It is with immense joy that I want to welcome our august visitor, the Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, and his entourage to our University, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) which has variously been described as a model, a benchmark and a reference point for quality, functional and reformatory education in Nigeria.
I have been following the trend of the performance and the string of success stories of the Hon. Minister. Nigerians and non-Nigerians are of the view that he has brought life to agriculture and the entire Ministry as a result of which many more people now know more about the import of agriculture than before.This is not surprising because he is a charming, amiable and articulate personage with a thorough and deep knowledge of the Subject Matter.
Looking at the Hon. Minister, we seem to have a few things in common: Both of us know that something is wrong with our agriculture and we are determined to right the wrong to the advantage of the country. While Dr. Adesina has started a silent revolution at the Ministry level, we in ABUAD have set out to resolve the problem afflicting agriculture through heavy investment in agriculture and involvement of all students in practical agriculture
Before now, our education system and the people generally have abandoned agriculture which used to be the mainstay of the economy before the advent of oil in the 70s. Specifically, our educational system, right from elementary school up to the university level, has neglected agriculture, relying only on oil, thereby giving birth to high rate of unemployment.
As a result of our modest efforts to revolutionize agriculture, and particularly because of our achievement, we have attracted publicity from all over the world. For example, IITA has designated us as a Research Centre in Agriculture while UNESCO is collaborating with us in order to resolve the challenges in education in Africa in the areas of quality, relevance and quality of education.
Only last week, we received a letter from President Goodluck Jonathan acknowledging us as a model in Agriculture. He said; “I must continue to commend your laudable efforts at providing model university education for our youth through ABUAD, especially the institution’s focus on the huge potentials in our nation’s agricultural sector. This is in tandem with our Administration’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda which we launched in 2011 to unlock the potential of agriculture, ensure food security, create jobs and make agriculture the fulcrum for Nigeria’s industrialization”.
We are proud to say that within a space of four years of establishing this university, we have the following:
• 110,000 Mango Trees
• 500,000 Teak Trees
• 310,000 Gmelina Trees
• A Moringa Factory worth over N1 billion
• 600 fish ponds with at least 5,000 fishes in each of them, as well as a Feed Mill worth over N500,000.00.
• Several hectares of cassava, maize, soya and groundnut
• An animal section made up of a Piggery, Snailery, Turkey, Guinea Fowl, Quail and Mushroom as well as an incubator.
In our resolve to provide all-round education for our students and make them job creators after graduation instead of having to be pounding the streets, looking for white collar jobs, they are made to choose two of the above and work strenuously on them in addition to their academic pursuit here.
29th Conference of the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU):
Even though we are only 4 years old, the University played host to the 150-strong Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities to deliberate on how to move university education forward in Nigeria. Besides, as a result of the leadership role we have been playing in reformatory education, the NUC, which is the Regulatory Body for University education in Nigeria, has been sending other universities here to understudy our unique agricultural enterprise.
• We expect some collaboration between the FederalMinistry of Agriculture and ABUAD, a launching pad for green revolution in Nigeria. This will go a long way in complementing what IITA and UNESCO are doing with us as partners.
• We will appreciate support some financial support within the powers of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. On this note, we want to express our profound appreciation to the Federal Government which gave us two tractors in 2011 and when the Hon. Minister visited our agric farm which was at the infant stage at that time. He was so impressed that he promised collaboration with ABUAD we will appreciate the Minister’s assistance in the area of agricultural equipment and support hydro-electricity and a dam.
• We would like the Federal Government to consider recommending us to the Chinese Government for partnership in Agricultural Development. I learnt that your ministry sends Chinese to assist farmers. We must at this stage inform your honour that ABUAD is a non-profit institution. Infact, the United States of America has just listed the university as a charitable institution. Consequently, we are now entitled to donation and tax exemption.
• As a charitable institution we urge you to save us from payment of tax on agricultural equipment.
For example, we were made to pay over N1million Custom Duties on the Food Preservation House which we ordered from The Harvest Protection Network, a Philadelphia-based American company. More of such are still coming and we will appreciate your help in this regard.
• Come next year, we will be harvesting more than 2 million Mango trees which we will be exporting to various countries of the world. And so there is every urgent need to revisit the issue of the Ekiti Airport approved by the Federal Government and for which N680 million take-off fund was budgeted three years ago by the Federal Government. The project was abandoned by the APC government.
The university is about to establish the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture, Agribusiness and Food Technology (ISAAFT).
When fully developed, ISAAFT will have core departments themes that include inter alia:
1. Agricultural Foods and Resource Economics;
2. Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering;
3. Agribusiness Development Management;
4. Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies;
5. Crop, Livestock and Soil Sciences;
6. Entomology and Technology;
7. Fisheries, Wildlife and Natural Resources;
8. Food Science and Human Nutrition;
9. Forestry, Land Use and Resource Survey;
10. Agricultural Plant Design and Construction;
11. Food Processing, Packaging and Safety;
12. Agricultural Technology, Mechanization and Engineering.
In this regard, we would urge Your Ministry to support us by sending your staff to our workshops and seminars.
On this note, Hon. Minister, I heartily welcome you to ABUAD and thank you for your interest in us in our concerted efforts to make Nigeria a better place for all of us and particularly in the area of food security.
Thanks for coming and for listening.
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D, D.Litt