President Muhammadu Buhari has said that new investments and reforms in Nigeria’s agriculture sector hold the key to the government’s goal of taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.
Speaking at a panel discussion on the second day of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, President Buhari underlined his administration’s resolve to actualise his promise to reduce poverty in the country.
In a statement issued yesterday by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, he said that the Nigerian leader joined President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya in a plenary session to discuss ‘‘What’s next for Africa? How will investment and trade transform the continent into the next great economic success story?’’
On poverty reduction in Nigeria, Buhari pointed to the vigorous implementation of the key reforms of his administration in the agriculture sector including soft loans for farmers, availability and affordability of farming inputs and restriction on food imports grown locally.
He said: ‘‘We have vast arable land in Nigeria. We have encouraged young men and able-bodied persons, especially the uneducated ones to go back to the land. We have encouraged them by giving soft loans to farmers through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and by making fertiliser available and selling at half the price that it used to be.
‘‘We have also ensured a stop on the importation of food because we are capable of achieving food security,’’ he said.
Responding to a question posed to the discussants on if Russia is now the new best friend of Africa, President Buhari said that country is ‘‘visibly helping’’ Nigeria in all the priority areas of his government – security, economy and the fight against corruption-, for which he is grateful.
The president added that Russia had remained a committed development partner to Nigeria, recounting its support during the country’s civil war.
‘‘Those who focus on the progress of developing countries would see what Russia right from its days as the Soviet Union had done for us. We will never forget that we went over our civil war with the help of Russia and since then politically and economically, the Russians are helping Nigeria in so many ways,’’ he said.
On his anti-corruption war, the Nigerian leader described graft as an ‘‘embarrassing topic’’ for developing countries and highlighted the measures taken by the federal government to eradicate it through lawful enforcement and preventive measures.
‘‘Those who are following our administration’s efforts on accountability at all levels will notice that we have made some progress. We have recovered hundred millions of dollars from people who took them out of the country and the economy.
‘‘We have recovered assets and given directive that they should be sold and the money returned to government coffers.
‘‘We have also created a Treasury Single Account (TSA) where all government monies and revenues go into a single account so that we can trace how they go out,’’ he said.
The president also held talks with King Salman in Riyadh, on the sidelines of the second day of the conference, where the two leaders committed themselves to deeper partnership for the development of both countries.
President Buhari and the Saudi monarch, according to a statement by Shehu, reviewed the aspects of cooperation between both countries and agreed to advance cooperation in the areas of oil and gas, given the similarities of both countries as big producers of the commodity.
In this regard, King Salman assured Buhari of the willingness of Saudi Arabia to invest in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, thereby strengthening the strategic partnership between the Saudi Energy company, Aramco and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Both leaders also discussed the current regional and global security situation, and President Buhari expressed his desire for a quick and peaceful resolution of contentious issues in the region.