The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and stakeholders in the renewed drive for economic diversification through agriculture have reiterated that agriculture presents the major opportunity of a long-term sustainable development in the country.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said with the current levels of unemployment in Nigeria, agriculture sector remained vital to the efforts of the Federal Government in diversifying the country’s monolithic economy away from oil. Emefiele, who made the observation at the weekend in Abuja, during the stakeholders’ meeting on the operational framework for the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS) initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari, also said the meeting was in efforts to consolidate the collective efforts of the monetary and fiscal authorities to diversify the country’s economy.
Meanwhile, the Bankers Committee said nation’s deposit money banks are now ready to disburse its pooled five per cent equity contributions at N26 billion, meant to support small businesses in the agriculture sector at concessional rates.
The Chief Executive Officer, Unity Bank Plc, Mrs. Tomi Somefun, who spoke for the committee, affirmed that the special fund was set up to the tune of N26 billion to provide equity contributions to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), particularly those in the agriculture sector.”We mentioned before that the framework for this was being developed. The Bankers committee can confirm that this is being finalised and disbursement will commence by the end of this fourth quarter.
“To further support this the CBN has created a special export intervention scheme to support export and of course, that will generate additional foreign exchange. This will be closely monitored and we expect a lot of SMEs to benefit from this scheme.”The issue we had in the past was the failure of some exporters to repatriate the foreign exchange generated, and the CBN has agreed with the Bankers Committee to sanction defaulting exporters.
But the Director of Banking Supervision Department at CBN, Alhaji Ahmed Abdullahi, added: “This export scheme is different from the Export Expansion Grant of the Federal Government. This one is a CBN initiative to boost exports, so that exporters can access the fund just like the Commercial Agricultural Scheme or the Anchor Borrowers Programme to boost their businesses.
Similarly, the agriculture stakeholders meeting organised by CBN, which had the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, state governors, among others in attendance, was expected to significantly improve the agricultural output, drive economy growth, reduce unemployment among youth and increase national cohesion.
While acknowledging the twin-challenge of youth restiveness and unemployment, the Emefiele stressed the need for stakeholders to confront the challenge with innovative thinking, using agriculture as a fulcrum of a long-term sustainable and profitable approach.Also speaking, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, commended the courage of the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and his team, in introducing the policy on the restriction of access to foreign exchange for some 41 items, which can be produced in Nigeria.
For Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, who doubles as the Head, Technical Sub-committee of AADS and Chairman of the Presidential Initiative on Rice and Wheat, commended the efforts of CBN in galvanizing rice production revolution through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme. Bagudu appealed to Nigerians to support the AADS, noting that even industrialised nations have had to protect their agricultural production through tariffs and trade policy, especially in areas the country has comparative advantage.