The appointment of Prof Garba Hamidu Sharubutu as the Executive Secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, by the President Buhari-led government is instructive in many respects. KATDAPBA Y. GOBUM takes a look at the new helmsman and discovers that the right man has been found for the Council.

If there is any appointment that has gladdened insiders in the agriculture sector in Nigeria that is so desirous of a revolution, it is that of Prof Garba Hamidu Sharubutu, as the Executive Secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN). He was appointed to head the organization on September 6, 2019.

He is coming to the Council with an experience that is rich in the country’s quest to change the face of agriculture. The country has run a mono-economy in as long as the history of the nation can be remembered. Since then, our agriculture has remained mostly at the realm of experiment; while everyone regrettably except in recent years that the bug to return to the farms has caught up with Nigerians.

Prof Garba Sharubutu’s antecedence is intimidating. Whether it is at Kwande, Shendam or Keffi to Zaria, University of Ibadan and in the services of the Usman Dan Fodiyo University or the University of Agriculture, Makurdi; NIPSS Kuru (Course 35, 2013-Monitor General) and even when he was appointed Provost of the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology in January, 2014; a tread of brilliance, character and commitment run through all his undertakings. It was therefore not difficult to be found worthy of the new office.

Native of Kwande of Qua’an – Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State, Professor Garba Hamidu Sharubutu was born on June 19, 1961. He attended St. John Vianney’s Transferred Roman Catholic (RCM) Primary School, Kwande and G.S.S. Shendam. Determined to improve his education, he proceeded to then Plateau State School of Preliminary Studies (SPS), Keffi. He obtained his DVM degree from A.B.U. Zaria in 1986, a Masters of Veterinary Science (M.V.Sc) degree from U.I. in 1992 and a Ph.D from Usman Dan Fodiyo University Sokoto in 2002.

At the College of Agriculture, Akwo, Anambra State where he did his NYSC, he became the best Corps member of the year and received the President’s NYSC National Honours award for the 1986/87 service year, after which he took up an appointment with the Federal Livestock Department. He joined the services of Usman Dan Fodiyo University as Assistant Lecturer in 1991 and progressed to the rank of a Professor in 2005. He is a specialist on Infectious Diseases of Livestock and veterinary legislation.

At the same institution where he had served since 1991, he held numerous positions including: Complex Co-ordinator of City Campus Complex of the University; Chairman, ASUU UDUS branch; Dean Faculty of Veterinary medicine; and has been Chairman of many very sensitive University committees.

He has been an active member of the Veterinary Council of Nigeria where he served in several capacities until his appointment in 2013 as President of the council. He is a member of many Professional, Social, Philanthropist and Religious organizations. He was appointed Provost of the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology in January, 2014.

While there is sufficient goodwill on the part of governments at all levels to encourage Nigerians to return to the farms has been displayed, younger Nigerians are not joining the bandwagon. They are mostly interested in the few available white collar jobs that are hard to come by for the teeming numbers that are in search of them.

In this regard therefore, that there is need for consistent education and enlightenment from the government and its agencies believing that more will be convinced that the farms are where to be. By the way, that is what ARCN is established by law to accomplish.

For starters, ‘the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria dedicates itself to achieving significant improvements in agricultural productivity, marketing and competitiveness by generating appropriate technologies and policy options, promoting innovation, establishing a knowledge management capacity and strengthening the agricultural research system.

‘Apart  from research they have program for youth also both young and teenagers the council is providing the needed guidance , training extension and career development for youth through our 15 national Agriculture Research Institutes and 11 Federal Colleges of Agriculture and agricultural research the council has a fully structure gender and youth program/development that caters for youth issues’.

Nigerian youths have to be involved in agriculture; therefore, by creating the needed awareness and interest in agriculture and agricultural research, the impact will be immeasurable.

In the recent past before this appointment, some research fellows in the agriculture sector raised a concern for the total overhaul of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) to meet emerging challenges.

One of the authors, Suresh Babu, a Senior Research Fellow and Head of Capacity Strengthening at IFPRI as well as independent consultants working with ARCN, said the ARCN was not effective due to ineffective governance, lack of funding, low human capacity and poor communication and distribution of research findings.

According to him, ARCN over the last 10 ten years had undergone several re-organizations leading to instability in its structure and functions. It’s been said that”the instability has made it impossible for researchers to have access to adequate operational grants, thus leading to losing many qualified staff.

“Inadequate funding has brought about an inability to hire and retain top-level researchers.The research facilities are obsolete and this is a constraint to the researchers”.

What can be done in this regard is that the Act establishing ARCN should be reviewed, but significantly the coming on board of Prof GarbaSharubutu is an indication that handling the structure in his hand makes the dreams of these researchers come through. Institutions such as ARCN could function well if the day to day run of the organization is ‘devoid of political interference’.

It is an impediment that should be avoided. After all, the attention government placed on the sector can only make meaning if the operators that inject the technical expertise have the space to work and save it. By now, the new Executive Secretary may have studied some of these concerns. He is not a new person in the field; his capacities have been test in many areas concerning agriculture.

Several countries that are on the world map of agricultural revolution and feeding other nations with their products have certainly not toyed with researching and indeed reforming their agriculture research councils. Such nations are aware of the enormous potentials that their economies enjoy from such. It is no exaggeration that if we leverage on such an initiative, the better positioned Nigeria would be.

If the restructuring of the institution, which was ‘based on an evaluation of the performance of the agricultural sector and the role played by the National Agriculture Research System (NARS)’, the fact that countries such as Malaysia, Brazil, Kenya and India which had also reformed their agricultural sectors ‘research systems were making progress in increasing agricultural productivity and investments’.

For Nigeria’s ‘agriculture system to improve on its contribution to the overall goal of the economic growth, the sector must be transformed from subsistence to a commercial and profitable business enterprise’.

We must not run away from the truth, for those who know the antecedence of Prof GarbaHamiduSharubutu, he has been a slave driver for achieving high profile results; and that is why Nigerians who should know are aware that ARCN as a key driver in agriculture transformation, it must adopt the agricultural product value chain approach to research within the framework of integrated agriculture research for development’.

Established in 2006, it is on record that Nigeria currently has the largest National Agriculture Research System (NARS) in Africa made up largely of 18 agricultural research institutes. ARCN’s mandate is not hidden: While it is meant to ‘coordinate, supervise and regulate agricultural research, training and extension in Nigeria’, in the current dispensation, it can do much more in the above areas.

It is true that there are several things the Act establishing the ARCN gives it power to carry out. In Section 8 (1 and 2), the Act gives it power for the establishment of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Endowment Fund, where‘the Council shall invest such monies as may be made available to the Endowment Fund by the Federal Government or by other donors and apply the proceeds to finance research in pursuance of paragraph (e) of section 5 of this Act’.

Perhaps one of the areas ARCN can benefit from is the area of adequate budgeting to meet up with its present challenges. The ARCN cannot function well if the National Assembly does not see the relevance of its existence through making funds available to research and to coordinate its activities.

The capacities of the new helmsman are not in doubt. Considering him in the area of capacity building, administrative and organizational experience, research and teaching, membership of professional organizations, initiatives and contributions in the Council and well as solid community service; what better person could Nigeria have at the ARCN if not Prof Garba Hamidu Sharubutu?

Coming from a rich background of expertise in research and teaching, the ARCN is sure to benefit from his experience that would chart a way forward for the country’s agriculture.

What better qualified person can we have to head ARCN, than one who had been National President, Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association 2005 to 2009 as well as, President Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN). Sharubutu’s professorial inaugural lecture at UDU Sokoto on October 30, 2008 was on ‘Animal as Reservoir of Human Infection: Matters Arising’.

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