By Yekeen Nurudeen
The Oxfam GB Nigeria has challenged Nigerian journalists to intensify their coverage of the agricultural sector by putting the government under pressure to increase the annual budgetary allocation to the sector towards ensuring food security.
The Head of Programmes and Head of Oxfam GB, Constant Tchona lamented that Nigeria, which is a signatory to the Malabo Agreement of 10 percent budgetary allocation to agriculture is still allocating just 1.6 percent of its annual budget to the critical sector.
“What we are seeking is the partnership with the press. You follow us on those four areas, dig deeper, bring issues to the front and put government under pressure”, Tschona said.
The Malabo agreement which was signed in 2014 in Equatorial Guinea by the former president Goodluck Jonathan was a follow up to the 2003 Maputo declaration signed by former president Olusegun Obasanjo in Mozambique during the meeting of Heads of State in Africa.
Tchona spoke during the opening of a two-day Investigative Journalism training organised by Oxfam for journalists in print and electronic media as part of Oxfam’s media engagement to achieve its four cardinal areas of focus.
He said the country cannot succeed in poverty eradication and creation of jobs if it continues to allocate such meagre amount of money to agriculture.
Oxfam, according to him, promotes social change by mobilising the power of the people to work against poverty and making them active citizens who engage the government even as he noted that the international body works to ensure that the need of vulnerable people hit by the humanitarian crisis across the country are met.
Addressing the participants, he said, “our expectation is that this training will make you to improve on what you do and help to boost out four cardinal areas.”
“Our people need information and you have the power to access that information. You can actually access the Freedom of Information on many things and dig deep.
“In 2003, 10 percent of the annual budget was agreed to be allocated to agriculture but how much have governments committed to agric, this is less than 2 percent.
“How can we reduce poverty and create jobs with this little percentage? How can we get involved in tracking where the money goes and how effectively the money has been used?
“How much of our arable land has been cultivated? Just one third of the land has been cultivated, what happens to the remaining two third?
“How can we dig deep into all these issues, bring them to the fore and mobilise our people so that all leaders can take responsibility in changing the trend?”
Speaking also, Oxfam Policy, Research and Advocacy Coordinator, Abdulazeez Musa explained that Oxfam in Nigeria focuses on attaining economic justice and improving livelihoods, gender justice and female leadership, good governance and the Niger Delta and disaster risk reduction and responding to humanitarian crises.
He stressed that the organisation is concerned about transforming the attitude of Nigerians and government about women’s right, adding that citizens must see governance as what concerns them.
“Central to our work is the belief that power relations need to change to enable poor people to demand and claim their rights.
“Oxfam’s vision for Nigeria includes a transparent and accountable government, active citizens, and private sector that works toward shared growth that is equitable to meet the needs of the people, especially the for vulnerable poor,” he said.
While taking the participants through the rudiments of Investigative Journalism, Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times Newspaper, Musikilu Mojeed, urged them to pay more attention to Investigative Journalism if they must make a mark in the profession and affect the life of the ordinary Nigerian.
Media organisations such as This Day Newspaper, New Telegraph, the Punch, International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, Nigerian Tribune, Daily Trust, Aso Radio, Silver Bird, AIT among others, participated in the training.