The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, hinted yesterday that the federal government had succeeded in reducing the importation of food items into the country by 60 per cent from 2015 to date.
Emefiele also disclosed that government had saved $800 million by reducing the importation of five major food items, namely rice, wheat, sugar, tomatoes and milk.
The CBN governor gave these figures while speaking at a special town hall meeting on government’s agriculture intervention organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture in conjunction with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Jigawa State.
Emefiele who was represented by his special adviser, Mr Olatunde Akande, explained that $1.4 billion was spent on the importation of the five commodities by 2013, and $678.6million was spent at the end of 2017.
While comparing statistics and the impact of agriculture revolution in the country along the five major commodities of sugar, milk, rice, tomatoes and wheat between 2013 and 2017, the CBN governor noted that at the end of 2017, the rate of food importation had reduced by almost 60 per cent in terms of the value of food import into Nigeria for these five commodities.
According to Emefiele, the CBN is supporting the rice paddy programme, a food security programme for large enterprises.
He said: “What we have done is that we have looked at five key commodities – sugar, milk, rice, tomatoes and wheat. In 2013, the country spent $1.4 billion to import these commodities into the country.
“As at the end of 2017, that figure had reduced by almost 60 per cent the value of food import into Nigeria for these five commodities. At the end of 2017, we only spent $678.6 coming from $1.4 billion. In the past four years, CBN has been so supportive of the government, especially in the agricultural revolution of the government.
“The flagship, of course, is the Anchor Borrower Programme which was launched in November 17, 2015 by Mr. President, and since then, the CBN has supported over 850,000 small rural farmers. The CBN has disbursed over N160 billion under the Anchor Borrower Programme.
“Why the programme is very popular is because the target is small, rural farmers. There are lots of other programmes the CBN has done targeting large scale commercial farmers, small sale commercial farmers and other enterprises, but this is specifically for small rural farmers”.
The CBN boss explained that the Anchor Borrower Programme was not specifically meant for rice farmers; however, 80 per cent of subscribers are into rice farming.
According to him, the programme has so far supported 15 different commodities like cassava, fish, groundnut, cotton, maize, poultry, soy beans, oil palm, among others.
Emefiele explained further that another project supported by the CBN was the presidential fertilizer programme.
This, he said, explains the fall in the price of fertilizer, which is now N5, 500 per bag.
Also speaking at the town hall meeting, the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, noted that Nigerians should not expect support from outside the country in the quest to be food sufficient.
The minister, who said the government faced stiff resistance from foreign countries, explained that there was conspiracy by some foreign countries and their local agents to thwart Nigeria’s push for self-sufficiency.
He also urged Nigerians to eschew the temptation of believing fake news of increased food importation, saying it is untrue that the country imported 400,000 metric tonnes more than the quantity of rice imported in 2017.
According to him, the country has experienced rapid growth in rice production over the last three years.
While explaining the conspiracy against federal government’s drive to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, Mohammed said every nation pursues its national interest and it is not in those countries interest for Nigeria to be self-sufficient.
He continued: “Please permit me to alert Nigerians to the reality out there; in pursuing our agricultural revolution, which will ultimately lead to self-sufficiency in the national staples, we should not expect accolades and support from outside, especially from countries that had, hitherto, been the main exporters of food items such as rice to Nigeria.
“Every nation pursues its national interest, and it is definitely not in their interest for Nigeria to produce what it consumes, because it means you will no longer import from such countries.
“The conspiracy to thwart Nigeria’s push toward self-sufficiency in rice did not start today. In 2015, the government was put under undue pressure to import rice ostensibly to make up for a massive shortage, when in the real sense there was a glut of paddy rice produced locally.
“It is in that context that Nigerians should see the recent fake news that Nigeria imported 400,000 metric tonnes more than the quantity of rice imported in 2017. The report, quoting the 2018 United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report, also posited that Nigeria’s local rice production is dropping.
“When the figures were challenged, they said it was based on the assumptions – unrealistic as they were – such as satellite mapping of farms, expected demand by politicians for election campaigns and expected losses from flooding.”
Quoting the Central Bank of Nigeria, the minister stressed that the volume of rice importation into Nigeria has declined drastically this year.
The decline, he explained, was as a result of concerted efforts by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the interventions of the CBN.
Corroborating Mohammed’s position, the minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed that foreigners who held Nigeria hostage for 30 years were poised to demoralise the government from making efforts in reducing the importation of food items.
Ogbeh, however, said the government was determined to stop the importation of food items and commence exportation for industrial use.
He hinted that with the reform of the Bank of Agriculture, which will be completed by the end of this year, the government is targeting 5 per cent lending rate to farmers.
He noted that the reduction of interest rate on lending to farmers to 9 per cent ignited a revolution in agriculture in the country, pointing out that the revolution in agriculture by the present administration has now turned Nigeria into an exporter of agricultural products.
“In July this year, the Tin Can Island published a report that agricultural export had risen by 150%. Containers leaving Nigeria are no longer going empty,” he said.
…To Spend $5.72bn On Mambilla Power Project
Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday disclosed that the 3, 050 Megawatts Mambilla Power Plant will cost $5.72 billion.
It said arrangements were at an advanced stage to secure the funds from the Chinese government in the form of loans.
The minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this while briefing journalists on the progress made by his ministry to mark his three years in office.
The minister stated that work on the Mambilla Power Plant, which had suffered several setbacks for over 40 years, is set to commence from early 2019.
According to Fashola, while the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the project, President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to ensuring the urgent commencement of the project, which is expected to be completed within 60 months.
On the level of development of the project, Fashola said, “the progress is that for the first time in over 40 years the federal government has now signed an engineering and procurement contract. President Buhari has made that possible.
“All the companies that were fighting themselves and going to court when we came are out of court. We have a contract, a joint venture; we created that joint venture; we have a contract with them we have signed. FEC has approved the project; it is going to cost $5.72 billion,” he said.
On the choice of the Chinese company, CGCC, to handle the construction of the project, Fashola stated that apart from getting funding from the Chinese, the company in question built China’s Gorges Dam which, he said, is similar to the Mambilla power plant.
“They have the technology; they have done it before; no need to reinvent the wheel. We will take a loan; we are now trying to negotiate the final tranche of the loan,” he said.
On how the government is pursuing the project execution, the minister said, “The Nigerian government is supposed to provide 15 per cent of the total cost of the project as its counterpart funding.
“You don’t budget all of the money at once and even if the loan was approved today, you wouldn’t draw it all down because it is a minimum of 60 months construction time, assuming that there are no hitches. That is where we are.”
On the economic benefits the project will bring to the country while it is under construction, Fashola said the ministry has received over 116 expressions of interest from indigenous companies that are ready to provide various services.
He said, “They are not involved in construction; they are just trying to position themselves to provide logistics for the construction.
“They will provide financial services such as banking services – because the money has to move through banks, insurance for goods, freight for goods, transport logistics and security.
“We are drawing up guidelines for the procurement, especially to optimise the president’s directive on Executive Order 5 for the local content and Nigerians are going to benefit from this investment. Anything Nigeria can do in this project, no foreigner will be allowed to take it.”
Earlier, the minister, in his address, listed the achievements of the power sector to include increase of power generation from 4,000 megawatts (MW) in 2015 to 7,000mw, transmission from 5,000MW to 7000MW and distribution from 2690MW to 5,222MW.
2nd Niger Bridge Gulps N31bn
The federal government also disclosed yesterday that the 2nd Niger Bridge has gulped N31billion out of the N206 billion earmarked for the project.
It said Julius Berger, the contractor handling the project which is being funded by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) in collaboration with government, has been paid about N31 billion.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this while briefing journalists on the progress made in the power, works and housing sectors in the three years stewardship of the Buhari administration.
Of the N206 billion cost of 2nd Niger Bridge, the minister said about N31billion has been given to Julius Berger as advance, resulting in the significant record of erecting pillars on site, even as he assured that the project is expected to be completed in 36 months.
Fashola also gave statistics of road projects in the last three years, saying in 2016, 277 kilometres of road was constructed, 345km was rehabilitated and 17,749 people were employed in the process.
He said in 2017, the federal government constructed 488 roads, rehabilitated 256 others and engaged 31,227 persons.
For 2018, Fashola said 497km of road had been constructed, 284 rehabilitated and 30,402 persons employed, adding that the figure could rise during December due to more rehabilitation projects nationwide.
Expatiating on this, the Permanent Secretary (Works and Housing), Mr Mohammed Bukar said there have been award of 365 roads for construction since 2001.
He said the Buhari government awarded 121 of these in three years, while the previous government awarded 144 others in 17 years.
“You will see that out of the 365 roads, 144 were awarded in the period of 17 years while in just three years, we awarded 121 roads and we are still counting because the 2018 procurement is on-going,” Bukar noted.
While briefing newsmen, Fashola stated that his ministry is poised to execute the second phase of the projects promised Nigerians at the inception of the present administration three years ago through the implementation of the 2018 budget.
He said, “Our progress report on public works relating to roads and bridges also confirms that we have fulfilled our promise. We have recovered the thousands of jobs that were lost to public works.
“This recovery is the result of an expansive infrastructure spending that saw works budget grow from N18.132illion in 2015 to N394billion in 2018. The outcome is that there is not one state in Nigeria today where the federal government is not executing at least one road project and construction workers are engaged on these sites.
“Difficult or abandoned projects like the 2nd Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Bodo-Bonny Bridge have been brought back to life, while sections of Ilorin-Jebba, Sokoto to Jega, Sokoto-Ilela have been completed, even as works continue on others nationwide”.
According to him, the aforementioned interventions on roads which have been expanded beyond interstate highways to include abandoned internal roads of federal universities, presently 14, constitute the first phase under the 2017 budget.