President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday in Daura, Katsina state, said he has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food into the country.
This, he said, was designed to steadily improve the nation’s agricultural production and attainment of full food security.
The president, who hosted the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors to Eid-el-Kabir lunch at his country home in Daura, said the foreign reserve would be conserved and utilised strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food import bills.
$22bn on food import
Former minister of agriculture and rural development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, had expressed displeasure over the huge funds the country spent on importation of food, saying efforts were ongoing to reverse the trend.
Speaking at the 19th edition of Catholic Brothers United in Lagos, Ogbeh said the annual food importation stood at $22 billion.
“Nigeria spends almost $22 billion every year on food importation. If we don’t fix agricultural problems in the country where families can feed on less than 15 percent of its budget, then the country is in trouble.” Ogbeh who spoke on the topic, “Technology and agricultural revolution: a tool for economic growth”, said that efforts were ongoing to close border against rice importation, adding, “in two years from now, we should put an end to rice importation,” Ogbeh had said.
Enough of that- Buhari
Putting a stop to that, President Buhari directed the CBN and said: “Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country.”
Hosting the APC governors in Daura, the president said some states like Kebbi, Ogun, Lagos, Jigawa, Ebonyi and Kano had already taken advantage of the federal government’s policy on agriculture with huge returns in rice farming, urging more states to key into the ongoing revolution to feed the nation.
“We have achieved food security, and for physical security we are not doing badly,” he said.
The president said he was particularly delighted that young Nigerians, including graduates, had started exploring agric-business and entrepreneurship, with many posting testimonies of good returns on their investments.
He said the incoming ministers would be “taught’’ and thoroughly guided to ensure they meet the targets of the APC-led government for the people, with regular monitoring of their performances and scaling up of targets by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF).
The president assured that he would attend the presidential policy retreat organised for the ministers by the OSFG, and insisted on compliance with laid down targets on key sectors of the economy that would directly impact on the livelihood of Nigerians.
In his remarks, chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and governor of Ekiti state, Dr John Kayode Fayemi, said the president’s sense of justice, fairness and forthrightness had turned a major inspiration to governors on the way forward for the country.
He said the challenges faced by states “were enormous,” but the governors had remained undaunted, assuring the president of strong support and “he very best effort” to overcome all the obstacles.
Also speaking, chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum and Governor of Kebbi state, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, appreciated the president for the unique leadership style of maintaining a healthy relationship with governors on individual and collective basis, saying they had been “energised’’ to do more in their states.
The governor commended the president for making bold and courageous efforts to reposition the economy for majority Nigerians through inclusive policies.
“The country is more secure than in 2015, and the country is more prosperous than in 2015 because you are working for the majority of the people,” he said.
The governor said the party had been repositioned, after the 2019 elections, to work for the benefit of the majority of Nigerians, stating that “there will two elections this year and we need to work towards winning the two states.”
…Vows to fight for the poor
In a related development, President Buhari Tuesday said he would use his second term in office to improve the lives of Nigerians by paying close attention to the poor and those on the lower rungs of society.
Addressing leaders of various communities from five local governments of Daura emirate who paid him a visit as part of Eid El-Kabir celebration, the president said he was convinced that majority of Nigerians understood who he is and his mission, on account of which they returned him for a second term in office with larger margin of votes than 2015.
“You know how much I laboured to get here. I ran three times in the past. The fourth time, God used technology to do it for me. The fifth time I ran (February 23, 2019), I went to all the states of the federation. The turnout of crowds was overwhelming.
“Truly, the people know and understand my mission. This is what the votes showed. The administration will dwell on our campaign issues — security, economy and corruption. We will fight for the poor,” he said.
The president emphasised the important place of agriculture under his administration, promising to appoint a minister who is knowledgeable and would know how to promote interest and investment in the sector.
“I will appoint a minister who knows agriculture and its role in providing jobs and growing our economy. You have seen how we broke the fertiliser jinx in the country. We will do more to better the lots of our farmers. Agriculture is our strength,” he said.
The president expressed happiness with the changing attitude of young people to agriculture, with many earning respectable incomes, urging all of those without regular incomes to return to the farm.
In his remarks, a leader of the delegation, Hon. Yusuf Bello Mai’ Aduwa, thanked Nigerians for giving the president a second mandate to lead the country for another four years, assuring he would not let the country down.
Mohammed Saleh, another community leader, said the communities under the Daura emirate were grateful to the president for signing a bill to establish a Federal Polytechnic in Daura, after they had complained that the area needed a tertiary institution to encourage the youth to pursue higher education.
In her remarks, Hajiya Talatu Nasir, Permanent Secretary with the state’s ministry of information, said the Buhari administration had empowered many women, with many already owning businesses like poultry and livestock farms.
The Daura community offered special prayers for the president, urging him to pursue the vision for a better Nigeria with the fear of God, courage to stand by the truth always, and mindful of the needs of the poor and underprivileged.