From: Azeez Babatunde, Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh has faulted the 9 Per cent interest rate lending on agricultural loans to farmers under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) by the Central Bank.
The Minister described it as being outrageous.
Ogbeh, who disclosed this at the second conference of the Feed the Future Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project in Abuja, said growth in the agricultural sector is not sustainable with the 25 per cent or 9 per cent interest rate.
He wondered over the possibility of economic growth with such outrageous interest rate that has lasted for over three decades.
“What can you produce at 25 per cent or even 9 per cent interest rate, why do we ask about poverty increasing, the private sector cannot grow, the economy cannot grow,” Ogbehargued.
He noted that monetary policy makers must not be allowed to have the final word on the nation’s interest rate as the current trend cannot sustain the country’s growth and interest rate cannot remain at 25 per cent or 9 per cent and sustain growth in agriculture.
Ogbeh further disclosed that agriculture in the last 15 years have received only 3 per cent of bad lending as 430 Nigerians account for N4.3 trillion in debt currently held by AMCON while 60 million farmers has only received 3 per cent.
The Minister decried situations where business owners can get N250 million loan to run an airline, but its difficult for an average farmer to get N250,000 to start his farm, stressing the need for the country to pay more attention to agriculture.
Ogbeh however identified farmers as volunteered slave workers due to costing of the amount of labour spent on food production stressing that Nigerians would not be able to buy cheap foods, since government is encouraging farmers to cost their labour, Nigerians should not complain about food prices.
He noted that the only way out is for government to intervene by supporting agriculture, as it’s being done in other countries, while bemoaning Nigeria’s indifference in the attention to the sector.
He urged the conference to examine the need to establish a Ministry of the Future that would begin to examine what would happen if by 2050, Nigeria’s population grows to 450 million and we are unable to feed ourselves, adding that it may resort to chaos and anarchy and would be the largest human dam in the whole universe.
Ogbeh further raised concern over the malnutrition problem in the country, noting that in a knowledge driven-world, if over 37 percent of Nigerian population are malnourished, noting that the brains deficiency leads to lack of productivity.
“Which means that brown-new generation of young people coming up are unfit for anything useful which is a big threat to our county. If large portion of the country is hungry and a small portion is well fed there is problem. Those conflict will come between the haves and the have not if we don’t stabilize our system,” he said.
A member of Senate Committee on Appropriation, Agriculture Senator Sabi Abdullahi further stressed the need to maintain and strengthen the multi-sectoral approach to food security and nutrition policy so as to achieve sustainable food and nutrition security for Nigeria.