By Patience Danjuma
President Muhammadu Buhari has accused Nigerian elite of colluding with foreign firms to deplete the nation’s foreign reserves through fictitious importation of food items into the country.
Buhari spoke when he received the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Kebbi in Abuja on Friday.
The President said he had disagreed with the astronomical food import bill presented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from the inception of the administration, pointing out that it was later discovered to be “fraudulent practices’’ by some of the elites to deplete the foreign reserves.
“When I was told that the CBN had no savings after the windfall of selling oil for more than $100 dollars per barrel for many years, and the production was 2.1 billion barrel per day, I did not believe them.
“I did not believe them because majority of Nigerians cannot afford imported food; they rely on what is locally grown. It turned out that 50 per cent of the export bills were fraudulent. That is what the Nigerian elites did.
“Unfortunately, we will not know all that happened because the elites worked in collusion with institutions in developed countries, like insurance firms, shipping companies and other financial outfits, to perpetuate the fraud,’’ he stated.
However, Buhari said his administration would not rest in continually reviewing and strengthening ongoing reforms in the agricultural sector until Nigeria regained its pride of place as a food exporting country, saying that the country’s huge rice import bill had dropped significantly by more than 90 per cent, adding that it wasn’t good enough by his expectation.
“Beyond self-sufficiency, we must strive to become net exporters of food commodities. We are not doing badly in the agricultural sector and Nigerians, and the world, are beginning to appreciate our efforts. We will not be satisfied; we will work harder until we start exporting food.
“We are happy that rice and beans importation into the country have gone down by over 90 per cent, and visibly everyone can see how productive states like Kebbi have turned out to be and states like Lagos, Ogun and Ebonyi are following the example,’’ he said.
According to Buhari, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano and Sokoto States had already reported remarkable turn around in the agricultural sector, with more youths taking interest in entrepreneurship.
On security, the president said the return of farmers to their farm lands in the North East, with glaring results of high yields, was a testimony to the relative peace that had been achieved.
He assured that more would be done to check the mayhem of suicide attacks.
The President said his administration would increase its effort to reposition the educational and health sectors to compete with other global institutions.
Speaking while introducing the delegation, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) told the President that the political leaders of Kebbi State have now abandoned the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, and moved over to the APC.
“We came to show you that the good policies of the administration have made the leaders of the PDP to abandon their party and move to the APC. With this development, the PDP is now pronounced dead in Kebbi State,” Malami said.
In his remarks, the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu said the APC family was pleased with the performance of the administration in securing the country, reviving the economy and fighting corruption.
Bagudu and members of the delegation, which include former Governor of Kebbi State, Usman Saidu Nasamu Dakingari and other former PDP stalwarts, prayed for the quick recovery of the President’s son, Yusuf.