The Managing Director, Silicon Valley Nigeria Economic Developments, H.RH. Chief Ambassador Aminat Temitope Ajayi, has said the current harsh impacts of the removal of petrol subsidy by President Bola Tinubu, will be cushioned by national food security subsidy.
She stated that it is important to tap into the great agricultural potential of Nigeria to address national food insecurity or hunger, unemployment, inflation, revenue generation for the govenrment and the development of small and medium enterprises.
In an interview with journalists on Monday, she lauded the Federal Government under President Tinubu for declaring a state of national emergency on food security to stem the current food inflation in Nigeria.
She stated that it is lamentable that Nigeria is bedevilled by food insecurity with over 200m population. She noted that Nigeria has a total agricultural area of 70.8 million hectares, of which 34 million hectares are arable land, 6.5 million hectares are used for permanent crops, and 30.3 million hectares are meadows. She said it is sad that with such a great natural endowment, Nigeria imported food worth N7.8trn in 6 years.
Quoting the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), she stated over N1.9 trillion worth of food imports business transactions were conducted in 2022 as against the N2 trillion expended on food importation in 2021.
She added that in 2020, Nigeria imported N1.2 trillion worth of agricultural products and imported over N959 billion of food products in 2019. She added that Nigeria also imported N857.6 billion and N886.8 billion worth of food products in 2018 and 2017 respectively.
She also said that in 2022, a total of N1.9 trillion worth of food products were imported into the country and that the value of food imports in the second quarter of 2022 stood at N464.45 billion, showing an increase when compared to the value recorded in the previous quarter.
According to her, Nigeria has great resources and potential to produce food for the citizens, reduce substantially the imports and even export more.
Chief Ajayi said it is heartwarming that the president Federal Government under President Tinubu has indicated great commitment to agriculture going by the recent media briefing by the Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy, Dele Alake.
The SVNED boss said her organisation had already keyed into the food security programme of the government through her partnership with Arewa farms, NIRSAL Microfinance Bank, and other organisations.
She stated that SVNED has trained farmers and entrepreneurs and appealed to the Federal Government to support them so as to bring their wealth of training to boost food production and entrepreneurship in the country.
She commended President Tinubu and Alake.
She said that in her commitment to agricultural development, she introduced the Arewa farmers to the Oni of Ife, His Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, who is also Co-Chairman of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN). She explained that Oni accepted to be one of the Patrons of the programme.
She also said that she took the Arewa farmers to Etsu Nupe, His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr.) Yahaya Abubakar, who also accepted to be the Chairman of the group.
Chief Ajayi said, “The solution to food subsidy is national food security subsidy. I thank God that SVNED has partnered with all the Arewa farmers in Nigeria to support food security and food subsidy. We have applied on their behalf for the intervention loan for agriculture and small cottage industries. The application has already been submitted waiting for approval. The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL Plc.) has already approved SVNED as a registered edi to facilitate the training and processing.
“The mandate is from NISRAL MicrofFinace Bank appointing us as one of its Entrepreneurship Development Institutions in the Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS) Loan Programme for 2023. One of the mandates is to train entrepreneurs in business best business practices and how to run successful businesses. After that, we certify them and forward their list to NISRAL to be able to provide access to finance so that they will be able to start up and run successfully.
“The aim of the training is to be sure that people become enterprising so that they do not just give people money and they do not even know how to use it. Or even those who know how to use it do not know how to manage their businesses and at the end of the day, they will not do successful businesses. So SVNED is there to bridge the gap and provide them with the necessary entrepreneurship skills and business acumen to be able to run small businesses effectively.
“We have submitted some names of the trained entrepreneurs and farmers pending approval.
“We have also registered all the Commodity Presidents. SVNED is most grateful to this present administration. They have to supply our farmers with seeds, inputs and fertilizer because they are already in the system. We have been on this since last year. We have been training Nigerians.”
She added, “For the president to remove fuel subsidy, the only thing that can combat that is food subsidy and once there is food, everything is solved. We are getting the youths involved in the whole process. We thank NISRAL Plc and NISRAL MicroFinance that has partnered with us. We are happy that the CBN is working with the present administration to really go to the grassroots and give this intervention fund to the right people that have been trained. It is a loan with a single-digit interest rate which will be paid in six years with one-year moratorium.
“I have to commend Mr Dele Alake for that bold step. That is the type of Media Assistant to the President that we want in this country. The person who will be the mouthpiece of our dear President, Bola Tinubu, GCFR, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“In my past press statements, I clearly stated that this Present President is sent by the Almighty God.
“We have started planting in Jos, Plateau. We have already existing 1,000 hectares of land already cleared and we have started planting it. We can be visited anytime. We have already started implementing the food security of Mr President and thereby started making him proud. We believe so much in his government.
“We have been involved in the intervention programme of the government even from the past administration. For the government to identify them as one of the implementers of the intervention means they are really doing well. They have done a lot of programmes that have impacted on farmers and entrepreneurs.
“I am appealing to Mr. President to really equip them because as at today, they are really the voice of the masses.
“I took my partners, the Arewa Farmers to meet the Oni of Ife and he accepted to be one of the patrons of this project so as to assist the President of Nigeria. He also promised that he will do everything in his capacity to address food insecurity and unemployment in the country.
“I also took them to Etsu Nupe, Dr. Yahaya Abubakar. He accepted to be the Chairman of this organisation. Everybody is working to support the present administration.”