Nigeria can surmount economic challenges – President Buhari

Timothy Choji, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has identified some key sectors that need urgent attention in addressing the economic challenges facing the country.

Speaking at the opening of the retreat of the National Economic Council, President Buhari listed agriculture, power, manufacturing and housing as the sectors that can immediately uplift the quality of lives of the citizens of the country.

He said government is poised to increase electricity generation by ten thousand mega watts in the next three years.

Critical Sectors

President Buhari, who gave a keynote address at the retreat, said he was aware of the plight of the common man and the sectors listed by him were key to the improvement of the living standards of Nigerians. He then narrated what obtains now in the agric and power sectors.

“On Agriculture today, both the peasant and the mechanised farmers agree with the general public that food production and self-sufficiency require urgent government action. For too long government policies on agriculture have been half-hearted, suffering from inconsistencies and discontinuities. Yet our real wealth is in farming, livestock, hatcheries, fishery, horticulture and forestry. From the information available to me the issues worrying the public today are rising food prices, such as maize, corn, rice and garri and the lack of visible impact of government presence on agriculture,” he said.

On Power, he said: Nigerians’ favorite talking point and butt of jokes is the power situation in our country but it is no longer a laughing matter 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 2000 megawatts to the national grid.”

He then directed that the public must be carried along in preferring solutions to the problems.

“These problems I have enumerated are by no means exhaustive and some of the solutions I am putting forward are not necessarily the final word on our agricultural reform objectives: First, we need to carry the public with us for new initiatives. Accordingly the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the States should convene early meetings of stakeholders and identify issues with a view to addressing them,” The President said.

He said Ministry must inform the public in all print and electronic media on government efforts to increase local food production to dampen escalating food prices.

Similarly, he directed banks to substantially increase their lending to the agricultural sector and the Central Bank of Nigeria should bear part of the risk of such loans as a matter of national policy.

President Buhari urged state governments to increase their financial support through community groups, in collaboration with the leaders of such community groups like farmers cooperatives.

On housing, he said the country needs an estimated sixteen million units of houses to address the shortfall in the sector and it is possible to build one million units of houses annually, in line with his campaign promise.

For the Manufacturing sector, President Buhari said there should be more fiscal incentives for Small and Medium Enterprises that can manufacture quality products good enough for export and the Central Bank of Nigeria should create more incentives and ease credit terms for lending to manufacturers.

He then directed that a fresh campaign to patronize Made-in-Nigeria goods should be launched and all uniforms in government-sponsored institutions should be sourced from local factories.