President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Birnin Kebbi, the capital of Kebbi State, decried the huge sums spent by the country importing food items that could be produced locally, stating that the N1 trillion importation bill was no longer sustainable.
The President, who spoke at the launch of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and the commencement of dry season farming, said that the falling oil prices had left Nigeria with no option than to diversify.
The president recalled that agriculture was the mainstay of the nation’s economy but was abandoned following the discovery of oil.
He said, “The importance of agriculture in the economy cannot be overemphasised. Prior to the advent of oil, our country survived on agriculture production,” adding that produce such as groundnuts, palm oil, cotton and rubber plantation used to be the mainstay of the economy.
“During this period, the economy was built on agricultural activities and our gross domestic product grew steadily.”
At the time, Buhari also recalled that banks and investment companies were financed from farm surpluses.
“The discovery of oil was expected to complement our agriculture productivity. But we allowed oil to almost completely replace it.
But current trends in the international oil market have brought to fore the urgent need to diversify both the productive and revenue base of our economy and to conserve our foreign reserve by limiting our appetite for imported goods that we can easily produce locally.”
He noted that the price of oil had plummeted and that the implication was that there were limited resources available to government at all levels.
“Economic diversification is no longer an option for us, it is the only way for economic momentum and the drive to prosperity,” he added.
According to him, the only way to do this is to go back to the land and develop agriculture.
He said he had high hopes for the CBN Anchor Borrowers’ scheme, adding that the programme had the potential to create million of jobs for unemployed Nigerians.
He said the scheme would also lift thousands of small farmers out of poverty.
Earlier, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, commended his immediate predecessor, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, for the innovation he introduced into the nation’s agriculture sector and promised to improve on it.
However, Ogbeh said that despite the good intentions of Adesina, corruption was still prevalent in the sector under him.
“People supplied sharp sands as fertiliser while fake seedlings were sold to farmers. There were companies with no traceable address,” he alleged.
As a result of these sharp practices, Ogbe said many struggling farmers lost money.
“There will be no room for quacks anymore. Under this administration, that will never happen again. No room for quacks anymore. Security agencies will now be used to check fraudsters. We will no longer allow the elite play pranks on our farmers,” he promised.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.