PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday reiterated his earlier directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to grant foreign exchange for food importation.
He also promised that his administration would from early next year keep an eye on the rising cost of foodstuff in the country.
The President, who had last September said ”nobody importing food should be given money,” also stated that diversification from oil to agriculture saved Nigeria from the harsh economic realities of COVID-19.
He spoke during his fifth meeting with the Presidential Economic Advisory Council at the State House, Abuja yesterday.
Buhari, according to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said since seven states produce enough rice that the nation needs, it made no sense to import food.
“The CBN must not give money to import food. Already, about seven states are producing all the rice we need. We must eat what we produce,” he stated. The President had in September explained that Nigeria which hitherto had only three fertilizer blending plants now has 33.
In taking note of the strides made in agricultural production through diversification, Buhari wondered where the country would have been by now that COVID-19 was ravaging the global economy.
He said: “Going back to the land is the way out. We depended on petrol at the expense of agriculture. Now, the oil industry is in turmoil. We are being squeezed to produce at 1.5 million barrels a day as against a capacity to produce 2.3 million. At the same time, the technical cost of our production per barrel is high, compared to the Middle East production cost.”
The President emphasised the place of agriculture in the efforts to restore the economy but agreed that measures must be put in place to curtail inflation in the country:
His words: “We will continue to encourage our people to go back to the land. Our elite is indoctrinated in the idea that we are rich in oil, leaving the land for the city for oil riches. We are back to the land now.
“We must not lose the opportunity to make life easier for our people. Imagine what would have happened if we didn’t encourage agriculture and closed the borders. We would have been in trouble.”
The meeting, which was for a review of and reflections on the global and domestic economy in the outgoing year was attended by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, as well as Ministers of Finance, Zainab Ahmed and her Humanitarian Affairs counterpart Sadiya Farouk.
The meeting noted as follows:
- the sharp deterioration in international economic environment and its impact on Nigeria’s continuing but fragile economic recovery;
- that Nigeria’s economic growth continues to be constrained by obvious challenges, including infrastructural deficiencies and limited resources for government financing; and
- the need to make the private sector of the economy the primary source of investment, rather than government.
The meeting reviewed progress towards structural reforms in response to the economic crises, including the institution of the Economic Sustainability Plan, the changes in electricity tariffs and fuel pricing regime, the partial re-opening of the nation’s land borders, the movement towards unification of exchange rates and budgetary reforms through Finance Bill 2020 and 2021.