My article “Promoting Commercial Agriculture in Nigeria Through a Reform of the Legal and Institutional Frameworks” in African Journal of International and Comparative Law examines the efficacy of the extant legal and institutional frameworks in addressing the challenges that have stifled the agricultural sector in the last couple of decades and suggests reforms with a view to promoting sustainable commercial agricu
lture, fostering food security, reducing poverty levels, ensuring increased investment in the sector and boosting revenue generation for the country.
Agriculture was the centrepiece of Nigeria’s economy in the 1960s and early 1970s. Apart from providing food for the teeming population and raw materials for industry, employment for the poverty-stricken masses and the derivation of revenue from exports, agriculture became a major source of investment with high-income yields for local and foreign entrepreneurs. With 68 million hectares of arable land, fresh water resources of about 12 million hectares and ecological diversity enabling the country to produce a wide variety of crops and livestock, forestry and fisheries products, the country had the great potential of harnessing her vast natural resources for sustainable agricultural development.
The exploration and discovery of crude oil was the turning point in the performance of commercial agriculture and its contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The windfall from ‘oil money’ with the attendant negative consequences, the re-directed focus of government in maximising crude oil production to the neglect of agricultural development and the dwindling political will in promoting agriculture and agro-allied industries, consequently led to low productivity in agriculture over the years.
The vision in the transformation strategy is to achieve a hunger-free Nigeria through an agricultural sector that drives income growth, accelerates achievement of food and nutritional security, generates employment and transforms Nigeria into a leading player in global food markets to grow wealth for millions of farmers. I suggest various improvements in my article, including the following recommendations.
- Land tenure reform is key to the actualisation of government policies on agriculture and, therefore, deserves the most urgent attention by the law-makers.
- Central bank policies and guidelines should be tailored towards agriculture-friendly credit and guarantee scheme
- Budgetary allocation in the agricultural sector needs to be raised to at least 10% of the budget
- The quality of agricultural produce for export should be improved, as should the quality assurance processes overseen by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON)
I conclude that diversification of Nigeria’s economy presupposes giving priority to the sectors in which the country has comparative advantage. One of such potent sectors is agriculture, and putting in place efficient legal and institutional frameworks will promote commercial agriculture in Nigeria and boost the country’s revenue.
Imran Smith is *Professor of Law, University of Lagos; Senior Advocate of Nigeria; Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales; Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK); Fellow, Chartered Institute of Taxation (Nigeria); Professorial Research Associate, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK; Former Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos; former Dean, Faculty of Law, Lagos State University; Ojo-Lagos State, Arbitrator and Tax Consultant; Principal Partner, Wole Smith & Co. (Legal Practitioners) Lagos, Nigeria.