From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured that the vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of the poverty cycle within 10 years is realisable with more synergy between government and the people and diligence in diversifying the economy, with agriculture as the backbone.
He gave the assurance Monday in Suduje-Daura, Katsina State, when he commissioned the first National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) Integrated Farm Estate in Suduje-Daura.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, President Buhari noted that reliance on oil had become a draw back on the economy over the years, with unpredictable and fluctuating global prices that made it more difficult to effectively plan budgets, implement and measure outcomes.
The president said the mainstay of the Nigerian economy remains agriculture, where the country already commands a competitive advantage, with good weather conditions for crop and livestock farming, available manpower and willingness to learn new skills, and good soil types for all season farming.
‘I wish to restate my commitment that getting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty is realisable. The country is robustly blessed with good weather conditions, good soil, human and material capacity, and a resilience to make a difference by all the hardworking youths.
‘We can do it, and we will do it. No excuse will be good enough to remain a mono-economy with all the challenges in oil production and fluctuating global prices when we have vast opportunities in crop and livestock production,’ he said.
President Buhari noted that a globalised world places more emphasis on competitive edge of the economy for relevance, and Nigeria would always play a leading role in the agricultural sector, with the vastness in experience, crop cultivation, animal husbandry, and more recently, a rising youth interest.
‘As the world becomes more globalised, countries will continue to draw from their competitive advantage to remain relevant. My belief, and it is also shared by many Nigerians, is that our country has a special advantage in food and livestock productions that we must harness and promote to feed ourselves, and build a firm structure for exportation.
‘Our vision of a robust agricultural economy continues to provide amazing results. Across the country today, we are seeing rising public and private interests in agriculture, especially among the youth, and a steady migration from subsistence to commercial farming.
‘With the support of public institutions, like the Central Bank and Bank of Agriculture, old tools are giving way to more mechanised styles of farming, credit lines are becoming more accessible, and farming is becoming more acceptable and fashionable. Indeed, we are witnessing a revolution in the agricultural sector,’ President Buhari added.
The president said the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) was resuscitated to meet growing needs in the agricultural sector for exploring available potentials of job opportunities, entrepreneurship and marketing, home and abroad.
According to him, ‘the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) was already moribund when we assumed office. We had to resuscitate it to meet the growing needs of the country. I am happy to see that the directive to the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of NALDA, Paul Ikonne, and his management team when I launched the National Young Farmers Scheme (NYFS) in November 2020, is gradually taking shape.
‘At the launch of the National Young Farmers Scheme, I recall that I told the management that I have directed that all NALDA’s abandoned farm estates be retrieved to enable thousands of our young men and women to be engaged in farming.
‘This administration will be achieving agricultural mechanisation through this scheme and I am confident that Nigeria under my watch, we will achieve food security in producing most of what we eat. In good harvest years we may even export our surpluses and earn foreign exchange.’
The president commended the zeal and patriotism of the NALDA team in achieving quick and sustainable results like the Integrated Farming Estate, which had pooled the strength of men, women and youths in 13 communities and channelled them into different kinds of farming in one location.
‘The Integrated Farming scheme, again, opens up more opportunities for employment, and most importantly creates communal-based system that promotes food security, skills acquisition and entrepreneurship.
‘I am impressed to see that this NALDA Integrated Farm Estate is purely organic and it further expresses my desire for Nigeria and Nigerians to have food sufficiency and begin to earn more foreign income through agriculture. As a government, what I am seeing here today shows my administration’s desire is genuine and realisable that our peoples’ orientation to farming can be changed for good,’ he noted.
President Buhari directed all Federal Government institutions to work in synergy in lifting and diversifying the economy, and NALDA should be given all the support it needs to expand the Integrated Farm Estate across the 109 senatorial zones in the country.
While appreciating the governors, who were at the event to witness the historic commissioning, particularly Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State for providing a 100 hectare land for the project, the president urged them to provide more support to Federal Government institutions that have been mandated to work assiduously in engaging more minds and hands to turn the economy around for good.
In his remarks, the Katsina governor thanked the president for the initiative of resuscitating NALDA, noting that agriculture had always being the strength of the Nigerian economy until the 70s.
He said with proper management of the project and a strong irrigation system the integrated farm would serve its full purpose, with benefits to the people and economy of the state.
Kebbi State Governor Atiku Abubakar Bagudu said all the 36 states of the federation and FCT had benefited from the administration’s policy of always targeting grassroots with development projects.
He said the closure of the border to neighboring countries further demonstrated President Buhari’s seriousness in lifting the Nigerian economy, adding that Nigeria remains sensitive to the plight of neighboring countries.
CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said the financial regulatory body will start giving special attention to NALDA, while listing some of the laudable achievements of the administration through the Anchor Borrowers scheme for farmers.
‘Your Excellency, Mr President, as you told me during the inspection and I agree with you that this is the best way to spend money,’ he said, adding: ‘You are doing everything that is possible to bring the dividends of democracy to all Nigerians.’
The NALDA Executive Secretary noted that the Integrated Farm Estate had a capacity for 400 birds in the poultry, 200,000 fishes, 500, 000 cows and goats, 540 litres of honey per harvest, 120 units of one bedroom apartment, clinic and a school.
Ikonne said the recycling process on the farm and domestication of tools and skills of workers will guarantee sustainability and 1, 500 farmers will be empowered every year to start their business after learning.
The Emir of Daura, Alhaji Faruk Umar Faruk, thanked the president for always projecting the best of the community in his office.
‘We are proud of you. We are proud of the legacy you continously project,’ he said.