Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
President Muhammadu Buhari has said his administration is giving prominence to agriculture because it remains the nation’s veritable tool for economic recovery.
This was as he lamented that Nigeria had neglected agriculture in the time past, stating that the federal government was now wiser to make investments in the sector.
Buhari spoke at the 23rd Farmers’ Day celebration tagged: ‘Farm and Fortune’ at the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC)-Green River Project (GRP) Plant Propagation Centre (PPC) Obie in Ogba/Ebema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State through a video recording played at the venue.
He said the federal government realised that the future of the nation depends on agriculture and decided to make necessary investment in that sector as farmers are the true heroes of the land.
According to him, “As at 2015, our economy was in such a perilous state with oil prices crashing internationally and so many challenges nationally and locally. In fact, our country was in a desperate state.
“We tried to put our modest resources where our mouth was. We focused on agriculture and God heard our prayers, and we got good returns for our investments.
“We are putting ideas together to change the land and take our farming seriously again. They (the farmers) heeded our call and have not regretted it since then.”
He noted that farming has changed the fortunes of many in the nation and said government would encourage more people to go into the venture.
“We should never forget that the future of our country lies in farming; livestock, forestry and fisheries,” he said, adding: “Farmers are now among the very well-to-do Nigerians. They can now cater for their families’ needs, meet all their needs and even embark on various capital projects.”
He commended NAOC for investing in farmers in the four states of their operations in the Niger Delta and urged farmers to make good use of opportunities in the agriculture sector.
He insisted: “Agriculture is one of the veritable ways to economic recovery. It guarantees employment to millions of people particularly the youths, engenders better living standards and enhances the income of people and ensures food security.
“Finally, let me celebrate our farmers. You are our authentic heroes; not only for today but for tomorrow and evermore.”
The General Manager, District of NAOC, Tiani Alessandro, in his address, promised that NAOC would continue to build sustainable projects and development to its host communities.
He said: “Eni will continue to build sustainability into all its activities, focusing on the development of people and reorganizing the great opportunities embedded in the Green River Project.
“As a company, we will continue to pride ourselves with the Green River Project (GRP) being one of our company’s most impactful projects as an integrated programme of agricultural entrepreneurial development, created to promote a path of autonomous development in the Niger Delta.”
However, the Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Alhaji Mansur Sadiq Sambo, urged oil firms to develop the communities where they are operating.
Sambo, who was represented by Ben Halliday, said: “It gives me great pleasure to be here to celebrate with farmers. NNPC before was in the business of oil exploration only, but we don’t want that again. We want the companies to develop the areas they are operating.”