Forex Ban on Food Importation, Our Ultimate Desire
THE Buhari administration made some giant strides in the first term. Agriculture was a major sector in which the Federal Government recorded a major success as foreign exchange bill on food imported reduced drastically. States entered into collaboration to invest in rice production, a major food staple in Nigeria. The Federal Government was particularly encouraged by statistical returns on food importation, and rightly so, to decide to do more. President Muhammadu Buhari issued a directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria to not make foreign exchange facilities available for food importation. Need we say here that a people that depend on external sources for feeding are vulnerable to indignities and insecurity. Until they are able to feed themselves, the people live at the mercy of those who feed them. Therefore food security is crucial to territorial integrity and is a sure form of defence against external aggression.
WE of The Hope support wholeheartedly every rational effort of the Federal Government to discourage food importation and ensure that Nigeria attains self sufficiency in agriculture and food production. We also advocate that government should observe due process in policy making and policy pronouncement. The Central Bank of Nigeria is an institution saddled with among other things, providing professional support to government in designing fiscal policy. The Bank has in its employ experts in economic and finance that gather relevant data and analyze such as a basis for fiscal and economic policy. Government should not circumvent this role, nor attempt to breathe down upon its policies deriving from political considerations. Perhaps government should simply communicate with the CBN its desire to remove food import as an item on foreign exchange and allow the institution to work it out professionally.
WE of The Hope look forward to the point where Nigeria would not only stop food importation but would be a major exporter to Africa and the international community. To achieve that status, there are steps we believe that government should take. The first step is to consolidate on the gains in the agricultural sector in the last four years. It must be realized that waste is a major challenge in the agricultural sector. Due to lack of access to rural areas, a lot of food crops cannot be transported, and get wasted. Government needs to invest on rural roads and provide infrastructure for a better rural living. Secondly, attention must be paid to preservation of food crops including fruits and vegetables and this calls for a radical improvement in power supply across Nigeria. In this regard, an efficient modern storage system including silos should be in place to enhance the essence of food production. A third step concerns mapping out the whole country according to vegetation and farm products to ensure specialization and efficiency. More importantly however is the issue of safety and security of farmers and their farms. Indeed, subsistence farming which constitutes a larger part of the agricultural system has suffered a lot in the last one year or so. Kidnapping and banditry have chased a great population out of their farms and the consequences may not be apparent until the next harvest season. To close the border against food importation without allaying the fears of farmers and thereby restoring them to their farms appears as invitation to starvation and anarchy. The gains of agriculture in the last four years were attended with huge electoral reversals simply because of the hardship experienced by a good percentage of citizens that could not feed as at when due. Government must take deliberate steps to avoid a repeat of that experience. These are some of the ‘things to do’ to consolidate on the gains of the past.
BEYOND that, there must be a revolution in the agric sector. To this effect, the traditional system of farming must be replaced with the modern method. A lot would be gained if government encourages the cooperative system of farming. The Bank of Agriculture would have to be reorganized and its portfolios repackaged to serve farmers and not the various syndicates that corner its facilities. Government must be told that the various facilities that are advertised do not reach farmers. They are hijacked by various cabals that specialize in cornering subsidies and converting them to uses other than official ones. These vested interests corner such subsidies to, among other things, import food, an action which negates government policies.
WE of The Hope believe that a comprehensive review of policy on agriculture that takes cognizance of technology, human capital, rural life, transportation, monetary and fiscal policy, security and transportation is long overdue. Each of the relevant ministries, departments and agencies can work on these, and there would be no need for controversial or contradictory pronouncements and directives.
THERE would be no need for allocation of foreign currency for food importation, and together with the Federal Government we shall be satisfied.