President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday gave a strong directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to give any money for food importation.
Speaking at the fifth regular meeting with the Presidential Economic Advisory Council held at the State House in Abuja, President Buhari directed that the CBN “must not give money to import food”.
The National Bureau of Statistics puts Nigeria’s food import at $4.1 billion, making it one of the highest food-importing countries in Africa.
At the meeting called to prepare the country for the economic challenges ahead, the president assured that his administration would keep a keen eye on food inflation in the new year.
The Economic Advisory Council headed by renowned Economist Doyin Salami also emphasised the need to ensure macro-economic stability, create certainty and re-build investor confidence in the economy.
It emphasised the need to deepen structural reforms initiated by the administration as a basis for stimulating investments from domestic and international sources with a view to raising productivity in key sectors of the economy.
In taking note of the strides made in agricultural production following the programme of diversification from over-reliance on oil instituted by his administration, President Buhari wondered where the country would have found itself by now in view of the devastating economic crisis brought about by COVID-19 if the country had not embraced agriculture.
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“Already about seven states are producing all the rice we need. We must eat what we produce,” he said.
“Going back to the land is the way out. We depend on petrol at the expense of agriculture. Now the oil industry is in turmoil. We are being squeezed to produce at 1.5 million barrels a day as against a capacity to produce 2.3 million. At the same time, the technical cost of our production per barrel is high, compared to the Middle East production,” he said.
The president emphasised the place of agriculture in the efforts to restore the economy but agreed that measures must be put in place to curtail inflation in the country.
“We will continue to encourage our people to go back to the land. Our elite are indoctrinated in the idea that we are rich in oil, leaving the land for the city for oil riches. We are back to the land now. We must not lose the opportunity to make life easier for our people. Imagine what would have happened if we didn’t encourage agriculture and closed the borders. We would have been in trouble,” Buhari said.
The meeting, which reviewed and reflected on the global and domestic economy in the outgoing year, was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as well as Ministers of Finance and Humanitarian Affairs.
In specific terms, the meeting noted that the sharp deterioration in international economic environment has serious impact on Nigeria’s continuing but fragile economic recovery; that Nigeria’s economic growth continues to be constrained by obvious challenges including infrastructural deficiencies and limited resources for government financing.
It emphasised the need to make the private sector of the economy the primary source of investment, rather than government.
The meeting reviewed progress towards structural reforms in response to the economic crisis, including the institution of the Economic Sustainability Plan, the changes in electricity tariff and fuel pricing regime, the partial re-opening of the land borders, the movement towards unification of exchange rates and budgetary reforms through Finance Bill 2020 and 2021.