Yenagoa — President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, vowed to see through his administration's agenda to diversify the Nigerian economy away from its current mono status.
He said it was no longer viable for the country to depend on a sole product to pull out of its present stage of development , noting that his vision to make agriculture the mainstay of Nigeria's economy remains on course.
In a brief video, where he made the comments at the 21st Farmer's Day celebration, under the aegis of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company's (NAOC) Green River Project, Buhari lauded Nigerian farmers for rising to the occasion, noting that they remained critical stakeholders in Nigeria's economic growth.
"Since oil seems to be the cash cow of the Nigerian economy, we have no option but to return agriculture as our mainstay.
" I wish you happy celebration and a productive planting season ahead. We need to return to old times, diversifying our economy can no longer be something we pay lip service to", the President said in the short message.
Also represented during the event, which saw the unveiling of an expansive and NAOC/GRP farm, following a memorandum of understanding (MOU) the company signed with farmers during the event last year, were Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Rochas Okorocha of Imo and the Bayelsa Governor, Seriake Dickson, who was represented by his Deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd).
In his comments, Dickson said that the only route to achieving prosperity in Nigeria was self-reliance driven by agriculture and not total dependence on oil and gas.
"With this, I state that there is no other way to go in this country today. The only route to prosperity and self-reliance is farming.
"These actions by Agip, not only to get our farmers empowered but also trained are commendable. They have assisted in training and also empowering our young and old men as well as women who were once focused on oil as the only source of living", he said.
Chairman of NAOC, Umberto Carrara, in his address, lauded Buhari for sending in goodwill messages in the last two editions of the programme, noting that the company will continue to support food security in the country.
"It is my pleasure to note that the little seed we sowed 30 years ago, by establishing the NAOC JV Green River Project has grown and producing good fruits as evidenced here. The impacts in the communities have been impressive", he said.
The Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, NAOC, Massimo Insulla, said the annual Farmers' Day was set aside by the company and its joint venture partners to celebrate the achievements of farmers over the last planting season.
He said the celebration themed 'GRP: Actively leading the a future of the Niger Delta', was the second in a row being hosted in Bayelsa, noting that the cooperation between farmers and Agip had been a source of employment and improvement of standard of living for various communities.
Aside the new farm, Insulla said that Agip was collaborating with the university of Port Harcourt for extension services and other major Nigerian academic institutions to integrate agric as an alternative to oil theft, pipeline vandalism and bunkering.
The MD added that a 10-hectare plant propagation centre had been completed in Kwale, Delta state, a cold room in Twon-Brass, Bayelsa, a bread bakery in Olugbobiri, including the provision of 5,000 poultry birds to farmers.
He added that 17,000 plantain suckers, 2,500 cassava stems, 350 kilograms of maize seeds, 2,000 seed yams and 850,000 fingerlings were provided for farmers in the region during the year under review.
In his welcome remarks, the General Manager, District, Marco Rotondi, said there was the need to rethink how the country treats and distributes her resources.
"Access to food will be extremely crucial. In addition, Nigeria has the impelling need to diversify its economy, which is solely relying on oil and gas", he said.