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PROTECTING LOCAL MARKETS — NO ALLOCATION FOR FOOD, FERTILIZER IMPORTS – Buhari orders CBN; Commends Adesina, Adeduntan

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As the Federal Government rolls out the Economic Sustainability Plan and sets the goal for National Food Security, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria ”not to issue a kobo” of the country’s reserves for the importation of food items and fertilizer. A State House media statement today explained that President Buhari restated his earlier verbal directive to the apex bank, at a meeting of the National Food Security Council at the State House, Abuja, saying he will pass it down in writing that ”nobody importing food should be given money.”

In another development, the president also received in audience at State House, Abuja, the newly re-elected President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, telling him: “I congratulate you on your second and final term in office. Congratulations on winning the election. Nothing succeeds like success.” The president also rejoiced with Dr Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan, Managing Director, First Bank Nigeria Limited, as he receives Forbes Best of Africa Award, September 11, 2020, in New York, United States.

At the food security meeting, Buhari emphasized the need to boost local agriculture, the President said: ”From only three operating in the country, we have 33 fertilizer blending plants now working. We will not pay a kobo of our foreign reserves to import fertilizer. We will empower local producers.” Furthermore, President Buhari also directed that blenders of fertilizer should convey products directly to State governments so as to skip the cartel of transporters undermining the efforts to successfully deliver the products to users at reasonable costs.

The President advised private businesses bent on food importation to source their foreign exchange independently, saying ”use your money to compete with our farmers”, instead of using foreign reserves to bring in compromised food items to divest the efforts of our farmers. ”We have a lot of able-bodied young people willing to work and agriculture is the answer. We have a lot to do to support our farmers,” President Buhari said. The meeting, chaired by the President with other key members of the Council in attendance, was briefed on the food security situation prevailing in the country.

Notably, the Vice Chairman of the council and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and a Governor from each of the six geo-political zones – Jigawa, Plateau, Taraba, Ebonyi, Lagos and Kebbi, made presentations. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, outlined measures introduced by the administration to tackle the unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation as contained in the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP).

Among others, the Minister highlighted that the government will facilitate the cultivation of 20,000 to 100,000 hectares of new farmland in every State and support off-take of agro-processing to create millions of direct and indirect job opportunities. She also listed the creation of 774,000 direct jobs for a minimum of 1,000 young Nigerians in each local government, the construction of 300,000 homes every year to give a boost to jobs through the construction industry, as well as the connection of 25 million new users of electricity with the installation of Solar Home System (SHS) targeting 5 million households.

Dr Ahmed also briefed on the joint investment with the World Bank to provide intervention fund to States to improve health infrastructure. She said to ease existing financial hardships among the people, the government is also coming up with low-interest loans for mechanics, tailors, artisans, petty traders and other informal business operators.

The Minister added that the Federal Government will equally provide support to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to help them keep their employees and boost local manufacturing. Dr Ahmed explained that from the recently approved N2.3 trillion stimulus recommended by the NESP, there will be expansion of broadband connectivity to boost job opportunities in the digital economy, a planned expansion of the National Social Investment Programmes including an increase in the number of beneficiaries such as the cash transfer beneficiaries, N-Power Volunteers, the Market Moni and Trader Moni schemes. In his presentation, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono told the Council that the nation expects a bumper harvest of food items despite floods in the north and drought in the south. He quoted the latest market surveys to show that the recent hike in the price of commodities is being reversed.

On his part, Mr Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, reported the negative impact of the pandemic on the lives and livelihood of citizens, while the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali (Rtd) expressed the hope of an early reopening of the partially closed borders given the progress made with neighbouring States in joint border patrols – one of the key conditions by Nigeria for reopening of the borders.

 “NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE SUCCESS” – Buhari commends Adesina  President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday received in audience at State House, Abuja, the newly re-elected President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, telling him: “I congratulate you on your second and final term in office. Congratulations on winning the election. Nothing succeeds like success.”

Dr Adesina had overcome stiff opposition last month to win an unprecedented 100% votes from the regionals and non-regionals that make up the Bank, and was inaugurated for the second term of five years as AfDB President on September 1. “I have told so many people why I backed you,” President Buhari said.

“In 2015, at your first term, you were a Minister with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government, and I was of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But you are a good Nigerian. So I recommended you the first time. You proved to be competent, you made us proud, and I recommended you the second time.”

The President commended Dr Adesina for his support for Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, stressing that the infrastructural deficits the country has in roads, rail, power, could not be overcome without support.

“There can’t be sustainable development without infrastructure. Our efforts should be seen in the context of lack of resources, but you do your best to support us. I wish you all the best in your final term,” President Buhari said.

The AfDB President thanked the Nigerian President and people for their support, saying he was proud to be a citizen of the country.

“Home is where dreams are born. Home is where nurturing is provided. It is where support is given for realization of dreams. I am glad to belong here,” Dr Adesina said.

“When I came in June, you received me, and I shared my successes, and the difficulties facing me. You listened, and said you would stand by me. And you did. You not only stood behind me, but also beside me. No greater honour for a man than for his Commander-in-Chief to be his Supporter-in-Chief, and his Defender-in-Chief,” he added.

Adesina said Nigeria gave him air, “when I badly needed it in my lungs,” and pledged to always support the country in his private capacity, and as AfDB President. He then asked for a round of applause for the President, which was truly resounding.

BUHARI CONGRATULATES FIRST BANK MD — ADEDUNTAN President Muhammadu Buhari rejoices with Dr Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan (FCA), Managing Director, First Bank Nigeria Limited, as he receives Forbes Best of Africa Award, September 11, 2020, in New York City, United States of America.

The President notes that this is one attestation again that Nigeria has a surfeit of illustrious professionals in all spheres of endeavour, “who can hold their own in any part of the world.” The Forbes Best of Africa Award is for business personalities with a record of creating and building great global businesses that have made far-reaching contributions to the development of Africa.

President Buhari urges Dr Adeduntan to always hoist the flag of the country proudly, and tell the true Nigerian story to his colleagues and counterparts the world over.