President Muhammadu Buhari has declared the current slump in the price of crude oil at the international market was a blessing for Nigeria in the country’s bid to “diversify and revitalise the national economy.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the National Agricultural Show in Keffi, Nasarawa State, yesterday, President Buhari, who was represented by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Chief Audu Ogbeh, further reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to harnessing the huge agricultural potential of various parts of the country.
“After almost 40 years of neglect, agriculture has come to occupy its rightful place in national development. This administration is wholly committed to realising the wealth that could accrue to the country from our endowments.
“It is time to recognize that the greatest gift that god gave to Nigeria is not only oil and gas but good soil, good climate and a hardworking mass of people.
“The need to put in place adequate measures to ensure food security and economic development is crucial and this is what we are committed to do in this administration.
The minister who attributed the current economic crunch being experienced in the country to the neglect of agriculture as a productive sector, also assured that the federal government was committed to reversing the trend.
“Common sense dictates that we come back to agriculture as the current hardship in the country is a result of over reliance on a monoproduct- oil and gas,” he said.
The minister enumerated various economic policies being considered by the federal government in the bid to make the agricultural sector a major base of the national economy, among which is the monetary policy to make interests rates charged on agricultural enterprises bearable for intending farmers, government’s policy on importation of food products that could be produced in Nigeria and export potentials for local agricultural products.
“Under the leadership of President Buhari, we have begun an agricultural revolution and we shall launch a roadmap to this revolution in the nearest future. A highlight of this revolution is to involve youths and enhance national productivity.
“Between 1967 and 1970, Nigeria was at war and so could not sell oil yet the country prosecuted the war. This was done through local agricultural production.
“Now, any attempt to slow down import raises objections but we cannot continue to be a country of imports.
“The appeal, therefore, is for Nigeria to produce what it needs to feed,” the Aagric minister charged.
He further gave various initiatives being developed by government to address recurrent frictions between Fulani pastoralists and local crop farmers over grazing paths.
Earlier during the ceremony, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had called for urgent steps to ensure food security in the country as a means to growing the national economy.
“The current posture of commitment being demonstrated by the current administration gives us hope that Nigeria can get it right in bringing back agriculture from the doldrums.
“The recommitment to harnessing our huge agricultural potentials is a measure of the seriousness of government towards food security. All we can do is to support government’s initiatives to ensure that they succeed,” Adamu, a farmer of repute said.
Meanwhile, the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has said patronising made in Nigeria products by Nigerians is important and can contribute to the revival of the cotton, textile and garment industries.
A statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo spoke at the Presidential Villa, Abuja during a meeting with industry stakeholders and members of the Implementation Committee on the National Cotton, Textile and Garment Policy.
“Nigerians buying Nigerian products is very important and it goes beyond the symbolism of wearing Nigerian-made dresses. It is important for our economy and well-being,” Osinbajo declared.
Members of the committee composed of both government officials and industry stakeholders had earlier highlighted a number of strategies for the revival of the cotton, textile and garments industries including the promotion of Nigeria-made dresses among others.
The committee is proposing a “Wear Naija Day,” where public officials and employees of corporate organisations would all wear locally made fabric.
The federal government through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment had articulated a new policy to revamp the industries through a number of interventions including battling smuggling in order to attain a 15 per cent reduction by next year, facilitating assess to funding for the sector, addressing the challenges of energy, lifting the ban on importation of finished products and using the duties and levies raised therefrom to support the industries, among several other strategies.
Osinbajo noted that the challenge of smuggling of foreign textile materials into the country had to be tackled, adding that, overall “it is up to all of us to see that this particular initiative works, we have talked enough.”
Earlier, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Aisha Abubakar who attended the meeting noted that the ministry came up with the Cotton, Textile and Garment policy (CTG) in order to provide “a suit of interventions holistically across the value chain, including encouraging local patronage, controlling smuggling, production of improved seedling, cost of energy, cost of funds, training and upgrading and modernization of infrastructure.”
She added that past attempts to revive the industries failed because they addressed only the issue of funding.
Leading the stakeholders to the meeting was Issa Aremu, the General Secretary of the National Union of Garment and Textile Workers of Nigeria, who praised the Buhari presidency of “walking the talk,” explaining that the APC presidential ticket had promised to revamp the industry during the electioneering campaigns last year.