The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, has called on financial institutions with credit facilities to review, lower and liberalize the conditions and process for loan facilities to farmers.
He said cheaper loans must more accessible to famers if the country wants to successfully address the challenge of food scarcity and save the economy from looming food crises.
Senator Enang made the call at the Multi- Sectoral High Level Meeting on Emergency Agricultural Projects in the Diversification of the Niger Delta Non-Oil Sector in Abuja.
His media aide, Mr. Edet Ekpenyong, quoted him as saying that “upon the collapse in the price of crude oil making available less money for Nigeria and the advent of Covid-19, it became an emergency for Nigeria to look more inward for food sustainability and economy diversification. I proposed and got the nod for Emergency Agricultural programme”.
Speaking further, he said that “my Office is working with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, National Seed Council, Fisheries Institute and Institute of Oceanography and other state institutions bodies to develop and implement agricultural policies that identifies agricultural programmes that are sustainable in oil impacted communities as well as fish and livestock species that are resilient in oil impacted water and environment, be in addition to engaging the citizens in agricultural and national programmes.
“The Multi-Sectoral High level meeting is expected to originate and seek appropriate funding for agricultural, industrial, commercial, technical, educational, scientific, security and all projects and programmes that will create employment, add value, generate returns on investment and generally employ the citizen of the region.”
He also stressed the need for the programme to be admitted into and made a leg of the National Food Security Council and funded/driven along for greater output and synergy, and that “the concept of Integrated Farming should be encouraged by participants in this programme”.
The SSA noted that “this programme is justified by the collapse in the price of oil, the effect on the value of the naira which now exchanges at over N460 to the US Dollar and about N600 to Pound Sterling, and the Covid-19 challenge which we keep on importing food, we may also be increasing the infection import from the vessels crew and the entire process”.
In his keynote address the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning Prince Clem Agba, said that “the proposed “Emergency Agricultural Projects in Diversification of Niger Delta and Nation’s Non-Oil Economy is aimed at improving the livelihood of the people of Niger Delta and Nigeria in general through agriculture”.
Speaking further, the Minister noted that “these agricultural projects that target the Niger Delta region and the nation’s non-oil economy will have a range of benefits especially in the Production of food in appreciable abundance and the attendant creation of additional industries.
“It will also lead to reduction in the unparalleled Economic shock due to the ongoing pandemic, reduction in security issues in the area thereby improving security for all and enlargement of agricultural output for food security and export”.
He further explained that “In all of these the expected positive impact is along the provision of jobs for our huge population and lifting of 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, in line with the desire of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, which he hopes will be accomplished in the next 10 years.
“Let me reiterate that the Federal Government cannot achieve this alone. This administration will need the support and cooperation of the states and local governments, private sector, domestic and foreign investors, development partners, traditional institutions, farmers associations as well as host communities and all well-meaning Nigerians, to succeed in repositioning our economy to the sustainable path of growth” he added.
He commended Sen. Enang for this laudable initiative of conceptualizing the idea of diversification of the region.
The meeting was jointly organized by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation.