TONY AILEMEN:

For the second time in three weeks the regular meetings of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) failed to hold again yesterday. Instead, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan had to shelve the meeting for a summit of Heads of State and Governments on Agro- business.Save Nigeria Group

However, it could not be confirmed if the protest by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) to the Presidential Villa forced the cancellation of the meeting which usually holds every Wednesday, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The group had planned to storm the seat of power to register its displeasure over the continued absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua from office.

The planned protest which was to coincide with the FEC meeting, was however not to be as all entrance to the Presidential Villa were barricaded to make it impossible for the protesters to gain entrance.

Daily Champion observed that as early as 6.00am all entrance to the Villa were taken over by men of the State Security Services (SSS) who were later joined by the police.

Daily Champion also noted that the Policemen did not allow the protesters access into the presidential Villa and despite the heavy Police presence no casualty was recorded.

Jonathan who was the special guest at the agro- business meeting charged African countries on the need to surmount the challenges of the global economic recession by exploiting the rich potentials of their agricultural sectors.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Yayale Ahmed who spoke to state house Correspondents on why the meeting did not hold blamed “fatigue” for the cancellation of the FEC meeting.

“The Acting President is just closing from an international agro-business seminar and coming back to the residence. He is equally engaged with other state duties, so he has asked me to convey to you that this executive council meeting is cancelled. Next week Insha Allah, it will be convened or any day the Acting President deems it fit to reconvene. I thank you for attending”

But at the Summit on Development of Agro-businesses and industries in Africa, which held at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja yesterday; Jonathan said: “A robust Agribusiness and Agro-industry holds the key to economic transformation and sustainable development in Africa.

“Our resources are primarily ours for survival, and we must utilize them efficiently and effectively for the present and the future.”

He said the crash in prices of Africa’s major export commodities including crude oil, gold and cocoa, as well as the slump in earnings and profits of companies are visible effects of the recession, which he said can be countered through economic diversification to accommodate more robust agricultural programmes and initiatives.

He emphasized government’s commitment to food security and employment generation through various medium-term (2010-2013) development funding plans, which include the N242bn set aside by the government to boost Nigeria ’s agriculture value-chain.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to socio-economic transformation so as to place our country among the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020,” Jonathan stated, adding that a special focus on agriculture is required to fast-track this aspiration.

President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Koroma, called for a regional approach to tackling common agricultural challenges, in addition to committed country efforts aimed at poverty reduction and employment generation especially for women and youths.

Tanzanian Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, who represented President Kikwete, also called for periodic reappraisals of respective country efforts on implementation of resolutions reached at the conference.

The summit produced and adopted the Abuja Declaration on development of Agribusiness and agro-industries in Africa, which endorsed the African Agribusiness and Agro-Industries Development Initiative (3ADI) urging African nations to – establish the requisite legal, regulatory and institutional framework to support agribusiness and agro-industry development; take measures to foster improved financing of agriculture value-chain by banks and donor agencies, among other resolutions.

Keynote speakers at the conference include the Chairman of the African Union Commission (AUC), the President of the African Development Bank (ADB), the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Director General, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development (UNIDO) and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). They were unanimous in advocating an agriculture revolution in Africa and increased capitalization of Agro-businesses in the continent.

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