President Muhammadu Buhari has said the nation’s universities of agriculture will play pivotal roles in catalysing the development of the agricultural sector.
Speaking during the 10th convocation ceremony of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, Buhari said the institutions remained cardinal tools for rapid transformation of the sector, as well as a major driver in industrial development and diversification from heavy dependence on oil.
According to Buhari, the Federal Government expects the rapid innovation, development of knowledge and skills of the universities to drive the increase in the local production of food and raw materials geared towards achieving self-sufficiency in food production for local consumption, export and economic growth of the country.
Represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, Buhari said: “Developing educated farmers with requisite knowledge and skills will firmly position the sector as a business enterprise and, as such, be the primary task of the agricultural institutions across the country.”
He pointed out that universities of agriculture should, also, bravely confront the heavy dependence of the nation on imported food and raw materials with the view to reducing it to the barest minimum within a short time.
“We can and should be able to feed ourselves on the rich soils and diverse ecologies that the nation is endowed with. We should be determined to wisely exploit the natural resources and inheritance of our nation to feed our people and, possibly, export to other nations,” he added.
The president appealed to the institution to develop technologies that would fast-track agricultural production, processing, packaging and distribution adding: “We shall not relent; rather, we shall double our efforts at creating enabling environment for our specialised universities of agriculture to fulfil our collective dream of self-reliance in food production.”
He said the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) has been re-constituted to promote mechanised agriculture and that the government expects specialised universities of agriculture to collaborate with NALDA to ensure increased local production of food.
He congratulated the graduates, their parents, guardians and well-wishers and assured them of the government’s continuous support for tertiary institutions and educational endeavours in general.
In his remarks, the executive governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, represented by his deputy, Hon. Ude Chukwu, stated that universities of agriculture such as the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, have great roles to play in linking research, innovations and technologies to farmers and the agriculture industry.
He also lauded the diversification policy of the Federal Government in the agricultural sector, geared towards achieving food and nutrition security and generation of more income for farmers.
The chancellor of the university, the Emir of Gombe, Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Abubakar III, appreciated the cooperation of the host communities of the university and their support in enabling the institution to access the land.
He called on relevant government agencies not to relent in their efforts in supporting the tertiary institutions across the nation to enable them to churn out qualified students for a better-developed society.
During his welcome remarks, the vice chancellor of the University, Prof. Maduebibisi Ofo Iwe, disclosed that the school was graduating 6,606 students, with 4,115 representing the 2018/2019 academic year at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, distributed as follows; Bachelor’s 5,817, post-graduate 92, master’s 454 and doctorate 243.
“The university has a bright future and huge potential. We now stand at the crossroads of history where opportunities beckon on us to reach beyond ourselves, to overcome the base and selfish distraction that tie us down and strive for the things that matter, to dig into the inner recess of the gifts and talents God has given us. These will serve and promote the interests of the university,” he added.