Agriculture Nigeria’s ‘new oil’ – Akabueze
Agriculture is the “new oil” for Nigeria and the only way to get the country out of the present economic downturn, the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, has said.
He spoke Thursday night at the Lagos Business School Alumni Association Abuja Zonal dinner at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
Akabueze said there were two alternatives to oil-agriculture (as Nigeria’s best shot to improved economy) and solid minerals, where Nigeria still had a long way to go.
Explaining the opportunities in agriculture, he said over 79million hectares of the total land mass in Nigeria were arable with less than 50% already being cultivated. “Nigeria is only behind Brazil with this much arable land mass,” he said.
He said Ethiopia’s economy that was built on agriculture and had been growing on an average of 11% was a challenge to Nigeria. He said the country which had half the population of Nigeria could boast of about 45,000 extension workers while Nigeria had fewer than 10,000. As a way forward, about 100,000 Nigerians would be trained as agricultural extension workers, he said.
As an introduction, he said for the first time since 2004, Nigeria had recorded negative growth in its economy, adding that although the result for the second quarter was not yet out, Nigeria would be officially in recession, a situation which last occurred in 1994. He added that despite the negative growth in the economy, agriculture grew at about 3%.
He highlighted some of the factors that led to the present economic downturn to include a global growth slowdown which averaged 3.1%. Nigeria closed 2015 at 2.9%.
Others include the slump in oil price and insurgency. He said Nigeria was not able to take advantage of the increase in the price of oil at the global market which had risen to N42 per barrel as against the benchmark of N38 per barrel because of the drop in production from the projected 2.2 million per barrel as a result of the activities of militants in the Niger Delta.