By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-Peoples Republic of China is to lend Nigeria the sum of $4.5billion to buy appropriate farming tools to boost local agriculture.
The tools included tractors, bulldozers, graders, irrigation pumps amongst others.
Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh and Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State made the disclosure at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.
Both men said they were in the Villa to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the outcome of their journey to China April last year on the issue.
Ogbeh: “We came to brief the President on developments following our visit to China in April last year and our negotiations on a number of issues to deal with machineries for agricultural development.
“We signed an agreement which engages all the states including FCT from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for the procurement of strategic machinery for rural development and agriculture. Tractors, bulldozers, graders, irrigation pumps, tarsiers and so on from China.
“The Chinese were willing to supply us these things for a long term basis, 20 years credit at an interest rate of 1 percent per annum.
“A committee has been working on the matter and we are close to sorting out all the small details and that is why we came to see the President.
“Of all the partners we have, the Chinese have shown the willingness to see us out of our problems, because about 30 years ago they were in the same crisis. They see us as people in the same circumstances that they were then and they are willing to help us get out of it and we appreciate it, the president does.”
The Minister said that President Muhammadu Buhari directed them to liase with the Ministry of Budget and Planning, Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to sort out the technical requirements.
“The President responded well. He asked us to get in touch with the Ministry of Budget and Planning, Finance and CBN to sort out all the technical details and move on with it”, he said.
Also speaking, Yari said that the expected loan was $4.5billion.
He said: “Following the visit of Mr. President sometime last year, we engaged the Chinese government and they showed some willingness to support Nigeria. In this discussion
“Chinese Government Organisation Company in cooperation with the People’s Bank of China and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture under the leadership of the honourable minister.
“They are giving us a credit line of $4.5billion which will cover the machineries and infrastructure that is rural earth dams, irrigation and the loan has a 20 years repayment term with 5 years moratorium.
“Initially we started negotiations to drop a counterpart funding of 25%, but understanding the economy of Nigereria, we negotiated to give a counterpart funding of 10 percent which we believe Nigeria can do and we are targeting the natural resources fund fro the counterpart funding.
“We are now speaking with the Chinese group and the Nigerian governors and the technical committee that was set up by the minister and the ministry of agriculture and rural development.
“So we have now come to a stage where the President needs to come in so that he can give us a leadership role and a kind of approval of a certain level so that we can forge ahead.
“This government has said they will diversify the economy to agriculture and the only way that this can succeed is through agric mechanisation. The way that we are doing farming today, many young men and women are not going to farm because of the way it is being done. Meanwhile in other sister nations the agriculture is with machineries and equipment and we have been doing it for the past 60 years with hoe.
“So, we are making a huge progress with this partnership and realize that China is coming first to support this country.
“The president has given us his commitment and also asked us to engage the minister of finance, budget and national planning and the CBN to conclude and then the minister of agric will make presentation to council, then to the national assembly for final approval.”