EUCLID MYKE, Abuja
THE Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Chief Audu Ogbeh yesterday revealed that the present economic crunch and near recession currently ravaging the country was created during the regime of former military President Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
The minister who was speaking in a special town hall meeting organized by the Ministry of Information in Collaboration with The Alumni Association of The National Institute (AANI) in Abuja maintained that the present economic woes could be traced back to the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) introduced during the administration of Babangida.
Ogbeh further declared that government is aware of the degree of hardship that is ravaging the country and is working on a progressive and sustainable path to ensure that the economy recovers as soon as possible.
He said, “We have heard of terrible stories of parent using their children as collateral for food without intending to get them back. All these we heard. The present situation didn’t just happened, it was bound to come and I can say it is dated back to 1986 when we adopted the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), Ogbeh insisted.
Taking his audience through the memory lane, he explained that although many right thinking Nigerians and crack economists were opposed to the adoption of SAP, the IBB government paid deaf ear to all explanations, insisted and foisted SAP on Nigerians to cushion the effect of the International Monetary Fund, IMF loan which he had earlier obtained and the consequent devaluation of the naira upon which the loan was granted by the Fund.
Ogbeh disclosed that while other developing countries like Indian and Malaysia rejected the move, it is evident that they are better for it as they have become food sufficient nations and industrial tigers while Nigeria is still heavily food and technology dependent and spends as much as $20bn annually on food importation.
However, Ogbeh said that on assumption of office, the Muhammadu Buhari government met a lot of defective policies and challlenges from the previous administration, saying that government decided to deepen and change some of these policies so that the economy will regenerate.
In the agricultural sector, the minister said that government has invested heavily in agriculture through procurement of improved seedlings and through subsidy on fertilizer so that there will be improved yield while adding that government is committed to the establishment of ranches to improve meat and milk yields from cows as well as eliminate farmers and herdsmen persistent clashes.
He said, “We are about to restructure the Bank of Agriculture, every farmer would be a shareholder, we want to bring the interest rate to as close to 5% because we have to decide what we eat, people would criticize us for that, but that is what they do in Europe, there is no European country where interest rate are higher than 3.5%. to Agriculture.
“We embarked on the new soil map of this country, which has produced new blend of fertilizer; I want to ask everyone of you here never ever to go to your farm and apply MPK 15, 15, 16 no piece of soil in this country can absorb it, you are destroying the soil and diminishing your yield. It would soon be published in a booklet for every Nigeria to have the kind of fertilizer suitable for all crops in all state of the Federation”.