- Says security measures underway to check attacks on farmers AfDB plans $24bn package for agric reforms in Africa, promises to help Nigeria overcome recession
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The federal government has advised Nigerians against panic buying and stockpiling of food items, promising that contrary to fears, the country is not in danger of an impending famine.
It also disclosed that adequate measures were already being taken to avert a possible outbreak of famine in the country, even as it revealed that security measures were being adopted, including engaging the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), to check violent attacks on farmers in some parts of the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, gave the assurances in Abuja yesterday on a day the Vice President, Prof.
Yemi Osinbajo also stated that the federal government was determined to move the economy out of recession.
Speaking in a panel discussion and press conference at the 11thAfrican Economic Conference (AEC) with the theme: ‘Feed Africa: Towards Agro-Allied Industrialisation for Inclusive Growth,’ Ogbeh said: “We are not in danger on famine.”
The conference was jointly organised by the African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The minister advised Nigerians against panicky buying and stockpiling of food items, adding that the government was encouraging the growing of staples such as rice all-year-round to ensure the availability of food at all times.
Ogbeh noted that although some neigbouring African countries were coming to the country to buy grains, government was not going to adopt any policy of blocking such trade, but had decided to encourage more participation in mass production.
He said government’s approach to averting famine was also to motivate Nigerians to feed themselves by going into farming as well as drastically cutting down wastages.
The minister said the government had also acquired 33 silos to store grains across the country while about 110 milling facilities were being procured for farmers at about 40 per cent discount.
The minister said because of the foreign exchange challenges, the milling facilities were procured for the rice farmers and would be given to them through cooperatives with repayment period of five years.
On efforts to check attacks on farmers, he admitted that the problem was in deed a serious one, noting that the government was already collaborating with the NSCDC to check the menace.
The minister, who said since the issue bordered on security, he would not divulge the details of the measures being put in place to check incidents of attacks on farmers, adding that although the measures may not cover the entire country for now, something was being done.
Lamenting the stark neglect the agricultural sector suffered in the past decades, Ogbeh blamed the elite for the development, regretting that a sector that showed enormous promise in the First Republic was relegated to the back door with import-dependence becoming the order of the day.
In his remarks, the Vice President Osinbajo, who declared the conference open, said the sharp decline in commodity prices globally has had a negative impact.
Osinbajo stated that in the case of Nigeria, the situation was made more dire because vandalisation of oil pipelines worsened the situation, resulting in the loss of about a million barrels of oil per day.
The vice president stated that in spite of the daunting challenge, the federal government was determined to come out of the shock-induced recession and move towards economic growth But he added that even when such growth begins to manifest, government’s resolve was to ensure that it is inclusive.
According to Osinbajo, attaining an inclusive growth will depend on the expansion of the agriculture space, assuring that the government would continue with policies encourage increased food production.
The vice president also disclosed that the federal government would prioritise the production nof tomato paste, adding that the focus would be on producing at large quantities of several tons a year.
He said access to finance was one of the major impediments, pointing out that the government, with the support of the African Development Bank (AfDB), was trying to revitalise the Bank of Agriculture.
Osinbajo also thanked the AfDB for extending a $1 billion facility to Nigeria, saying the first tranche of $600 million already released would go a long way in helping the country add value to its agricultural produce.
In his address, AfDB President, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina said Nigeria was imbued with vast agricultural resources, noting that if well managed, the country has the potential of being the global power house of agro-allied products.
Adesina stated that agriculture countributes a mere 28 per cent of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP), pointing out that Africa’s future, greatness and industrialisation depend on agriculture.
The AfDB President said the bank had come to the realisation that the only way Africa and its peoples could come out of their many problems was to transform the agriculture sector, adding that $24 billion would be injected into the sector in the next ten years.
Adesina stated that what Africa does with agriculture would shape the future of food globally, lamenting that the continent cannot continue to spend $35 billion on food imports annually.
The key for Africa’s prosperity, he said, is value addition in agriculture.
On recession, he said Nigeria was not the only country affected, noting Angola, South Africa and other commodity exporting nations were hit due to price shocks.
He stated that although the fall in commodity prices had negatively affected economic growth in several African countries, it was also gladdening that about 15 countries on the continent still record 5 per cent growth rate.
He assured Nigeria of AfDB’s willingness to support it come out of recession, noting that the $1 billion facility approved for the country, out of which $600 million has so far been released, was to help the country in its governance programme.
He said it will also support agricultural reforms, noting that the bank is equally helping the private sector, including the banking sector.
It advised the federal government to give a lot of support to the private sector, particularly mining, to come out of recession and engender economic growth.