President Muhammadu Buhari has said Nigerians must stop paying mere lip service to agriculture, as crude oil and gas exports will no longer be sufficient as the country’s major revenue earner.
The president gave the charge at an audience with Kanayo Nwanze, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Friday.
“It’s time to go back to the land. We must face the reality that the petroleum we had depended on for so long will no longer suffice. We campaigned heavily on agriculture, and we are ready to assist as many want to go into agricultural ventures,’’ he said.
Mr. Buhari pledged that his administration would also cut short the long bureaucratic processes that Nigerian farmers had to go through to get any form of assistance from government.
He told the IFAD President that improvement of the productivity of farmers, dry season farming and creative ways to combat the shrinking of the Lake Chad will also receive the attention of his administration.
“There is so much to be done. We will try and articulate a programme and consult organisations like IFAD for advice,’’ he added.
According to the president, foreign exchange will be conserved for machinery and other items needed for production “instead of using it to import things like toothpicks’’.
Mr. Nwanze had earlier congratulated President Buhari on his victory at the general elections and assured him that IFAD was ready to give all possible assistance to the Federal Government and Nigerian farmers to boost agricultural production in the country.
Mr. Nwanze, who later spoke to State House correspondents, said IFAD had since 1985 been providing loans and grants in the nation’s agricultural sector to boost agricultural production.
“Nigeria has the largest portfolio of IFAD’s investment in Western and Central Africa and the second largest in Africa.
“But the case point here is that this country has all the endowments that it takes not only for it to produce enough food for its population but also to be the bread basket of region.
“And this is where my institution on my behalf, I offered our services and our support in the agenda of rural transformation as a key ingrate in this country’s economic and social development,’’ he said.
IFAD was established in 1978, and has been collaborating with Nigeria for over 30 years.