BY DANIEL IDONOR
ABUJA — PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, Friday, hinted of his plan to ban rice importation in his budget speech which he will soon present to the National Assembly.
The United States Agency for International Development, USAID, in a report entitled “Nigeria rice value chain analysis,” had put rice importation at three million metric tonnes annually with a total value of N468 billion ($3 billion).
President Jonathan who spoke while receiving the report of the Northern Economic Summit organised by the Professor Jerry Gana led G_20 Group, said Nigeria can no longer rely on rice import most of which have been stored in silos for more than 10 years, to feed her population.
The G-20 Group made up of eminent politicians of Northern extraction had, March 17, 2011 organised the First Northern Economic Summit in Kaduna.
Jonathan said: “If you have exotic taste for foreign rice, then be prepared to fly your private jet abroad to buy it, as I will make a major pronouncement on rice in my budget speech to the National Assembly soon”.
The President dismissed foreign rice as lacking nutrient saying that after they have been preserved with so much chemicals for over 10 years, the commodity is again polished on its way to Africa.
He stated that Nigeria has adequate arable land that can be tilled to grow enough food for Nigerians and even feed the rest of Africa, insisting that his resolve to revolutionise the agriculture sector remains unshakeable.
He argued that for the poverty index of the agriculture_driven North Central Zone to be better than of the highly industrialised South_West Zone, is a testimony of the huge and great potentials that abound in the agriculture sector.
of the North
While assuring the group of his administration sincere intention to cooperate with it in any area that can be beneficial to the aspiration of the North, Jonathan expressed optimism that if crude oil can be found in neighbouring countries around the North, then there could be oil in the region, saying that ongoing search would continue.
The President who noted the link between politics and economy, said a bad economy would naturally breed violence and many other social vices, saying that the first interest of his government is the economy.
Earlier, the leader of the group, Professor Jerry Gana, had told the President that “the report identified challenges and constraints such as poor energy supply; weak physical infrastructure; and weak governance systems drained by corruption, as current impediment facing the North.
He listed other factors to include lack of finance for private sector investments; inadequate human capital development; policy inconsistencies and ineffective institutional frameworks for development administration, saying that added to these are recent internal security challenges.
The group in its prayer asked the federal government to assist in the “provision of substantial funds to facilitate exploration activities for oil and gas in chad Basin, Benue trough, Bida Basin, Sokoto-Rima Basin, among others; Hydro-electric power transmission lines, especially the proposed Super grid of 765kv, with the following networks: Mambila-Makurdi-Ajaokuta-Gwagwalada-Kano, Ajaokuta-Oshogbo-Papalanto, and Mambila-Jalingo-Yola.
He also urged the government rehabilitate federal roads in the North; Revival of irrigation systems through River Basins Development Authorities; development of mini-hydro power sta