Expect more from me, president promises Nigerians
• Leader extols Tinubu’s qualities as patriot
• Food sufficiency possible in one year, says Bagudu
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday assured Nigerians that his administration would be taking more pragmatic actions in the next few months to improve the nation’s economy and boost their living conditions.
He spoke at the Eighth Annual Bola Tinubu Colloquium held at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja in honourof the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who clocked 64 years yesterday,
Buhari said “there are very few patriots alive today that can meet the commitment , resilience and creativity of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, which the former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress(APC) has demonstrated in organising Nigerian public life for good.
“As he adds another year today, my best wishes and prayers go to a man who deserves a lot of commendation for what he has continued to stand for.”
In a related development, Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu, has said that if the right policies, political will, good environment and the needed infrastructure are put in place, Nigeria can achieve self-sufficiency in the production of rice and wheat within the space of one year.
According to the president,“The theme for this year’s colloquium: ‘Agriculture: Action, Work, Revolution’ is apt, especially as the nation grapples with the effect of profligacy of national resources and the consequence off shrinking of oil prices.
‘ ‘ So diversifying the economy can no longer be a slogan, it has become a necessity, because economic growth cannot just be for the lucky few at the top, it has to be broad-based for every Nigerian citizen and the good place to start is with the agricultural sector.
“We face other challenges like insecurity, creating jobs addressing the country’s balance of payments and still making efforts to sustaining our country’s economic recovery.
“It is also important and critical to focus on the present challenges that confronts millions of our men, women and children around the country, the need for long- term security.
“In spite the fact that Nigeria has a massive domestic market having a lot of arable land and so much resources that could be harnessed into increased production, incomes and food security, agriculture today is plagued by a lot of problems from low productivity and poor infrastructure to weak nearest access as well as weak market institutions.
“Nearly all our companies are dependent on agriculture and this makes our agricultural productivity entirely vulnerable to the effect of climate change. In the past few years on the average Nigeria has spent in excess of $11 billion annually importing wheat, rice, sugar and fish. We need not and indeed, we cannot afford to continue on this trajectory.
“The real point is not to complain about the difficult terrain, but to take it, that is why this administration has prioritised agriculture and food security as a basis for socio-economic development, not least because of our conviction that Nigeria has a potential to produce what it eats, but also that we can be the bread basket of West Africa, agriculture is key to our economic growth, and social investment policies.
“Our administration’s key strategy is to ensure that Nigeria becomes self-sufficient in the food that we consume the most, maize, rice, corn, millet, fruits, poultry products and their derivatives, can all be produced at home if we put our heartbeat . Our policy is simple, we will produce what we eat.
‘‘It is not only logical, but it is necessary because we cannot be held up by the way things are, vulnerable to crude oil prices and unbridled expenditure of foreign exchange on things we can grow at home.”
He said that his government’s desire was to invest heavily in human capital development towards reducing the high level of poverty in the country.
“In the coming months, Nigerians will see much more action. Government will continue to invest substantially in human capital development and this is just the beginning.There will always be some skepticism , some have even become disorientated and impatient enough to think that barriers are insurmountable .“
Despite the odds, he said there were incredible examples of entrepreneurs who have set up processing factories, green house farming and “We can achieve more with partnership that links up and scales up our respective efforts.
“I am declaring that we need a new approach that challenges more states and local governments, more organisations, companies and non-governmental organisations and individuals, some of the younger people who are here to step up and play a role because government cannot and should not do it alone. All hands should be on deck,” he said.
According to him, the opportunities that the government sees in the agriculture value chain are enormous. He commended the organisers of the Bola Tinubu Colloquium for the choice of the theme of the event which focused on improving agriculture.
The president said: “We intend to organise an efficient market infrastructure that will make agriculture viable for investors. We are providing an enabling environment so as to ensure certainty and predictability for the private sector. “
Buhari also assured that government would speed up actions that would improve food production techniques as technology would play a huge role in better seeds, better harvest, weather forecast and predictable market prices.
“Further more, we are going to keep focusing on improved nutrition for children. We know the effects of hunger and poor nutrition can last a life time. Children are thrown out of school to earn a living,” the president said.
While presenting a paper at the colloquium, Bagudu stressed the need for government to subsidised agriculture so as to reduce the cost of production.
He gave an instance that in Thailand, a tonne of paddy rice is sold at N45,000, while in Nigeria it is sold at N65,000. He said: “Data made available from across the states tested by the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and research institutes show that Nigeria can achieve self-sufficiency in rice with the next one year if farmers are provided with needed funds.”
Stressing the need to provide farmers with improved yield to boost their production, he said farmers in other countries were harvesting rice at 9-11mt per hectares while Nigerians farmers were doing 2.5-5mt per hectare. He said farmers were more concerned about getting the seeds as and when needed.
The state governor hinged the poor adoption of new technology by farmers on the inability to guarantee market for the their produce.
He said: “Nigeria produces about 172million metric tonnes of food annually, unfortunately more than one quarter of the food is wasted because of the inability of farmers to guarantee market for their produce.”
Bagudu also lamented that policy reversals had forced farmers to stop believing in the government because they had unsold stock trucks. “He said the most important factor is the availability of seed, if that is done farmers can be drivers of government policy and within the new few years, we can achieve self-sufficiency in wheat.”
Among those who graced the occasion were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and his wife, Dolapo, wife of the celebrant, Senator Remi Tinubu, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, state governors of Zamfara (Abdulaziz Yari), Osun (Rauf Aregbesola), Ogun (Ibikunle Amosun), Cross River (Ben Ayade), Bauchi ( Muhammed Abubakar), Lagos (Ambode Akinwunmi), Kaduna (Nasir el-Rufai), and Oyo (Abiola Ajimobi).