President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food into the country in a bid to ensure Nigeria attains food security.
A statement yesterday by a presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as telling All Progressives Congress (APC) governors, who came to celebrate the Eid-el-Kabir with him in his country home in Daura, that the foreign reserves will be conserved and utilised strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food.
“Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country,’’ he said.
The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in December 2018, had said Nigeria’s monthly food import bill fell from $665.4 million in January 2015 to $160.4 million as of October 2018; an implied savings of over $21 billion on food imports alone over that period.
He had stated that the reductions in food import were recorded on rice, fish, milk, sugar and wheat, adding that the policy would be maintained.
“Most evident were the 97.3 per cent cumulative reduction in monthly rice import bills, 99.6 per cent in fish, 81.3 per cent in milk, 63.7 per cent in sugar, and 60.5 per cent in wheat,” Emefiele had said at bankers’ dinner in Lagos.
According to the president, some states like Kebbi, Ogun, Lagos, Jigawa, Ebonyi and Kano have taken advantage of the federal government’s policy on agriculture with huge returns in rice farming.
He, therefore, urged more states to embrace the ongoing revolution in agriculture to feed the nation.
“We have achieved food security, and for physical security we are not doing badly,’’ he said.
Buhari said he was particularly delighted that young Nigerians, including graduates, had started exploring agric-business and entrepreneurship, with many posting testimonies of good returns on their investments.
He said the incoming ministers would be guided to meet the targets of the APC-led government for the people.
The president added that regular monitoring of the incoming ministers’ performances and scaling up of targets would be done by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Buhari gave the assurance of attending the Presidential Policy Retreat organised for the incoming ministers by the OSFG.
He also called for compliance with laid down targets on key sectors of the economy that would directly impact on the livelihood of Nigerians.
In his speech, Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, said the president’s sense of justice and fairness had been inspiring to governors.
He said the challenges faced by states “were enormous,’’ but the governors had remained undaunted, assuring the president of strong support and “the very best effort’’ to overcome the obstacles.
The Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, appreciated the president for the unique leadership style of maintaining a healthy relationship with governors on individual and collective basis.
He said they had been “energised’’ to do more in their states.
The governor commended the president for making bold and courageous efforts to reposition the economy for majority of Nigerians through inclusive policies.
“The country is more secure than in 2015 and the country is more prosperous than in 2015 because you are working for the majority of the people,’’ he added.
Bagudu said the party had been repositioned after the 2019 elections to work for the benefit of the majority of Nigerians, noting that “there will be two elections this year and we need to work towards winning the two states.’’