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Buhari Now Serious About Moving Away From Oil, Pledges More Money For Agriculture In 2017 Budget

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After many promises to diversify the Nigerian economy away from oil, but with little resources allocated to agriculture to substantiate his public claims, President Muhammadu Buhari seemed to finally get serious on Saturday.

The President said his government will devote more resources to agriculture in the 2017 budget to procure “machinery for land clearing, fertilizers, pesticides and training of less-educated farmers, as farm extension instructors”.

Since oil was discovered in Nigeria in 1956, the country gradually dumped other economic sectors to focus on oil wealth. But with prices of crude down in the international market, Mr. Buhari had argued several times that diversification was the panacea.

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He, like other policymakers, have suggested the country move away from oil and develop agriculture.

But, Mr. Buhari’s public claims did not match his 2016 budget where only 1.6 percent of the approved budget was allocated to agriculture.

The meagre allocation made the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, to declare last May that 1.6 per cent of the approved budget for his ministry was not sufficient to drive the much needed diversification the country needs.

“The budget of Agriculture is 1.6 percent of our annual budget. How do we take care of agriculture and rural development at the same time?” Mr. Ogbeh asked on 11 May during an investors’ forum in Abeokuta, Ogun state.

But on Saturday, the Presidency quoted Mr. Buhari as making the pledge to pump more money into agriculture next year.

Mr. Buhari, the Presidency said, was speaking to reporters in Nairobi, Kenya on the margins of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI).

‘‘This year, in Nigeria, we started an aggressive farming programme that entails organising farmers into cooperatives in the second and third tier of government.

‘‘We intend to put more resources in our 2017 budget,  especially in the procurement of machinery for land clearing, fertilizers, pesticides and training of less-educated farmers, as farm extension instructors,” Mr. Buhari said.

He added: ‘‘We have already registered some success this year in a number of states, we identified some 13 states that will be self-sufficient in rice, wheat and grains before the end of 2018.

‘‘We are very positive that soon we will be able to export these food products. We are also lucky that the farming season in the northern part of the country has been very good and we are expecting a bumper harvest this year,’’ the President said.

On his expectation for TICAD, President Buhari said Japan’s story of rapid economic growth, hard work and advanced technology should encourage Africans to strive harder and solve its development challenges.

‘‘Japan has greatly advanced in technology, particularly in solar power, infrastructure to spur growth in medium and small-scale industries.

‘‘Because of the advanced use of technology, farming and agriculture can become competitive.

‘‘Japan has the knowledge, technology and capital to assist African countries to develop and Japanese firms are in a very good position to successfully compete for the development of infrastructure in Nigeria,’’ he said.

Mr. Buhari requested for increased participation of the Japanese government and the private sector in the Nigerian economy.

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