Bear With Us, We Met Economy in Meltdown – VP Yemi Osinbajo to Nigerians




Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday declared that the
present Federal Government met an economy that was
already in a meltdown.
Although he assured Nigerians that the Muhammadu
Buhari administration was doing its best to salvage the
situation, he stressed that the country did not adequately
exploit the oil boom era by investing massively in
infrastructure and diversifying the economy.
The Vice-President, who disclosed this while inaugurating
the agricultural sector road map titled, ‘The Green
Alternative: Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016 – 2020’, in
Abuja, said, “The present administration came into office to
meet an economy essentially in meltdown.”
He said the Federal Government had concluded that before
the end of September this year, the Bank of Agriculture
would start giving out single digit interest loans to farmers
in Nigeria.
On the issue of economic recession, he expressed worry
that during the period when oil was sold for over $100 per
barrel, the country did not increase investment in
infrastructure, adding that the diversification of its
economy was not deepened.
“We knew that we had to set alright the economy and put it
back on the path of sustainable growth with job
opportunities for our teeming population. So, one of the
critical components of that plan is to position agriculture
as the arrow-head of our economic recovery efforts. If we
get agriculture right, we will get our economy right,”
Osinbajo stated that the road map identified two key
challenges and that the first was the inability to meet
domestic food requirement.
This, he said, was a productivity challenge driven by the
country’s inefficient input systems and farming models.
He said the second challenge was the inability to export at
levels required by the market and that this was due to an
inefficient system, weak inspectorate measures and poor
coordination among relevant agencies.
“The Green Alternative has set out strategies for resolving
these challenges. I’m personally impressed that the road
map does not dismiss the agricultural policy of the past,”
he added.
The Vice-President noted that the plan in the road map
aligned with other economic policies of the Federal
Government.
He said, “Just to give some obvious examples, we cannot
have a policy of encouraging local production of food and
on the other hand have a high tariff on imported
agricultural equipment. There is no way that we can
encourage local production while we allow unbridled
importation of the same things that we are trying to
produce.”
Osinbajo observed that the financing of agriculture was
also a crucial policy, adding that “with double digit interest
rate at the moment, we have developed some funding
options in the short term.”
He stated that the anchor borrowing programme of the
Central Bank of Nigeria which allowed farmers to get loans
at single digit interest rates had been very useful, as it was
pivotal in enabling rice farmers in Kebbi State to increase
their production considerably.
“The Ministry of Finance has concluded plans to
recapitalise and re-engineer the Bank of Agriculture. We
expect that before the end of this quarter, the BOA should
be able to give single digit interest rate loans to farmers,”
he said.
The inauguration of the agricultural road map had various
ministers and heads of different agencies of government in
attendance.
In his address, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural
Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, stated that the road map
was part of measures undertaken by the Federal
Government to ensure that Nigeria stopped spending over
$22bn annually on food importation.
“For nearly 30 years, there was no alternative to oil and
gas. No quarrel with oil and gas, but is just that we
behaved like lottery winners who could think of nothing
else, spending $22bn a year importing foods like rice,
wheat, milk, sugar, tomato paste, biscuits and even
toothpicks,” he said.

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