We Met Economy In Meltdown But We'll Make Things Better – VP Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday stated that the APC Government met an economy that was already in a meltdown, due to certain wrong decisions that were taken in the past.

He assured Nigerians that Muhammadu Buhari administration is doing its best to save  the situation, adding that the country did not adequately exploit the oil boom era to invest in infrastructure and in the area of diversifying the economy.

The Vice-President, who disclosed this while inaugurating the agricultural sector road map titled, ‘The Green Alternative: Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016 – 2020’, in Abuja, said, “The present administration came into office to meet an economy essentially in meltdown.”

He said the Federal Government had concluded that before the end of September this year, the Bank of Agriculture would start giving out single digit interest loans to farmers in Nigeria.

On the issue of economic recession, he expressed worry that during the period when oil was sold for over $100 per barrel, the country did not increase investment in infrastructure.

“We knew that we had to set alright the economy and put it back on the path of sustainable growth with job opportunities for our teeming population. So, one of the critical components of that plan is to position agriculture as the arrow-head of our economic recovery efforts. If we get agriculture right, we will get our economy right.”

Osinbajo stated that the road map identified two key challenges and that the first was the inability to meet domestic food requirement.

He said this is a productivity issue driven by Nigeria’s inefficient input systems and farming models.

He said the second challenge was the inability to export at levels required by the market and that this was due to an inefficient system, weak inspectorate measures and poor coordination among relevant agencies.

“The Green Alternative has set out strategies for resolving these challenges. I’m personally impressed that the road map does not dismiss the agricultural policy of the past,” he added.

The Vice-President noted that the plan in the road map aligned with other economic policies of the Federal Government.

He said, “Just to give some obvious examples, we cannot have a policy of encouraging local production of food and on the other hand have a high tariff on imported agricultural equipment. There is no way that we can encourage local production while we allow unbridled importation of the same things that we are trying to produce.”

Osinbajo observed that the financing of agriculture was also a crucial policy, adding that “with double digit interest rate at the moment, we have developed some funding options in the short term.”

He stated that the anchor borrowing programme of the Central Bank which allowed farmers to get loans at single digit interest rates had been very useful, as it was pivotal in enabling rice farmers in Kebbi State to increase their production considerably.

“The Ministry of Finance has concluded plans to recapitalise and re-engineer the Bank of Agriculture. We expect that before the end of this quarter, the BOA should be able to give single digit interest rate loans to farmers,” he said.

The inauguration of the agricultural road map had various ministers and heads of different agencies of government in attendance.