The Imo Governor-elect, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, says he will give priority to youth empowerment through agriculture.
Ihedioha made this known at a capacity building workshop organised by the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) for farmers and traders in Owerri.
According to the governor-elect, 70 per cent of the youths who are unemployed need to be positively engaged, stressing that some of them had taken to certain vices as a result of hardship and unemployment.
The programme had the theme: “Training and Sensitisation: Tracking of Farmers Manifesto Commitment.”
Represented by Mr Damian Ezeagu, a fish farmer and a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Ihedioha said he would create an agriculture revolution in Imo to create wealth.
He said that to achieve this, some hectares of land in Ngor Okpala, Mbaise, Ohaji Egbema and and other local government areas with vast land for agriculture, would be utilised.
The governor-elect said that his government would focus on agriculture, trading and tourism and asked for the support of organisations such as NANTS because government could not do it alone.
The National President of NANTS, Mr Ken Ukoha, said that prior to the 2019 general elections, the association had thought of ways of holding politicians accountable to their promises.
“We all agreed that as traders and farmers, we have always been shortchanged by political parties and their members who have always taken advantage of the low level of the consciousness of our constituency and frequently used and dumped us during elections by buying over our votes and disregarding us in the scheme of things when it matters most.
“We further noted that our constituency constitutes the largest voting population in Nigeria, and should therefore have been calling the shots by holding political actors accountable to good governance,” he said.
Ogbonnaya Oji, the Chairman of NANTS, Abia State Chapter, who represented his National President, Ukoha, said that the association consciously developed two critical demand documents- the Farmers Manifesto and the Traders Charter of Demands.
He said the charter articulated their challenges, concerns, interest and priorities as bargaining documents with which they negotiated with political actors.
According to him, the had engaged on advocacy visits to some of the state actors and their parties, endorsing the manifesto and charter of demands and in exchange, he said they voted them.
Ukoha said that having achieved the initial plan, the next step was to see how we can mobilise ourselves in tracking the commitments with a view to holding these politicians accountable.
“We have gathered to be trained and equipped with the capacity to track these commitments so that our efforts and resources committed to this project would not be in vain,” he said.
NANTS president identified his members’ challenges to include illegal seizure of goods of their members and ‘overtime cargo’ by the Nigerian Customs Service.
Others, he said, included the pursuit of a credible and predictable trade policy for the country’s growth, the harmonisation of taxes and to ensure the association is integrated into the membership of the Board of more than 60 trade and agriculture related agencies and parastatals of the country.
Mr Innocent Azih, President of Centre for Agricultural and Climate Change in Lagos, said in his paper on “Tracking Implementation of Policy Commitments for Farmer Manifesto” that the tracking framework hinged on goals, outcomes, outputs and activities by the farmers.
He stressed the need to facilitate access to market opportunities and incentives to farmers as well as provision of market infrastructure to reduce wastage.
Azihb said the training was to equip the farmers with skills to engage state actors to commit to what they could do to the farmers and traders in the state.
“It is to track the delivery of the manifestoes and the charter by the government . It is to make the policy makers responsible and to implement the charter,” Azih said.
Don Chris Okere, the Chairman, Imo State Chapter of NANTS, said the programme was a follow up to an earlier programme of the association meant to engage politicians to adhere to the Farmers’ Manifesto and Traders’ Charter.
“Our leaders now know our challenges. By this training, we want the farmers and traders to follow up and track the leaders into fulfilling what is contained in the two documents,” he said.
Some participants said they had learnt a lot from the training, especially on climate change.
They said they were now well equipped to train others and track government into supporting agricultural growth for the benefit of Nigerians and Imo in particular.