May 12, 2012

Groundnut Oil Versus Petrol Oil in Nigeria

Argument in Favor of Agriculture
Statistics in Nigeria show the northern part of the country to be the poorest Sokoto State, in the North -West with 71.5 % compared with the poor in the South- West with recording 59 %. This is despite the fact that for more than forty years since Nigeria’s independence from Britain, the country was ruled by people from that region. Successive governors of the nineteen northern states have often been blamed for the trailing and embarrassing economic status of the region too. Critics of these governors say that the governors are only interested in the power and glamour of their offices and since there is oil money to sustain these attractions, the governors have always shown lack of interest in anything else.
According to these critics, people of a larger area of these regions are traditionally farmers and traders. It is the reason why the governors ought to direct the momentum of their administrations in the area of agriculture. Furthermore, they argue that up to about 70% of the land within the region are arable lands that have remained fallow since creation.
In a recent debate organized by the BBC Hausa recently, advocate of agriculture as a panacea to economic emancipation and poverty alleviation in the region, outlined numerous international agricultural institutions that have shown interest in joining hands with the governments of these regions towards the development of its agricultural potential. The administrations, according to the discussants, remained adamant despite the willingness of these institutions to pay up to 85% of the financial commitments involved.
The discussants who strongly favored agricultural investments as a solution to the region’s economic woes and its aftermath demonstrated the advantage of relying on agriculture over reliance on petroleum products by comparing the financial implications of producing a liter of groundnut oil and a liter of petrol fuel. According to them, investing in agriculture does not cost the nation the type of overhead cost involved in bringing oil sector expatriates and the equipments they bring with them. The process of petroleum development, according to them, starts from exploration to appraisal, drilling, production, laying of distribution pipes to refining and marketing, all of which lead to huge overhead cost for the nation. On the other hand, they argue, the process of development of agro-oil eg groundnut oil which the region has produced before the oil boom, needs local manpower using local technology, leading to minimal overhead cost. At the end of the day, a liter of petrol oil costs N97 ($ 0.65) while a liter of groundnut oil costs about N150 (~$ 1.00) showing that investment in agriculture has more economic benefits to the nation than investing in the petroleum sector. At this point, one may also add that agro-oil is renewable and is safe to the environment while petroleum products aren’t.
However, the truth about the economic woes of the north cannot be totally placed at the doorsteps of successive regional governments. Some of the problems that have held the north in its economic quagmire find their origins in cultural practices of the people of the north that is always in collision with western civilization and its dynamism. Education, for instance, suffers from comparatively lower enrolments in the region than elsewhere in Nigeria. Since most girls must marry at age 13 or there about, a limit is placed on the progress they can make in education. The age of 13 allows one to have at most basic education which in Nigeria is an impediment when one considers the competition brought about by the southern region of the country. Education is however, very fundamental to agricultural development. It is true education that the best agricultural practices leading to high educational yield can be achieved. The governments of the region understand that a modest educational development for the region is never good for its people and have been trying to improve this through a number of ways. It is in the north that governments have come out with free feeding in schools to encourage school enrolments.

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