I am extremely elated to welcome the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to this auspicious occasion of the flag-off ceremony of the National Egg Production Scheme (NEGPRO) in the State. Today’s programme further underscores the determination of the Federal Government to drive the country from economic precipice towards self-reliance.
We will continue to express our profound appreciation for the sustained interest of the Federal Government in our quest to improve socio-economic conditions in our State. Our special gratitude goes to the Hon. Minister of Agriculture for selecting Ondo State as one of the pilot States for this very important Scheme. We entertain no anxiety with regard to being able to justify this informed choice. It is also decent that we remember to thank the Minister for a similar gesture. Our State was also chosen, deservedly, based on historical antecedents, as pilot for the establishment of cocoa plantations in the federation.
The Government and the people of our dear State will reciprocate this gesture by ensuring that we attain the enviable height among egg producers in the country. This will, no doubt, serve as a tremendous boost to the National School Feeding Programme in the State. It will mark a significant leap in the determined effort of the Government to move away from the entrenched attitude of complacent indolence to a productive mindset.
Our promise to create jobs, through Agriculture Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation, is anchored on realistic expectations. We are convinced that lasting peace, with the attendant development, can only be achieved if our youth are engaged, positively. We will continue to deplore a situation which ensures that majority of those who should constitute the workforce in a developing economy
are left without hope.
The only realistic alternative to white collar jobs is agriculture. Consequently, this Administration has established the Ondo State Agribusiness Empowerment Centre (OSAEC) for the engagement of youth in the value chain of constructive and productive interventions in the sector. The State Government sets to complete the process of engaging 18,000 youth, 1000 per Local Government, in the State. Under the programme, Youth-on-the-Ridges, these young men and women are to be trained in the best practices of agriculture.
This programme will be taken to our secondary schools. In this regard, we have shortlisted five secondary schools per Local Government Area for School-on-the-Ridges Scheme, not only to reintroduce practical agriculture to our schools, but also, and more importantly, to encourage our young ones to become agripreneurs. We have established, already, four Agro Business Cities (ABCs) in the three Senatorial Districts of the State. Ore is chosen for the Southern Senatorial District, Epe for the Central and Auga and Isuada for the North.
The State Government has equipped the ABCs to ensure smooth training process for the youth. There are hostel facilities, hall, kitchen, basic health centre, fish ponds for stocking fish, poultry pens for raising broilers and layers for egg production, tractor shed, cribs, maize Sheller, planters and mechanical equipment such as tractors and its implements for seamless running and mechanization of the farms.
The State Government is equally in active collaboration with other Agencies of Government and Non-Governmental Organisations for the training of our youth on agriculture. Some of them are TUNS Farm on the Igba Otun Broiler Production Scheme, Peace Aid Project, Bank of Agriculture (BOA), Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), among others.
We have adopted a holistic approach towards realizing set objectives in the sector. It gives me great pleasure to inform you the Hon. Minister that this Administration has almost completed the chocolate factory inherited from the immediate past Administration on assumption of duty in February last year. Our Government has sunk enormous resources into this project and, in consonance with our policy to always leave politics out of consideration to serve our people, we are determined
to complete all projects designed to ameliorate their living conditions, left uncompleted by previous administrations in the State.
The Hon. Minister, ladies and gentlemen, it is gratifying to note that the message of the current Administration, at both the Federal and State level, is percolating the entire societal spectrum. The over dependence on oil has become an albatross on the country. agriculture is the only practicable solution to the myriad of socio-economic challenged we face, currently, as a people. It remains a veritable stake towards self-reliance and sustenance.
Our Administration envisages that the NEGPRO Scheme will proffer solutions to the challenges of youth unemployment, food security. It is also our fervent belief that the programme will assist, tremendously, in empowering our youth and lead to significant increase in revenue generation. 135 poultry farmers are expected to benefit from the Scheme. The multiplier effect of this participation is inspiring exciting.
Let me seize this opportunity to thank Your Excellency for the release of a bulldozer to us on loan for the delineation of 2000 hectares of land into smaller blocks. The bulldozer is at the site as we speak. We will, however, not hesitate to use this forum to solicit further assistance in the areas of pasture development and artificial insemination for our cattle production programme, as well as in other areas which you may consider beneficial to us.
I must not fail to make a statement on the unfortunate recurrence of clashes between farmers and pastoralists otherwise known as herdsmen. Our State has had her share of the crisis but not on the horrendous scale whose odious effect continues to reverberate throughout the country. Our Administration is taking proactive steps to ensure that this obnoxious phenomenon is nipped in the bud. While we encourage all those with legitimate intentions to visit our Space, we intend to clear the doubt of anyone who may wish to perpetrate crime under nebulous guises.
We will not tolerate any act of brigandage. We will defend the right of our people to engage in farming without let or hindrance of any sort. We will sanction with impassioned severity any acts which seek to tilt the balance of harmonious co-existence in the State towards anarchy. The full weight of the law will be brought to bear on criminal elements.
Security forces have been fully mobilized to prevent the nefarious activities of nation wreckers in our State. We will protect our citizens with such fervor as expected of true representatives. We, therefore, enjoin our people to go about their normal businesses and report, promptly, any suspicious movement of undesirable elements in their communities. All of us owe our country a duty to ensure peace while not ignoring issues of justice and equity.
Once again, I thank the Hon. Minister and his team for this visit. I thank you all for listening to me patiently.