Agriculture key to poverty reduction in Nigeria – Buhari
By Usman Gwadabe
President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday in Riyadh said new investments and reforms in the agriculture sector in Nigeria hold the key to the target of his government to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next ten years.
Speaking at a panel discussion on the second day of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh, President Buhari underlined his government’s resolve to actualise his promise to reduce poverty in Nigeria.
The President joined President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya in a plenary session to discuss ‘‘What’s next for Africa? How will investment and trade transform the continent into the next great economic success story?’’
On poverty reduction in Nigeria, President Buhari pointed to the vigorous implementation of key reforms of his administration in the farming and agricultural sector including soft loans to farmers, availability and affordability of farming inputs and restrictions on food imports grown locally, as some measures that have encouraged agriculture revolution in Nigeria.
‘‘We have vast arable land in Nigeria.
We have encouraged, the young men and able-bodied persons, especially the uneducated ones to go back to the land.
‘‘We have encouraged them by giving soft loans to farmers through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and by making fertilizer available and selling at half the prize that it used to be.
‘‘We have also ensured a stop on the importation of food because we are capable of achieving food security ourselves,’’ he said.
Responding to a question posed to the discussants if Russia is now the new best friend of Africa, President Buhari said Russia is ‘‘visibly helping’’ Nigeria in all the priority areas of his government – security, economy and the fight against corruption-, for which he is grateful.
The President added that Russia had remained a committed development partner to Nigeria, recounting its support during the country’s civil war.
‘‘Those who focus on the progress of developing countries would see what Russia right from its days as the Soviet Union had done for us. We will never forget that we went over our civil war with the help of Russia and since then politically and economically, the Russians are helping Nigeria in so many ways,’’ he said.
On anti-corruption, the Nigerian leader described corruption as an ‘‘embarrassing topic’’ for developing countries, highlighting measures by the Nigerian government to eliminate corruption through lawful enforcement and preventive measures.
‘‘Those who are following our administration’s efforts on accountability at all levels will notice that we have made some progress.
‘‘We have recovered hundred millions of dollars from people who took them out of the country and the economy.
‘‘We have recovered assets and given directive that they should be sold and the money returned to government coffers.
‘‘We have also created a Treasury Single Account (TSA) where all government monies and revenues go into a single account so that we can trace how they go out,’’ he said, in a statement by Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity.