Nigeria’s journey towards self-sufficiency in rice production received a significant boost as President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday flagged-off the 2015/2016 dry season rice and wheat farming as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, a financing model for small scale farmers in Kebbi State.
Speaking during the flag-off ceremony at Zauro Airstrip on the outskirts of Birnin-Kebbi, the state capital, Buhari said the CBN project had the potential for creating millions of jobs and lifting people from poverty.
The president used the occasion to stress the importance of agriculture to the economy, adding that his administration would diversify the economy away from dependence on oil and lay greater emphasis on agricultural production.
While lauding Kebbi for taking the leading in the project and its effort in revival of rice and wheat production, President Buhari stated that six states of Zamfara, Adamawa, Gombe, Taraba, Jigawa and Ebonyi have demonstrated and signified interest in assisting farmers.
“The importance of agriculture to the economy cannot be over emphasised, economic diversification is the only way to prosperity so go back to land and develop agriculture because the era of depending on oil is over”, he said.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who also spoke at the occasion, said the programme was part of the apex bank’s contribution towards establishing economic linkages between farmers and processors not only to ensure output of rice and wheat, but also bridge the gap between production and consumption.
“The CBN has set aside N40 billion under the programme out of the N220 billion micro, small and medium enterprise fund for farmers at single digit interest rate of maximum 9%”, he said.
Mr. Emefiele further said that sums of money ranging from between N150, 000 to N250, 000 has been set aside under the scheme for over 200,000 rice and wheat farmers to assist them in procuring necessary agricultural inputs.
The Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, in his remarks, said the state had the capacity to produce rice and wheat for both local and external consumption and lauded the CBN for initiative.