Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday reiterated his resolve to end unbridled food importation into the country as part of efforts to curb the current unemployment crisis in the country.
The president argued that by continuously patronising food produced abroad, Nigeria was creating jobs for other countries, while the country’s youths grapple with loss of jobs.
Buhari, who also appeared to have backtracked on his recent statement describing Nigeria’s young people as “lazy”, said the country’s youths remain focused, willing and ready to work, but noted that Nigeria must begin to look inwards to satisfy its food need.
In a goodwill message he personally sent to the 22nd edition of the Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) Annual Farmers Day Celebration in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, and broadcast during the event, the President maintained that Nigeria could not continue to rely on oil and gas for its sustenance.
“I want to urge the youths to actively participate in this agricultural revolution and I use this opportunity to congratulate you all for responding positively to this call.
“We must all stay focused on this path. Active participation in agriculture is our patriotic duty. Its success will create millions of jobs for many generations to come.
“We cannot afford to live a mono-product economy, relying only on oil as our mainstay. We cannot continue feeding ourselves with imported food, when God has blessed us with all the bountiful resources.
“We need to feed ourselves. We cannot continue to create jobs overseas at the expense of our young energetic and focused youths, who are ready, willing and able to contribute towards creating a diversified and inclusive Nigerian economy,” he said.
But the President also expressed optimism that the country was on its way out of the food crisis besetting it through the concerted efforts of the federal government and hardworking Nigerian farmers.
He added: “Today, Nigeria is on course towards food self-sufficiency. Importation of rice, maize and other grains has significantly reduced.
“We have God and our farmers to thank for this. The 2016 and 2017 farming seasons were very successful, the rains were good and our farmers had good years from their endeavors but we must plan for lean years, which are why we are working to revive our river basin authorities.”
While commiserating with farmers over the harm done to their farms by the recent flooding all over the country, Buhari said a compensation package, which would reduce the impact of their losses had been approved and would soon be distributed to farmers all over the country.
“In 2018, the excessive rains affected our farms badly, many of you were impacted. Floods are a natural phenomenon that men cannot control.
“I want to appeal to you all not to be dispirited but to try to be strong in the face of these challenges. Those on the Board of the National Food Security Council met and we approved a compensation package for all flood impacted farmers and fishermen.
“I want to assure all flood affected farmers and fishermen that this government is with you in your time of need. As I speak to you now, the modalities for this compensation package are being finalised and very soon, we shall start implementation,” he noted.
In his remarks, the Agip Chairman, Guido Brusco, lauded Buhari for always supporting the NAOC Green River Project, which covers mainly Bayelsa, Delta, Imo and Rivers.
“It is my joy to see that the seed we sowed 31 years ago has grown into an annual programme that brings stakeholders from all walks of life in an atmosphere of peace and celebration,” Brusco said.
Also speaking, the Managing Director, Agip, Lorenzo Fiorillio, expressed sadness over the devastating flood encountered by farmers this year.
He said the theme of the event, “Youths: Agents for Agricultural Development in the Niger Delta” was carefully chosen, because of the company’s numerous projects geared towards empowering the youths of the region.
He listed some of the recent projects as skills acquisition training for 275 youths, selection of 65 cooperative societies for micro credit scheme, and the expansion of the Green River Project to more communities.
Others who spoke during the event were the General Manager, District of the company, Tiani Alessandro and the Vice Chancellor, Niger Delta University (NDU), Prof Seth Jaja.