A Nigerian farmer, Elochukwu Ezenekwe has written a letter to Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed in reaction to the latter’s recent comment on masquerade jobs.
Ezenekwe urged Mohammed to encourage farming for Nigeria’s youth instead of asking them to seek employment as masquerades.
Read the letter below:
Dear Honourable Minister,
I have noticed your penchant to garner public ridicule for the present administration, but I am yet to understand why you enjoy doing so. I feel morally compelled to approach you with an alternative suggestion.
Sir, I do not think that having Nigerian youths dress up masquerades is the way forward out of our country’s unemployment quagmire. It should not even qualify among top 100 sustainable ways to help Nigerian youths!
And even if you were quoted out of context on this particular issue, I expect that by now, after having spent some months as a federal minister, you should have learnt how to avoid this kind of situations.
Why not Agriculture, or even more specifically, fish farming? May I remind you that our local fish production capacity is so poor that a whooping sum of about N125 billion is spent every year to import a supply deficit of 1.3 million metric tonnes, some of which contain chemicals that cause us serious health problems.
Instead of challenging youths to dress up masquerades, why not challenge and support them to meet up this shortfall, which I am sure will keep them reasonably employed – with good monthly income that definitely surpasses masquerade’s.
Wait, I am aware that courtesy of the World Bank’s Commercial Agriculture Development Project (CADP) – which has seen to the enhancement of local fish smoking techniques, smoked fish from Nigeria is now deemed fit to be exported to the vast U.S. markets.
There is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) – a U.S. legislation intentionally made to significantly enhance market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries, including Nigeria. But the potential in AGOA has remained badly untapped.
I am also aware that airplanes that bring cargo into Nigeria usually fly back almost empty for lack of exportable products, as may be confirmed from various quarters, including the very words of the DHL Aviation Commercial Manager for sub-Saharan Africa, Abayomi Adetola;
“We’ve been moving around to see how we may get something to fill the flights, but, unfortunately, because we are an importing nation, we are unable to get anything.”
Are these not opportunities that will serve better in employing Nigerian youths than dressing up Masquerades? Our country has quite a number of affordable local technologies that can be employed to help us speedily achieve self-sufficiency in fish production.
I remember this innovative fish pond from Benuwatts that I have really been impressed with. Their technology incorporates high-strength tarpaulin, which, in combination with simple frame made from galvanized pipe or wood, can be used to make mobile fish pond just where ever one finds space.
Aside the fact that these Benuwatts tarpaulin fish ponds are durable and cost only about half of what it takes to erect concrete ponds of same size, the tarpaulin ponds are easily movable and can be set up in temporary indoor and outdoor spaces like garage, garden, backyard or compound spaces. This makes them suitable for use by tenants and the teaming youth population of Nigeria who lack permanents spaces.
That is that for ponds.
Concerning fish feeds, there a variety of local firms that manufacture high quality and affordable feeds too.
Perhaps before I conclude, a little analysis will suffice.
To locally produce 1.3 million metric tonnes of fish in a year:
It will take a minimum of 108,000 persons – who individually operate 12 (10x10x4 feet) tarpaulin fish ponds that will help each person produce 1 tonne every month.
That is 108,000 direct employment, and let’s not even go into how this will create jobs for casual farm workers, carpenters, plumbers, welders, feed companies, farmers, market sellers, and others.
At average of N600/kg, 1 tonne of fish in our local market is worth N600, 000. When recurrent expenditure of about N250, 000 is subtracted – aside fixed cost that will be recouped over time, there is about N350, 000 remaining.
How is that as monthly income for a Nigerian youth in comparison with income from the 1000 youths per masquerade you have proposed? Now, considering the current value of Naira at the parallel market, you would agree with me that any attempt to export these will bring in good money.
The budget has finally been signed, and it is my earnest desire to see how grants and low interest loans can be used to fund fish feeds, reinforced tarpaulin ponds and other farm inputs to enable youths find employment as honourable farmers – or fish farmers, instead of masquerade dressers.
At this point Sir, permit me to extend my greetings, as I pray that you continue to find strength and wisdom to work for the progress of our nation Nigeria.
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