By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA- With the agricultural sector being the second largest contributor of about 24 % of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Small-Scale Farmers make up the greater number of the country’s workforce population and produce over 80 % of the food consumed in the country.
However, these farmers appear to be the poorest constituency in Nigeria, as they have not been adequately supported over the years by successive administrations in Nigeria.
In line with this, the National Association of Nigerian Traders(NANTS), on Monday in Abuja, unveiled the Farmers Manifesto and Traders Charter of Demands, an attempt at reactivating good governance by rekindling competition among political actors for the benefit of the masses.
The Manifesto is articulated to ensure that agricultural policies designed by the political class effectively targets the beneficiaries (SSFs), and that farmers are empowered to hold public officers accountable.
Speaking in his opening remarks at the official launch of the manifesto, the NANTS President, Ken Ukaoha, Esq., stressed that NANTS’ survey has clearly shown that traders and farmers constitute over 75 % of the real electorates, making the constituencies the largest voting population in Nigeria.
He noted however that the poor farmers and traders who always queue under the rain or sunshine to register for Voters Card or to vote, while the the elites sit in the comfort of their homes waiting for declaration of results, are the same set of people whose children are made to wallow in illiteracy, only to be used to perpetuate electoral violence.
Ukaoha stated also, that the traders and farmers have realised that power belongs to the people, adding that, that realisation, led to the development of the two strong negotiating instruments.
“We will no longer sell our votes and the future for N10,000 for politicians to enjoy our collective wealth for four years while we lavish in penury and poverty.
“With our PVCs on one hand and our instruments on the other hand, it is now time for politicians to make commitments and sign for us on what they will deliver within their four years tenure and we shall vote and hold them accountable on their signature. No more bogus promises” he said.
On his part, the Head, Influencing & Public Engagement, Oxfam, Abdulazeez Musa, stated that the manifesto is an important milestone in Nigeria’s history especially as it relates to governance.
According to him, “It is business unusual now and this will be a new template for governance in Nigeria. We will use this document to ensure that this elections stick to the issues on ground.
“As farmers, business men, traders and the media,we have the role to ensure that we ask the right questions and to ensure that we take this message back to our respective communities” he said.
The launch of the Farmers Manifesto and the Traders Charter of Demands, presents campaign opportunity for political flag bears and candidates to meet with grassroots farmers’ leaders and traders to commit their signature to guarantee securing their votes.
The Manifesto amongst other things, for the traders, is asking for: Harmonization of taxes and charges meted on traders to curb multiple taxation and economic distortion; Membership of Boards of trade-related Agencies and Parastatals; Proper reallocation of traders in cases of lawful demolition of markets or shops, amongst others.
For Farmers, the manifesto is asking for: Increase in budgetary allocation to agriculture; Dedication of at least 60 % of agriculture funding to the Small-Scale Farmers (SSFs); Revitalization of Agric extension services, amongst others.
Further more, NANTS called on well-meaning Nigerians to support its call, and the political class to redirect their vision with clean Signatures of commitment to move Nigeria forward in the right direction.