A senior lawyer, Mr Paul Usoro has called on the government at all levels and individuals to embark on deliberate measures to migrate from dependency on crude oil production to full scale agricultural practice as a way out of economic depression.
Presenting a paper titled,â€˜Migrating from Crude Oil Dependency to an Agro/Industralised Economy as a way out of Depression,â€™ at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Calabar Branch Law Week recently, he stated that â€œan agro-industralised economy remains key to the attainment of a sustainable and well developed economy in Nigeria.â€
According to Usoro, the agro-industry offers huge potential for growth, with important sub-sectors comprising crop production and export, livestock, forestry and fishery.
â€œThe Nigerian economy has been one solely reliant on crude oil exports. This ultimately led the country falling into a recession caused by the crash of international oil prices and worsened by a drop in oil production quantities as a result of vandalisation and destruction of the nationâ€™s oil assets by militant groups.
â€œThe resultant effect of the recession heightened the need and caused the awakening of a consciousness to diversify the Nigerian economy.
â€œThis is further buttressed by the fact that Nigeria is ranked 125 out of 137 in the Global Competitiveness Index ranking 2017-2018,â€ Usoro said.
In addition, he said, â€œthe agricultural sector provides a viable economic alternative to the Government in order to reduce its dependency on crude oil earnings.
â€œIt is a sector with high growth prospects in terms of output that does not require the sort of capital injections required for crude oil exploration and production. Improvement on the sector will reduce rural-urban migration which ultimately reduces the population density and strain on amenities in urban areas.â€
Usoro further explained that, â€œthe government needs to rehabilitate and revive all agricultural research institutes and schools of agriculture and reintroduce farm settlements and river basin authorities to encourage massive production of agricultural produce.
â€œThis sector requires huge investments in improved machinery and technologies to make substantial impact. Most farmers are still making use of crude and unmechanised methods which yield low productivity.â€
He added: â€œThe drive for achieving an agro-industrialised economy must be complemented with improvement of rural and other basic infrastructure which are critical to agricultural transformation and establishment of a seamless value chain like rural electrification, road and rail for transportation of agriculture produced and processed/finished good, for export and domestic use alikeâ€.
In attaining an agro-industralised economy, he emphasised that government should establish and promote an export-oriented agricultural sector with improved quality of produce comparable with average global standards.
He also urged the government to implement policies to attract more foreign direct investment in the sector.
For Usoro, apart from the agricultural sector, there are a number of other sectors such as the broader extractive industry which Nigeria has started exploring as a viable means of attaining a diversified economy.
The Ajaokuta Steel Project and the mining of limestone in Okpella are examples of this renewed focus on the larger extractive industry, he said.