This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Presidency Claims Nigeria Has Reduced Food Imports By 40 Percent

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President Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria has reduced its food imports by 40 per cent and increased its local production of rice, cassava, sorghum, cotton and cocoa from 25 to 56 per cent in the last two years.

A report card presented by the presidency yesterday said for the first time since independence, the Nigerian agricultural sector had attracted foreign direct investment (FDI) of $4 billion over the past two years in the form of private sector letters of commitment to invest in the agriculture value chain ranging from food crops to export crops, fisheries and livestock.

However, the presidency failed to provide details of the rise in agricultural produce in terms of tonnage and output, and how this has impacted the country's food import bill. Giving an overview of the administration's performance in 2013, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, described the year as one that was unprecedented in terms of policy decisions and major project execution, in spite of the pockets of distractions.

Okupe said contrary to the impression being created by vocal leaders of the opposition, Nigeria under President Goodluck Jonathan has moved significantly forward in many sectors from where it was in 2011.

The presidential aide said the transformation which had taken place in the economy, transportation, agriculture, power and other critical sectors were the routes which all developed nations had taken in the past, but which unfortunately had not been pursued with zeal by Nigeria under past administration.

According to Okupe, "It is an incontrovertible fact that Nigeria under Jonathan has reduced its food imports by about 40 per cent and increased its local production of rice, cassava, sorghum, cotton and cocoa in percentages ranging from 25 to 56 in the last two years.

"For the first time since independence, the Nigerian agriculture sector is attracting unprecedented foreign direct investment. Over the past two years, the sector has attracted $4 billion in private sector executed letters of commitment to invest in the agriculture value chain, from food crops, to export crops, fisheries and livestock.

"The number of private sector seed companies grew from 10 to 70 within one year. Over $7 billion of investment from Nigerian businesses have been made to develop new fertilizer manufacturing plants, which will make Nigeria the largest producer and exporter of fertilizer in Africa.

"It is also noteworthy that agriculture lending as a share of total bank lending has risen from two per cent to six per cent in two years."

On the power sector reforms initiated by the president in 2010, the presidential aide explained that the major component of the reform programme, which was the privatisation of the generation and distribution of power infrastructure was successfully accomplished in 2013, thus putting Nigeria on a sure path of steady power supply in the no distant future.

Okupe explained that with the completion of this process in 2013, as well as the completion of 10 National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs), Nigeria for the first time in history, had moved away from a vertically integrated state-owned and very poorly managed electricity industry to a modern private sector-led fully regulated market with the right incentives capable of attracting accelerated new investments to kick start the re-industrialisation of Nigeria.

Other major achievements of the Jonathan administration in the outgoing year, according to the presidency, include the recovery of the Nigerian stock market, which he said was made possible by a combination of sound fiscal and monetary policies as well as the transparent conduct of its affairs, which rekindled investors' confidence in the market.

He said: "All these people who are bringing huge resources to invest in the Nigerian economy are no fools or novices. Procter and Gamble is building one of the biggest manufacturing plants in the world here in Nigeria. "Indorama is building the world's second largest fertilizer plant. General Electric is investing over a billion dollars in our power sector. Dangote is constructing a $9 billion refinery and petrochemical plant. Nigeria is the number one investment destination in this continent.

"These are the ultimate job creators for millions of our youths. They are definitely an acknowledgement of something being done better than they had ever been done and we can't but appraise same.

"We cannot pretend that it was not the Jonathan administration that resuscitated rail transportation and is currently constructing a new standard guage rail line between Abuja and Kaduna, Ajaokuta and Warri, as well as construction of 46 major roads in all parts of the country."

Okupe said those who always seek to use the security challenges in some parts of Northern Nigeria as the only barometer to measure Jonathan's performance were not being fair to the president considering the fact that the war on insurgency and terrorism has never been a quick fix anywhere in the world.

While reminding the public that the bombings and killings by insurgents happened in Kano, Kogi, Niger, Yobe, Borno, Sokoto, Adamawa and the Federal Capital Territory in 2011 and 2012, the presidential aide noted that the activities of these terrorists had been largely contained and restricted to one or two states in 2013.

"Yes, we are not where we hope to be but it will be sheer mischief to insist that we are where we were or as some wickedly say, we are worse off than we were. Definitely, their position is not based on facts and so should be ignored by Nigerians," Okupe stated

While reiterating the determination of the president to remain steadfast in his pursuit of accelerated economic growth and stability, peace and development of all parts of Nigeria, Okupe said the federal government would consolidate on the growth recorded in the outgoing year by completing all ongoing projects as well as initiating new programmes and projects especially in sectors that would create jobs and empower Nigerian youths.

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