Determined to ensure food sufficiency in the state, Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade yesterday charged his commissioners and all political appointees in the state, to as a matter of urgency, start the cultivation of rice to arrest the current food shortage being experienced in the country.
Ayade gave the directive when he embarked on an inspection tour of some rice farms in Obudu and Bekwarra Local Government Areas of the state with the Presidential Committee on rice and wheat production led by its Chairman and governor of Kebbi State, Senator Atiku Baguduin Ogburo Bekwarra Local Government Area.
The team commissioned the Ayade Farms in Obudu and later inspected the over 20,000 hectares of rice farm in Ugboro in Bekwarra Local Government Area.
Ayade who commended the Central Bank for some of the initiatives put in place to make rice production one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s agricultural policies said: “Today, we stand to publicly declare that the people of Cross River support your rice anchor borrowers programme and has keyed in fully as a responsive government.”
Continuing, he maintained: “We support the dream of Mr. President who believes that this country should be self sufficient in rice production and he has not only shown reasonable commitment but has followed up with action plans to achieve this vision.”
The Governor disclosed that the state has acquired over 18,000 square kilometres of land to donate to anyone willing to cultivate rice in the state.
While calling on Nigerians to support the Federal Government’s effort in this direction and avoid sabotage, Ayade said: “Taking a cue from The Governor of Kebbi State, I have keyed into this presidential initiative by owning my own rice farm today. I am sure that by next year, given the number things we have put on ground, Cross River will have more than enough to feed and export.”
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Ayade further added: “As an extension, I have directed that my 29 commissioners must own at least 20 hectares of rice farm each, while over 1,700 political appointees are expected to own and cultivate at least 10 hectares each to further boost rice production in this state and the country at large.”
Ayade commended the team for their dedication and for living up to expectation in the course of implementing the Presidential Rice initiative programme saying: “We want to assure Mr. President that, with the support of CBN, Cross River State and indeed Nigeria will be self sufficient in rice sooner than we expected.”
Speaking, Chairman, Presidential Committee on Rice and Wheat, Governor Atiku Bagudu commended Governor Ayade for his pragmatic roles demonstrated in making the country self-sufficient in rice with over 73 cooperative groups and 2,183 farmers already mobilised in the northern part of the state for dry season farming.”
The Chairman who could not hide his feelings from what he saw on ground in the state said: “I am indeed very delighted to see the tremendous work already done by Governor Ben Ayade in Cross River and his strong believe in the programmes of the federal government to reduce poverty and create employment.
Today, Ayade is leading by example by personally cultivating his own rice farm that will contribute immensely to our effort of becoming self sufficient.”
He stressed that “The aim of the programme is therefore to create wealth and employment among the citizenry, be major exporter of rice and wheat and ultimately be self sufficient in rice production before the end of the year.”
Bagudu who recalled the roles played by Senator Ben Ayade while serving in the senate, stated that he has always been at the forefront of the struggle for better and more prosperous Nigeria and thanked him for believing in the change mantra as championed by President Buhari.
Also speaking, Governor of Central Bank, Mr. Godwin Emefuele, who disclosed that CBN has spent over N3 billion in the programme in Cross River so far, promised: “Once we see the success achieved, we are ready and willing to bring in more money to the state.”
He said that “The essence of the nationwide tour is to determine the level of successes recorded so far since the borrowers programme was launched in Kebbi State last year.”
While commending Governor Ayade for his leadership style, the CBN Governor reasoned: “Ayade’s effort will serve as a motivational factor to Cross Riverians who are yet to key into this programme to think of owning their personal farms and start growing rice and other essentials produce too.”
He explained that “This programme is therefore a demonstration of the fact that we can grow our rice, not just the rice, cassava, yam, wheat and even poultry products can also be produced in large quantity because we have the capacity and so, there is no need to spend foreign currencies in importing these items into the country.
“We know, it is not going to be easy but going by the level of successes recorded so far, I can assure you that we shall overcome food crisis in the country,” he added.