To enhance enough food production in the country with diversification in mind, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has assured the lecturers and students engaged in non-agricultural studies in the three universities of agriculture in the country to hold onto the core mandates of food production as their primary aim saying that their careers will not be jeopardized.
Giving this assurance in his office on Tuesday in Abuja, while receiving members of the governing councils of federal universities of agriculture, he said: “The return of the three universities of agriculture to this Ministry is a rational, just and timely action, necessitated by the new economic realities we are, to ensure that our institutions are better focused and more efficiently and economically managed”.
The three federal universities of agriculture he noted “were established to advance the cause of agricultural transformation and modernization in Nigeria for the development of core competencies in agricultural education, research and training, amongst others.
It is, therefore, expected that the admission policy of these universities will largely be reflective of this overarching goal.
Our submission is that, in the long run, the universities will be better served if they focus on their core areas of business rather than on the subsidiaries”.
Chief Ogbe expressed consciousness of government on the fears and anxieties of teachers and the students already enrolled for these subsidiary programs saying; “we will not be cancelling them immediately.
The task before you is to faze them out gradually; as institutions of agricultural education and research, you can earn huge revenues from agricultural research, seed and seedling development, extension work, soil mapping and even production of food on campus”.
According to the Minister the universities, going forward should give greater priority to courses with agriculture-related content.
“We do not forbid the teaching of electives like some accounting, business administration and so on, but only as subsidiaries.
The main courses must be agriculture, agronomy, botany, animal husbandry, forestry, fishery, plant entomology, breeding; cattle breed improvement, agric engineering and veterinary medicine.
“We should be training graduates who should be going straight into production, with credit support from their alma-mater, produce chicken, eggs, goats, milk, set up meat laboratories, bake bread and above all produce and sell large quantities of high quality hybrid seeds. Farmers are in desperate need of these services and more. You will make huge profits from innovative agricultural practice”, he said.
Addressing them on agricultural productivity, Chief Ogbeh advised that the institutions raise plantations as it is done in Abeokuta and Umudike, Scale- up the plantations over time and earn income to be the food basket of “your respective host communities”.
“There may be an immediate reaction to the innovations we are bringing to bear on your campuses; you may experience a sharp drop in admission.
Do not worry about this and other distractions; attitudes will change because, undoubtedly, agriculture is a profitable business to those who choose the path of patience and endurance. They will come running once they see the prosperity and fulfillment in those who dare to try.
He assured the universities that there will be an important and strategic modification to the existing faculties of medicine adding that the faculties will now be called Colleges of Nutrition and Medical Sciences.
“If attention is paid to the increasing awareness on the importance of nutrition, we may not only be drastically reducing our national health bill, but also raising the bar of our currently low life expectancy average”.
Ogbe disclosed that the Ministry has already set in motion a machinery to remodel the three universities under one joint care with a view to transforming them into centers of excellence of global reckoning.
“In this connection, we shall ensure that the institutional structures already enshrined in the Federal Universities of Agriculture Act cap F22 CFN 2010 for their effective management are put in place without delay”, he added.