By Ismail Abdulaziz
The Federal Government has approved N200 billion as intervention for provision of stable food and agricultural inputs.
President Bola Tinubu made the announcement in a nationwide broadcast tagged: “After Darkness Comes the Glorious Dawn’’ on Monday in Abuja.
He said the intervention would ensure that prices of food items remained affordable, adding that the government had the buy-in of farmers’ associations and operators in the agriculture value-chain.
‘’In the short and immediate terms, we will ensure staple foods are available and affordable.
“To this end, I have ordered the release of 200,000 metric tonnes of grains from strategic reserves to farmers across the 36 states and FCT to moderate prices.
‘’We are also providing 225,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser, seedlings and other inputs to farmers, who are committed to our food security agenda.
“Our plan to support cultivation of 500,000 hectares of farmland and all-year-round farming practice remains on course.
‘’To be specific, N200 billion out of theN500 billion approved by the National Assembly will be disbursed (for this).’’
Tinubu said that his administration would also invest N50 billion each to cultivate 150,000 hectares of rice and maize, while N50 billion each would also be ear-marked to cultivate 100,000 hectares of wheat and cassava.
The president added that an expansive agricultural programme would be implemented, targeting small-holder farmers and leveraging large-scale private sector players in the agriculture business with a strong performance record.
“In this regard, the expertise of development finance institutions, commercial banks and microfinance banks will be tapped into, to develop a viable and an appropriate transaction structure for all stakeholders.’’
Tinubu said that the Federal Government was also collaborating with the other two-tiers of government toward ensuring that various palliatives initiated by the administration got down to the grassroots.
‘’It is in the light of this that I approved the Infrastructure Support Fund for the states.
‘’This new infrastructure fund will enable states to intervene and invest in critical areas and bring relief to many of the pain points as well as revamp our decaying healthcare and educational infrastructure.
‘’The fund will also bring improvements to rural access roads to ease evacuation of farm produce to markets.
“With the fund, our states will become more competitive and on a stronger financial footing to deliver economic prosperity to Nigerians.’’
The president also announced the provision of buses to states and local government areas for mass transit at affordable rates.
‘’We have made provision to invest N100 billion between July 2023 and March to acquire 3,000 units of 20-seater CNG-fuelled buses.
‘’These buses will be shared to major transportation companies in the states, using the intensity of travel per capital.
“Participating transport companies will be able to access credit under this facility at nine per cent per annum with a 60-month repayment period,’’ the president stated.
On minimum wage for workers, Tinubu said that budget provision would be made immediately an agreement was reached with labour unions.
‘’In the same vein, we are also working in collaboration with the labour unions to introduce a new national minimum wage for workers.
‘’I want to tell our workers this: your salary review is coming.
“Once we agree on the new minimum wage and general upward review, we will make budget provision for it for immediate implementation.’’
The president used the broadcast to urge Nigerians to continue to bear with the decision on fuel subsidy removal and the preferential exchange rate system.
He promised that the decisions were based on the long-term benefit to the national economy and socio-political well-being of citizens.
‘’For several years, I have consistently maintained the position that fuel subsidy had to go. This once beneficial measure had out-lived its utility.
‘’The subsidy cost us trillions of naira yearly. Such a vast sum of money would have been better spent on public transportation, healthcare, schools, housing and even national security.
“Instead, it was being funneled into the deep pockets and lavish bank accounts of a select group of individuals.
‘’Fellow Nigerians, this period may be hard on us and there is no doubt about it that it is tough on us.
“But I urge you all to look beyond the present temporary pains and aim at the larger picture.
“All of our good and helpful plans are in the works. More importantly, I know that they will work.
‘’Sadly, there was an unavoidable lag between subsidy removal and these plans coming fully online.
“However, we are swiftly closing the time gap. I plead with you to please have faith in our ability to deliver and in our concern for your well-being.’’
Tinubu called for the support of all Nigerians of goodwill in the fight against those that had benefited from the flawed economic policies of the past and who were fighting back.
‘’As we move to fight the flaws in the economy, the people who grow rich from them predictably will fight back through every means necessary.
‘’Our economy is going through a tough patch and you are being hurt by it. The cost of fuel has gone up.
“Food and other prices have followed it. Households and businesses are struggling.
‘’Things seem anxious and uncertain. I understand the hardships you face.
“I wish there were other ways. But there is not. If there were, I would have taken that route as I came here to help not hurt the people and nation that I love.
‘’What I can offer in the immediate future is to reduce the burden our current economic situation has imposed on all of us, most especially on businesses, the working class and the most vulnerable among us,’’ he said.
The president commended state governments that had put in place one palliative measure or the other to ensure that their citizens overcame the pains of the subsidy removal. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Silas Nwoha