President Muhammadu Buhari has commended Nigerian farmers as they have been “saving us billions of dollars yearly which would have been spent on food importation.’’
Femi Adesina, the President’s spokesman in a statement in Abuja on Saturday, said the President made his feelings known in a special video message on the occasion of the 2019 Farmers’ Day being celebrated in Obie, Rivers.
The event was organised by Nigerian Agip Oil Company.
In the goodwill message, the President noted that such funds saved from food importation “are now deployed to other developmental projects, particularly infrastructure.”
He added that the impressive performance of farmers had put the country on the path of food self-sufficiency presently being enjoyed across the country.
“As at 2015, our economy was in such perilous state, with oil prices crashing internationally, and so many challenges nationally and locally. In fact, our country was in a desperate state.
“We then decided to put the modest resources we had where our mouth was. We focused on agriculture, and God heard our prayers. And we got good returns from our investments.
“We appealed to Nigerians to return to the land, and take up farming seriously again. They heeded our call, and have not regretted it since then. The theme of this Farmers’ Day is ‘Farm and Fortune’ and I must say that it is a well thought out theme.
“Farming has brought fortune to millions of Nigerians who embraced it, as it has turned round their social and economic status. We should never forget: the real wealth of our country lies primarily in farming, livestock, foresting and fisheries.
“Farmers are now among very well to do Nigerians. They can cater for their families, meet other existential needs, and even embark on various capital projects.
“Above all, farmers have led the country to the food self-sufficiency we now enjoy, saving us billions of dollars yearly, which would have been spent on food importation.
“Such funds are now deployed to other developmental projects, particularly infrastructure,’’ he said.
While celebrating farmers further, Buhari described them as “our authentic heroes, not only for today, but for tomorrow and evermore.”
He observed that farmers had responded positively to initiatives by government to empower and strengthen their hands, and pledged that his administration would continue to stand by the farmers in event of natural disasters such as floods.
According to the statement, “Through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the fertilizer initiative, and many others, government gives supports to our farmers, and you have responded positively to the good of our country.
“When floods caused havoc to farmlands in 2018, we responded by giving financial support to affected farmers. We will continue to stand by you.
“Let me also commend the Nigerian Agip Oil Company for organising this Farmers’ Day, something the company has done consistently for 30 years.
“In its own way, Agip has empowered, encouraged and celebrated farmers in 300 host communities in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Imo. I urge big companies and high net-worth individuals to emulate such example.
“A day like this provides good networking opportunities for farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector. I urge you to make the best use of it.
“Our intention is to make agriculture the backbone of our economy. It once was so, before petroleum was discovered and we neglected farming for easy petroleum-dollars, but we are wiser now.
“With agriculture, we don’t have to crash again anytime oil prices crash in the international market. We have our farmers to thank for that assurance. We will also take precautions against bad harvest.
“We made our priorities clear from the beginning. We want to secure our country so that it can be efficiently managed, we want to curb corruption, and revive the economy.
“Agriculture is one of the veritable ways to economic recovery. It guarantees employment to millions of our people, particularly the youth, engenders better living standards, enhances the income of people, and ensures food security.
“This in turn, will improve the security situation in the land.
“Finally, let me celebrate our farmers. You are our authentic heroes, not only for today, but for tomorrow, and evermore. Happy Farmers’ Day.”