By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that his administration will keep a keen eye on food inflation in the New Year.
Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, in a statement, said Buhari gave the assurance at the fifth regular meeting with the Presidential Economic Advisory Council held on Tuesday at the State House, Abuja.
Buhari directed that the CBN “must not give money to import food. Already, about seven states are producing all the rice we need. We must eat what we produce.”
He noted with satisfaction the strides made in agricultural production following the programme of diversification from over reliance on oil instituted by his administration.
The president 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.
“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.
He further emphasized 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 is 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,” he added.
The meeting, which was for a review of, and reflections on the global and domestic economy in the outgoing year, was attended by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as well as Ministers of Finance and Humanitarian Affairs.
The presidential aide disclosed that the meeting agreed on a number of measures.
The meeting, in specific terms, noted the sharp deterioration in international economic environment and its impact on Nigeria’s continuing but fragile economic recovery.
It noted that Nigeria’s economic growth continued to be constrained by obvious challenges including infrastructural deficiencies and limited resources for government financing.
It emphasized 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 crises, including the institution of the Economic Sustainability Plan and the changes in electricity tariff and fuel pricing regime.
It also reviewed the partial re-opening of the Land Borders, the movement towards unification of exchange rates and budgetary reforms through Finance Bill 2020 and 2021.
It agreed that, to prepare the country for the challenges ahead, it was imperative to ensure Macro-economic stability, create certainty and re-build investor confidence in the economy.
It emphasized 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.