Ahmadu Shehu, PhD.
It is true that the large chunk of Nigeria’s export comes from oil and that Nigeria depends to a great extent on this commodity for economic survival. However, this situation results from economic laziness – one of the many curses that came with crude oil to our country.
Pre-oil era, Nigeria was faring better, leading in many aspects of social and economic endeavours, especially agriculture and technical skills. This diversity of resources made our economy very resilient. Those were the days when Nigeria was a role model to the developing world.
Speaking of livestock and animal husbandry in today’s Nigeria leads to misleading insinuations that some supremacist ethnic group domiciled in the bush wants to hijack the “southern-oil-money” to rear cows.
These claims are not only wrong, but their makers are also pathetically ignorant of national and global economics. The fact is that, all over the world, animal husbandry is mainly economic and not ethnic, religious or regional. It is a matter of income, survival and sustenance. Data from butcheries, ternaries, restaurants, etc., in Enugu, Lagos and Port Harcourt can confirm this.
However, I do not squarely blame the proponents of these narratives for their lack of understanding of the fundamental economic outlook of this country. Instead, I assume that this kind of utter ignorance is also one of the curses caused by crude oil in Nigeria. Just as it killed all other viable sectors of our economy and transformed our political leadership into a set of docile, sit-and-wait set of people, it has succeeded in destroying our intellectual discourse. Today, all socio-economic conversations are viewed from the narrow prism of petrodollars.
Thus, our socio-economic and political conversation is now bereft of ideas and far from our social realities. It is sad to see many people failing to appreciate the glaring fact that six decades after the discovery of oil at commercial quantity, this country did not only fail to develop but has moved backwards in all indices of human and social development.
The topmost hierarchy of political leaders, policymakers, and civil society has failed to learn one simple, practical truth: our country’s strength, resilience, and prosperity are not in oil. They are right there under our feet and noses, at the backyards, waiting forever to be harnessed and utilised. Nigeria can take a cue from our mates, ala Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, India, etc.
Now, back to the “oil-money” narrative. Are herders and cattle breeders asking for “oil money”? No. In fact, herders do not care – or are not interested in crude oil in Nigeria. Secondly, those of us advocating for the development of the livestock sector do so for the economic advancement of Nigeria, in general, and not just the herders, or “Fulani”, as would say the bigots.
For one, agriculture (livestock and crop) is the largest contributor to Nigeria’s economic growth. It contributes 40% of economic activities, employing over 60% of our country’s population – that is, one hundred and sixty million Nigerians.
You may think that the livestock sector is economically barren and that governments and other sectors of the economy do not benefit from it. You may even argue that only the “malams/awusas” benefit from the economic resources in this sector. But, you are dangerously mistaken, and I will show you why.
In Nigeria today, livestock is a multibillion-dollar business sector. Estimates by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture show that each year, Nigeria produces (and consumes) at least 18.4 million cattle, 43.4 million sheep, 76 million goats, 180 million poultry birds, among other things. Multiply these numbers to any amount of years and see the contribution of the livestock to the Nigerian economy.
For demonstration, let’s assume each of the 18.4 million heads of cattle is valued at $200 only. What you get is a staggering 6 billion dollars – three trillion naira per year – i.e. about ¼ of the country’s annual budget.
My experience in cattle businesses tells me that governments at all levels make a minimum of 10% direct revenue on each cattle, ranging from the market, local government, state, transportation, etc., levies that trail the cattle market chain.
But, this is just for cattle. These numbers multiply exponentially when other varieties of livestock come into the equation. Now, consider additional extended revenues on factories and sub-sectors that rely solely on livestock, such as leather, meat, and dairy.
While doing the maths, please remember that these raw and food materials serve Nigeria, one of the largest markets in the world, the most populous African country and the largest economy on the continent. Thus, the economic resources and taxations derived from this sector are massive!
Therefore, the question that naturally follows this arithmetic is: How much is Nigeria’s budget for the development of this sector and the millions of people it employs?
As Nigerians, we are aware of the 12% derivation to the so-called oil-bearing states at the expense of other equal federating units. The basis for this disparity is to enhance the development of the immediate oil-bearing communities.
Similarly, a large chunk of the oil income is reinvested in the oil and gas industry development. Businesses and individuals in this industry benefit tremendously from these incentives and investments.
On the contrary, the Nigerian budgetary allocations for agriculture, particularly the livestock sector, have been very meagre and far below the lowest AU benchmark of 10%. For instance, from 2015, the allocations for agriculture have been below 2% of the budget, receiving a paltry N160 billion (1.37%) in 2020.
Obviously, this is far from commensurate to the economic and financial contributions of the sector in Nigeria’s GDP. It also negatively affects the lives of the majority of Nigerians whose livelihoods depend on agriculture.
While the government’s spending on agriculture is pathetic, the situation is even worse in the livestock sub-sector. For instance, under “promotion and development of animal production and husbandry value chain”, the 2020 budget proposes only N546, 156, 792 for the whole livestock sub-sector. Note that this amount was not budgeted for just cattle, sheep, or poultry but Nigeria’s entire livestock value chain. And that is just a proposal, not actual spending.
This, given the resources, financial and material contributions of the sector, is an insult on the human senses of any keen observer. Moreover, juxtaposing this estimate to that of the crop value chain makes the economic injustice against livestock producers even more glaring.
Therefore, it appears that livestock production and development are grossly marginalised across all three tiers of government and even within the agricultural sector. I had hypothesised elsewhere that this disparity is one of the major causes of the setbacks in Nigeria’s efforts at agricultural development.
Now, in this socio-economic reality, the governments and other Nigerians outside the economic chain of livestock anticipate a quick, sufficient, and even elegant modern livestock breeding system in Nigeria.
Worse still, the government expects these people who suffer from this severe lack of financial support, access to social development and political representation to be absolutely immune to the social consequences of this economic inequality and injustice.
This, without fear of contradiction, is an impossible mission. For, we have learned from the works of the philosopher-king, Emir Muhammad Sanusi II, that every economic situation bequeaths social reaction(s), as humans are not only social but also “economic animals”.
The points derived from the previous discussion are that herders and livestock breeders do not need oil or its by-products to grow livestock. They do not also ask for money accrued from the oil and gas industry to be invested in developing the sector.
What the livestock needs – which is legitimate and necessary – is the reinvestment of a fair portion of the wealth it creates back into the sector and the social development of the herding communities.
By and large, herders are not asking for “oil money” because the cow does not need oil to prosper. We are only saying that the money accrued from the livestock sector – a small portion of our contribution to the nation’s economic basket – be reinvested into the very sector that produces it as is done for other salient sectors of the economy. Full stop!
Dr Ahmadu Shehu is a herdsman and academic. He can be reached via email@example.com.