- We failed to save for the rainy day, says Ajimobi
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Ademola Babalola in Ibadan
President Muhammadu Buhari monday held the Peoples Democratic Party’s 16-year reign responsible for the nation’s prevailing economic woes and said the party failed to save for the rainy day.
“In the First Republic, more enduring infrastructure was built with meagre resources. But in the past 16 years, we made a lot of money without planning for the rainy day”, the President said at a reception for a delegation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), led by its President, Dr. Bernard Aliyu, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“We showed a lot of indiscipline in managing our economy, and that is why we are where we are today” President Buhari said firmly, promising, however, that his administration would do its best to turn things around.
The President’s views echoed in faraway Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, where Governor Abiola Ajimobi attributed the comatose state of the economy to the country’s failure to save for the rainy day during the oil boom.
President Buhari in his presentation to the ICAO delegation explained that the country witnessed a decline in the quality of infrastructure development in the last 16 years in spite of the boom in oil prices, adding that even the First Republic administration with its meagre resources achieved much more.
He regretted that the PDP governments failed to grow the economy with the all-time rise of crude oil sales that hovered around $100 per barrel. “We showed a lot of indiscipline in managing our economy, and that is why we are where we are today”.
President Buhari said Nigeria needed to grow beyond emphasising its potential and assured Nigerians that his administration would do its best to develop the economy beyond rhetorics.
Said the President, “Nigeria needs to work on her potential, so that we don’t remain permanently at the level of potential. If Ethiopia is sustained largely by her airline industry, we have greater potential here. But we must move out, engage with the rest of the world, as we need to re-establish the integrity of this country. We need to rebuild this country again”.
Speaking earlier, Aliyu, the Nigerian-born ICAO president, commended President Buhari for his commitment to fight corruption and urged Nigerians to stand with their president in the on-going war against graft.
He asked Nigeria to pay more attention to the development of civil aviation.
“Civil aviation is a catalyst for economic development. The level of aviation development in any country mirrors the economic development of that country”, he said.
The ICAO president also pledged to support the development of the aviation industry in Nigeria, urging the country to improve on training and capacity development, aviation security, aerodromes and air navigation, runways, control towers and terminal buildings.
In Ibadan, Governor Ajimobi took a cue from President Buhari and attributed the pervading economic woes besetting the country to past regimes’ failure to save for the rainy day during the oil boom, which, he said, was worsened by the neglect of agriculture.
He said: “We did not save for the raining day when there was oil boom in the country. We relied heavily on income from oil. But we have all been jolted into reality now that a barrel sells for all-time low of $30.
“Nigeria has depended so much on oil which has now lost its value at the international market. So we have to look for alternative sources of revenue which is through aggressive investment in agriculture”.
The governor spoke yesterday during the state’s Agriculture Initiative Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum, held at the House of Chiefs, Parliament Building in Ibadan and said the forum was aimed at involving stakeholders in his administration’s resolve to diversify the economy of the state through the exploration of aggressive, all-inclusive and sustainable agricultural value chain.
The forum was attended by royal fathers, including the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji; Baales; local government transition committee chairmen and other stakeholders in the 33 local council areas of the state.
Ajimobi said the dwindling allocation from the Federation Account due to the fall in the price of petroleum in international market had called for massive investments in farming.
According to him, “The fall in crude oil price has done more good than harm as it has opened our eyes to the effectiveness of mechanized farming as our saving grace”.
The governor said Oyo has the largest expanse of arable land in the entire South of the country with 28,545 square kilometres, adding that it also has the largest concentration of agriculture research institutions in Nigeria.
Besides, he said, the state was strategically located to be the food basket of Nigeria, expressing regrets, however, that its potential had remained largely untapped over the years, short-changing the state of the huge revenue that could have accrued from agriculture.
Ajimobi, who said 28 out of the 33 local government areas in the state have been identified as agrarian, added that 100 hectares of land would be set aside in each of the council areas for cultivation.
He said the scheme would be all-inclusive, as it would involve students, civil servants, the state-owned College of Agriculture, Igboora as well as other agriculture research institutions based in the state.
While soliciting the support of the traditional rulers for the scheme, the governor said it would be driven by the monarchs whom he described as not only the custodians of the people’s culture and tradition, but also fathers of all.
He urged that the royal fathers should embark on the mobilisation of their subjects immediately on the need for them to see agriculture as the major bail out from the economic crisis currently confronting the country.
While speaking on his administration’s efforts at improving the state’s internally-generated revenue, Ajimobi said an arrangement had been concluded to also shift attention to mining as a money spinner.
“The mining sector will be critically looked into as there are federal and state laws that require miners to get government’s approval before embarking on mining activities,’’ he said.
The governor said henceforth, approval for mining activities by mining agents should be sought from the state government through traditional rulers in the affected communities. “Government agencies will be visiting communities to enlighten royal fathers and community people on ways to go about this without undermining the necessary inputs of the government as it had always been,’’ he said.
The traditional rulers, who spoke at the occasion, lauded the government’s initiative which they described as a veritable means of providing sufficient food for the teeming populace and increasing government’s revenue. They pledged to mobilise the people in their respective domains to key into the new agriculture initiatives of the state government.
The traditional rulers who spoke at the consultative meeting included the Oba Adeyemi III; Oba Adetunji; the Onipetu of Ijeru, Oba Sunday Oyediran; the Akibio of Ilora, Oba Stephen Oyeniyi; and the representative of the Soun of Ogbomoso, Chief Samuel Sobaloju.