June 3, 2020

Buhari’s food alarm

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

“I wish the farmers could go and stay in their farms so that we can produce what we need sufficiently so that we don’t have to import. In any case, we don’t have money to import so we must produce what we have to eat”.

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari sounded this urgent “call to arms” to our gallant farmers when he spoke to  reporters after his Sallah prayers penultimate weekend.

It was a very apt and timely message, especially now that we are at the peak of the planting season amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

We call on all farmers’ interest groups to key into the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, protocols and mobilise their members effectively to plant their farms while maintaining the appropriate safety measures. We fully support President Buhari’s inward-looking approach to the task of feeding our over 200 million population.

Back in April 2019, he gave instructions to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to stop issuing foreign exchange for food importation. He followed it up by shutting the borders to minimise the smuggling of foreign rice into the country.

We disagreed with his assertion at that time that Nigeria had become food secure. Our support was based on our conviction that the time had come for us to stop importing food because we can feed ourselves and even export the surplus, if only we try.

The need to look inward is even more imperative now than ever before. COVID-19 has zapped our finances, so the money is not even there. Even if we had enough in our reserves, we should not waste it on food imports. We can feed ourselves, and we must! It is now or never.

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Beyond the oral call to action, we must see our farmers and the value chain businesses attached to them as prime targets of our priority stimulus packages.

We must assist them in every way we can. The CBN has been a great champion in Buhari’s agricultural programmes. They should mobilise the financial system behind our farmers.

Most importantly, President Buhari must protect our farmers from armed herdsmen marauders.

This administration has played blind, deaf and dumb to the atrocities of these terrorists camping out in our forests and farmlands. They lead their livestock to devastate crops and farmlands.

They rape women, kidnap along the highways and kill at will and the law enforcement agencies go after those who try to confront them.

Our security agencies thoroughly misbehaved during lockdown, allowing thousands of strange young men to be packed in trailers to destinations all over the South in defiance of government directives.

Unless Buhari does his duty and proactively protects our farmers from these armed terrorists, they will not be able to “go and stay” in their farms.