President Muhammadu Buhari said on Wednesday that the ambitious collaboration agreement Nigeria signed with Morocco to revive the abandoned Nigerian fertilizer blending plants would create thousands of jobs and save Nigeria $200 million of foreign exchange and over N60 billion in subsidy.
President Buhari gave the assurance while presenting the record N7.298 trillion proposed 2017 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly where he specially appealed to all state governors to make available land to potential farmers for the purpose of this agricultural programme.
“I am pleased to announce today that on 2nd December 2016, Morocco and Nigeria signed an ambitious collaboration agreement to revive the abandoned Nigerian fertilizer blending plants. The agreement focuses on optimizing local materials while only importing items that are not available locally. This program has already commenced and we expect that in the first quarter of 2017,” the President told the lawmakers.
The President said the agreement was in line with current efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in food and other products, and that a lot of work needed to be done across the various value chains.
He noted that for agriculture, inputs must be available and affordable unlike in the past, basic inputs, like the NPK fertilizer, were imported although key ingredients like urea and limestone are readily available locally. He said this led to the abandonment of Nigeria’s local blending plants with jobs lost and families destroyed.
“We must take advantage of current opportunities to export processed agricultural products and manufactured goods. Let it not be lost on anyone that the true drivers of our economic future will be the farmers, small and medium sized manufacturers, agro-allied businesses, dressmakers, entertainers and technology start-ups. They are the engines of our imminent economic recovery. And their needs underpin the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP),” the president said.
While outlining some features of the Plan. Buhari said the underlying philosophy of the ERGP was optimising the use of local content and empowering local businesses.
“The role of government must be to facilitate, enable and support the economic activities of the Nigerian businesses as I earlier mentioned. Fiscal, monetary and trade policies will be fully aligned and underpinned by the use of policy instruments to promote import substitution.
Government will however at all times ensure the protection of public interest,” he assured.
While assuring that the Federal Government will change its habits so as to change the nation, the President expressed optimism that by this simple principle, the country will increasingly grow and process its own food, as well as manufacture things and refine our own petroleum products.
“We will buy ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods. We will encourage garment manufacturing and Nigerian designers, tailors and fashion retailers. We will patronize local entrepreneurs. We will promote the manufacturing powerhouses in Aba, Calabar, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Nnewi, Onitsha, and Ota. From light manufacturing to cement production and petrochemicals, our objective is to make Nigeria a new manufacturing hub,” he stated.
Buhari further observed that currently, the demand of the urban consumer has presented an opportunity for rural producers in Nigeria. He said “across the country, our farmers, traders and transporters are seeing a shift in their fortunes.
“Nigerians who preferred imported products are now consuming made in Nigeria products. From Argungu in Kebbi to Abakalaki in Ebonyi, rice farmers and millers are seeing their products move. We must replicate such success in other staples like wheat, sugar, soya, tomato and dairy products.
The President said already, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Organised Private Sector and a handful of Nigerian commercial banks, have embarked on an ambitious private sector-led N600 billion program to push us towards self-sufficiency in three years for these products.