathered in Ibadan for the South West Agriculture Summit (SWAS). The event held at the Civic Center, Ibadan, on Thursday, 6th October, 2016 under the theme: “Achieving an Agro-Powered Regional Economy”, and witnessed the attendance of stakeholders from both the public and private sectors all eager to lend their voices to the need to chart a new course of collaboration for agricultural development in the Country – one hinged on a regional impetus.

Declaring the event open, the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi stated that it is critically essential for stakeholders to come together and discuss the survival strategy for the South-West region.  “Now is the time to go back and reconnect with our glorious heritage. Now is the time to let go of our terrible dependence on the unsustainable oil and gas resources – two commodities with expiry date”, the Governor stated.

On his part, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Executive Governor of the State of Osun, opined that the forum would allow for knowledge sharing on regional policies that could be adopted to foster synergy and further improve the agricultural value chain. ‘As a matter of fact, what is happening here today is that the states and other practitioners and stakeholders have opted to share lessons on what has worked and what has not with a view to seeing how some of these success stories can lend themselves to a region-wide adoption”, Aregbesola stated.

In his keynote address, Dr Doyin Salami, of the Lagos Business School, gave an overview of the state of Agriculture in Nigeria with particular emphasis on the South-Western region. He noted that oil has failed the entire nation and it was high time the Country developed her Agriculture to ensure economic diversification. He therefore commended the organizers, AgroNigeria and the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission for conceiving such an epoch-making event.

The Director General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission on his part stressed the need for all stakeholders in the south west to approach the agricultural revitalization effort from a prism of ‘One Bloc” as advocated by the Commission. According to him, it is only by working in strategic cooperation that the states of the south west of Nigeria can maximally deploy and benefit from their vast agricultural potentials.

Also speaking at the event, the CEO of AgroNigeria, Mr Richard-Mark Mbaram expressed that it became necessary to hold such a summit in the spirit of Agricultural renaissance in the Country. ‘We have gathered experts and stakeholders in agribusiness to brainstorm and discuss agric. The ultimate objective is to trigger a new development paradigm that will really have the sub-national governments and institutions having a major contribution in the conceptualization, formation and implementation process of our country’s agricultural policies”.

The AgroNigeria boss pointed out that the private sector is also being galvanized to play a more involved role in auditing policy implementation in agriculture by identifying the stress areas and proffering realistic and practical solution  to same. “Accordingly, we are setting up a Think-Tank to address this need, from a wholly private sector point of view”. He further stated that the Ibadan event is one out of 6 planned for the whole country and targeted at ensuring that the private sector truly becomes a close partner of the government in its quest to implement the Agricultural Promotion Program (APP).

The event which was co-convened by Agencies of government considered critical in the development process of agriculture: NIRSAL, NEXIM, SEC, NEPC, NIPC alongside AFEX Commodities Exchange Ltd attracted Farmers’ groups across the six States of the South-West region, Financial Institutions, representatives of the Academia, Researchers, Journalists and private Agribusiness owners, amongst others.

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Speaking with AgroNigeria at the venue, Ms Cynthia Mosunmola Umoru, Senior Technical Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, prophesied that oil, which has beclouded Nigeria’s planning process, will soon dry up. She lamented that Nigeria as a Country has forgotten her heritage. ‘When that oil which is taking our attention dries up, then we will think and concentrate on the most important alternative”, said the visibly angry Umoru, who is also a farmer.

SWAS 2016 closed with a high level dinner at the Carlton Exclusive Hotel, Ibadan. Speaking at the dinner on Public-Private Partnership in Agriculture, Alh Fatai Afolabi, Facilitator, Agric and Food Security Policy Commission of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) explained the different partnership models within the context of which agribusiness can thrive. He noted that privatization if done in its actual sense, holds the key to turning erstwhile moribund agribusinesses in the south west into viable entities – citing the cases of Okomu oil palm company and the Okitipupa oil palm companies as instances of good and bad privatization.