On Tuesday, at a programme, Focus Nigeria, on Africa Independent Television, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, gave reasons why the cost of food items are still high in the market, despite the reported revolution in the agricultural sector.
According to Lai, it is because of infrastructural deficit and export demands.
“Despite the fact that the production of staples like rice, grains, yam has increased with the agriculture revolution of the government, food items are still on the high side.
“There are many reasons why the prices are still up there but principally, I think it is infrastructural deficit.
“By this, I mean what it takes to bring the produce from the farms to the farm gates and from the farm gates to the city centres and this may not improve until various road and rail projects are completed.
“The good news, however, is that from October this year, the General Electric, which has the concession for the 3,500 narrow gauge rail routes will commence work.
“The Lagos to Kano standard gauge rail project and the Lagos to Calabar rail lines which will criss cross all the South Eastern States are priority projects of the government.
“That will help in the transportation of goods and services including agricultural produce at a far cheaper fare and that will percolate to the common man.”
Mr. Lai noted that the federal government would ensure that the Lagos to Ibadan, Kano to Maiduguri and other very important roads were completed, adding that; “there is so much demand on our grains and cereals from other parts of Africa.”
“You cannot stop the farmers especially with the ECOWAS Protocols that allows for free movement of goods and services.
“There is also a lot of demand for our grains from other parts of the world and as a matter of fact, we got over N30 billion from agricultural export in the second quarter of this year.
“I believe that with the economy picking up and the various infrastructural development coming up, Nigeria will very soon start to feel some relief.
“Also the Presidential initiative to employ 10,000 people from each state in the agricultural sector will bring succour and a lot of relief.”
He expressed optimism that Nigeria will be great as he spoke on the hopes and fears for the country after 57 years of independence.
“Living together for 57 years as an independent country with all the ups and downs and challenges and we are going stronger in all ramification.
“The present administration is getting its priorities right and focussed on the economy, good governance, security and improving the quality of life of Nigerians,” he said.
Mr. Lai stated further that President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to making sure that Nigerians feels the impact of his government.
“Capital inflow has improved from 902 million dollar in first quarter to 1.792 billion dollars in second quarter.
“We have been able to add additional 8 billion dollars to our foreign reserve which was 23.7 billion dollars last year, but now 33.5 billion dollars this year.
“Our Balance of Trade has increased, farmers today get fertiliser at N5,500 as opposed to N13,000 before and we were able to deliver the fertilisers to farmers before the planting season.
“These are incremental gains and if we remain focussed on our reforms, all these will improve,” he said.
The Minister, concerning the criticism regarding Buhari’s Independence Day address to the nation, said that Mr. President addressed the core issues which were useful to national development.
He said that the president talked about national security, economy, corruption, unity and development as well as the government’s position on the clamour for restructuring. He however noted that; “the greatest threat we have today is not restructuring but it is about corruption”.
“I make bold to say that corruption is the bane of the country and the biggest threat to our existence.
“Year in year out, huge sums of money are voted for and released for projects that will touch the lives of Nigerians but they are stolen and these projects are left abandoned.
“It is interesting that those people who are vociferous about restructuring are the same people that were in power for 16 years and they did not do anything about restructuring,” he said.