• One million tonnes of rice to be harvested this year, reveals Ogbeh
By Doris Obinna
The Federal Government has expressed determination to end the importation of food items that could be grown locally and save the country a whopping N22 billion spent yearly.
This is coming at a time when the Federal Government is expecting the harvest of one million tonnes of rice in Kebbi State this year.
Revealing this in Lagos yesterday, at a town hall meeting held by the Federal Government with members of the Newspapers Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN), Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the government has put machinery in motion to ensure that the N22billion spent on importation of food into the country is saved.
According to him, the government is working towards attaining self-sufficiency in food production in the next two years, revealing that huge successes are being recorded in the cultivation of rice, wheat, beans, soya beans and other staple food.
Ogbeh said, at the meeting, which also had in attendance, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, that it was painful that Nigeria loses N22 billion yearly to the importation of rice, beans, wheat, egg, fish, meat, vegetable, milk, tomato paste and fresh tomatoes, which could be easily grown in the country.
Said he: “Agriculture is the focus of diversification. Now N22 billion is spent on food importation yearly. Importation has brought Nigeria to zero. We lose $5 million daily in the importation of rice. We spend N600 million yearly to import fish. The world is at war. Economic warfare is ruthless. We have been the victims. Now we are broke.”
The minister said the challenges being faced include resistance from people and countries who do not want Nigeria to grow in agriculture as well as the problem of funding, while expressing optimism that these would be overcome.
Also speaking at the meeting, Finance Minister Adeosun lamented that the Federal Government spends N165 million monthly to pay salary to a workforce put at about 1.2 million.
She revealed that the Federal Government is making effort to audit the payroll, with the view to eliminating ghost workers, saying that when this is successfully done, the wage bill would come down.
Adeosun projected that in the next one year the government would achieve financial discipline, transparency and accountability.
She said that the government is doing everything to cut wastages and block all leakages.
“We will hold people accountable. We will prosecute those who steal our money. We will have more diversified economy in the next one years,” she said.
On his part, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said the government has achieved a great feat by defeating Boko Haram.
According to him, “we have rooted out insurgency. A year ago, highways were shut. Now they are open. Before now, Boko Haram established a government in a part of the country and hoisted its flag. Now, there is no part of the country the group is occupying. In fact, the military is in a final push at Boko Haram’s fortress in Sambisa forest.”
The minister of environment, Amina Mohammed, said the Federal Government would start the clean up Ogoni soon, devote effort in clean water project, stop firewood burning and engage in tree planting.