BUHARI ORDERS CBN NOT TO PAY FOR IMPORTATION OF FOOD ITEMS, FERTILIZER AGAIN

From Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja

Going by President Muhmmadu Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), importers food items and fertiliser would not enjoy patronage from the apex bank.

CBN Governor Godwin Emiefile on Thursday got the Presidential order to withhold funding from for food and fertiliser importation during yesterday’s meeting of the National Food Security Council (NFSC), held in the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

The order given issued verbally by the President would soon be documented, a statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu.

According to the President, Buhari restated his earlier verbal directive to the apex bank, saying he would pass it down in writing that “nobody importing food should be given money.”

The Federal Government had rolled out the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), the core of which is self-sustainability and massive job creation through agriculture.

Emphasizing the need to boost local agriculture, the President said: “From only three operating in the country, we have 33 fertiliser blending plants now working. We will not pay a kobo of our foreign reserves to import fertiliser. We will empower local producers.”

The President also directed that blenders of fertiliser should convey products directly to state governments so as to skip the cartel of transporters undermining the efforts to successfully deliver the products to users at reasonable costs.

He advised private businesses bent on food importation to source their foreign exchange independently, saying “use your money to compete with our farmers instead of using foreign reserves to bring in compromised food items to divest the efforts of our farmers.

“We have a lot of able-bodied young people willing to work and agriculture is the answer. We have a lot to do to support our farmers.”

The meeting, chaired by the President with other key members of the Council in attendance, was briefed on the food security situation prevailing in the country.

At the meeting were: Vice Chairman of the Council and Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu; Chief of Staff to the President Prof Ibrahim Gambari and a governor from each of the six geo-political zones – Jigawa, Plateau, Taraba, Ebonyi, Lagos and Kebbi. They all made presentations.

Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister Mr. Zainab Ahmed outlined measures introduced by the administration to tackle the unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation as contained in the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP).

She also highlighted that the government will facilitate the cultivation of 20,000 to 100,000 hectares of new farmland in every State and support off-take of agro-processing to create millions of direct and indirect job opportunities.

She listed the creation of 774,000 direct jobs for a minimum of 1,000 young Nigerians in each local government, the construction of 300,000 homes every year to give a boost to jobs through the construction industry, as well as the connection of 25 million new users of electricity with the installation of Solar Home System (SHS) targeting 5 million households.

Mrs. Ahmed also briefed on the joint investment with the World Bank to provide intervention fund to States to improve health infrastructure.

She said to ease existing financial hardships among the people, the government will soon come up with low-interest loans for mechanics, tailors, artisans, petty traders and other informal business operators.

The minister added that the Federal Government will equally provide support to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to help them keep their employees and boost local manufacturing.

She explained the N2.3 trillion stimulus cash recommended by the NESP will, among other benefits, bring about the expansion of broadband connectivity to boost job opportunities in the digital economy.

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