FG Urges More Lending To Farmers, Targets 10,000MW In Three Years | Independent Newspapers Limited
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FG Urges More Lending To Farmers, Targets 10,000MW In Three Years

Posted: Mar 22, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday urged banks to boost lending to the agriculture sector, part of his drive to encourage diversification away from oil production. He also said his administration is targeting to generate 10,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity in three years, targeting 2,000 megawatts in 2016.

President Buhari disclosed this while declaring open the two-day National Economic Council retreat in Abuja.

“Our real wealth is in farming, livestock, hatcheries, fishery, horticulture and forestry,” Buhari told a gathering of the advisory National Economic Council (NEC) attended by state governors, the budget minister and central bank governor.

“Banks should be leaned upon to substantially increase their lending to the agricultural sector. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should bear part of the risk of such loans as a matter of national policy,” he said.

The two-day retreat was organised to generate immediate, medium and long-term viable policy solutions to the economic challenges facing the country at both the federal and state levels.

The president, who spoke of precarious situations in agriculture and health sectors, noted that both the peasant and the mechanised farmers agree with the general public that food production and self-sufficiency require urgent government action.

He said for too long “government policies on agriculture have been half-hearted, suffering from inconsistencies and discontinuities.”

Buhari explained that the issues that worry the public include rising food prices such as maize, corn, rice and garri; lack of visible impact of government presence in agriculture, lack of agricultural inputs at affordable prices, the cost of fertilisers, pesticides and labour compound the problems of farming; and absence of extension services in virtually all the states, among others.

“Inadequate infrastructure – power, roads, security leading to increase in costs of making Made-in-Nigeria goods pricier than imports, high cost of borrowing money, Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN) has been hammering on the fact that high lending rates make manufacturing unviable and unprofitable”, he noted.

President Buhari, however, declared that the power situation in the country was no longer a laughing matter as Nigerians make it out to be.

He said: “Nigerians’ favourite talking point and butt of jokes is the power situation in our country. But, ladies and gentlemen, it is no longer a laughing matter. We must and by the grace of God we will put things right. In the three years left for this administration, we have given ourselves the target of 10,000 megawatts distributable power. In 2016 alone, we intend to add 2,000 megawatts to the national grid.”

Nigeria currently generates about 4,000 megawatts, even as consumers complain about constant power cuts, high electricity bills despite power cuts, low supply of gas to power plants due to vandalism by terrorists, obsolete power distribution equipment such as transformers, power fluctuations, which damage manufacturing equipment and household appliances and low voltage which cannot run industrial machinery.

The president said though the power sector had been privatised there was no evidence of any improvement in the quality of service. “We are facing the classic dilemma of privatisation: public interest vs. profit motive. Having started, we must complete the process,” he said.

He said the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the regulatory agency, must ensure consumers get value for their money and overall public interest is safeguarded.

Buhari said while the government would fast-track the completion of pipelines from gas points to power stations and provide more security to protect gas and oil pipelines, power companies should be encouraged to replace obsolete equipment and improve the quality of service and technicians.

The president told the 22 states controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to build 250,000 housing units per annum to enable the party to meet up with its election promise of providing one million houses per year for Nigerians.

He urged the governors to consider what he called some random policy options filtered from across the spectrum of four selected sectors of the economy – power, agriculture, manufacturing and housing.

He invited foreign investors and local construction companies to join hands to cover the country’s 17 million housing deficit.

On the manufacturing sector, President Buhari said he was grieved that so many manufacturing industries in the country were groaning and frustrated because of lack of foreign exchange to import raw materials and spare parts.

Though painful, the president said he believes it is a temporary phase as there are deeper, more structural problems bedeviling local industries which the retreat should identify short and long-term answers to. Some of the problems, he said, include inadequate infrastructure, high cost of borrowing money, lack of long-term funding, under-developed science and technology research, unions’ issues and smuggling.

The president recommended, among others, that there should be more fiscal incentives for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which prove themselves capable of manufacturing quality products good enough for export: the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create more incentives and ease credit terms for lending to manufacturers.

He also called for the launch of a fresh campaign for the patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods “for example all uniforms in government-sponsored institutions should be sourced from local factories”.