The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Tuesday said that the Federal Government through its agriculture empowerment programme had created new set of millionaires in farming.
The minister stated this when he featured on a special edition of Channels TV programme, “Sunrise Daily” on the mid-term report of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Mohammed said that many young farmers were empowered through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrower Programme and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture’s Soil Map initiative.
He said that the programme, which recorded huge success in rice and grain productions, particularly in Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa, Ebonyi and Sokoto states, had made farming attractive to young people.
Mohammed said the initiative had also helped in boosting the local production of rice, increasing yields per hectares in grains production and reducing importation of rice.
He said that in 2015, the country imported 580,000 metric tonnes of rice, which had been brought down to 58,000 metric tonnes in 2016 with the successful implementation of the programme.
The minister noted that though the price of local rice was still higher than the imported one, but the situation would change when production increased.
He said the imported rice was being subsidised and dumped into the country but assured that the trend would change by next harvest.
The minister said that the government had also been able to bring down the cost of fertiliser from N9, 000 to N5, 000 following a bilateral agreement it signed with the Kingdom of Morocco. Mohammed said that the country was gradually moving out of recession, particularly in the agriculture, manufacturing and solid minerals sectors.
He explained that it was made possible because of committed investments in infrastructure, ease of doing business and increased budgetary votes for capital projects. “When we came in, we inherited about N1.7 trillion in debt owed to contractors; 202 roads were abandoned.
In the entire 2015, only N18 billion was spent on roads and N5 billion spent on power. “In 2016/2017 we released N1.2 trillion for capital projects only; we spent N260 billion on roads and N99 billion on power generation.
“We have constructed 320 kilometres of roads and fixed 460 kilometres of road: We have built 24 bridges and repaired about 21 “On rail lines, we have commenced the construction of the 150 km per hour standard gauge from Lagos to Ibadan and working on others across the country,” he said.
The minister reiterated that looking at what the government had done in areas of the economy, security and in fighting corruption it had fulfilled its electoral promises.
Mohammed said the situation would have been worse than it is now if Buhari was not in power, adding that he was proud to be a part of the administration. He said in spite of recession brought about by defective economy run by past administration only on oil and the sharp drop in the price of crude, the administration has performed well.
“We are coming from a situation where we were earning over 100 dollar per barrel of oil and it was reduced to about 30 dollar per barrel “It takes acute discipline and management of resources to be where we are today.
“In spite of recession, between October last year and today, we have been able to add additional 7 billion dollars to our federal reserves.
“We have also successfully added 87 million dollar to the Excess Crude Account and attract 500 million dollar to the Sovereign Wealth Fund,” he said.
On security, the minister said that the government defeated Boko Haram insurgency which had taken over almost half of the North-East region before the administration came into power.
He said government was taken pro-active measures to address the challenge of clash between the herdsmen and farmers and incidences of kidnapping