By Ikechukwu Odu
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Ikanade Agba, weekend, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is borrowing funds for infrastructure upgrade and social welfare packages.
The Minister who said the Buhari’s government is not borrowing to squander funds, explained that there is an ongoing effort to connect rural roads and railways to urban roads in order to exploit the agricultural potentialities of the nation.
He made the statement at Lejja, Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State during the inspection of an ongoing 7.5 killometers COVID-19 Rural Roads Intervention Project of the Federal Government which cut across Aku, Lejja and Nsukka communities in Enugu State.
The Minister while saying that the loans were acquired with only 3% interest rate, added that they were gotten with 10-20 years moratorium.
“A lot of people talk about the borrowings by the present government. You need to understand the terms and conditions of the loans we are taking and what they are being used for. What is bad is when you borrow to eat, but if you borrow for something productive, you benefit.
“The interest rates we are paying for these loans we are taking is not up to 3% and we have 10-20 years moratorium, that is, within those periods, we are not paying anything and some of the loans have up to 40 years repayment period. So, if you look at what it would take to pay back the loans we are taking, it could be considered as gifts.
“We are trying to connect our rural roads to urban roads and to the railways. You could see that we are spending a lot of money across the country on roads construction, but if we don’t develop our rail sector, our roads would continue to fail because of the pressure on them. In other more developed countries, heavy things are being moved on rails. That’s what we are trying to do,” he said.
While saying that the President is concerned about the plights of the downtrodden who voted him in power, he added “he is very concerned about you, and the livelihoods of all Nigerians and he has said that Nigeria must produce what they eat, and we must eat what we produce and agriculture has to be the mainstake of our economy.
“Our country in the past depended on agriculture before the discovery of oil, we were well-nourished, but today we have all abounded agriculture and focused on oil and the result is not good for our people.
“That is why Mr. President said he must remember those who produce the food we eat from the rural areas, and he is aware that about 50 per cent of what you produce does not get to market because of the poor access road,” he said.
He added that Mr. President encourages farmers by approving the sum of N34 billion to be spent on the construction of rural roads across the country to boost agriculture.
In an address by the Coordinator of the Lejja/Aku Communities Hosting Committee, Engr. Victor Amorha, the benefiting communities lauded the President for the good gesture shown them by his government.
The communities equally appreciated the Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, for ceding to get full Executive Council endorsement to get the project rolling, adding that the projects, when completed, would put back the benefiting communities on the world map.
The communities equally lauded Agba, for the harmonious working relationship between him and their son, Samuel Ekwueme, serving in his office as a Special Assistant, SA, adding that the road would reduce post-harvest losses of agricultural produces to at least 85% in the benefiting communities.
They equally prayed for the speedy completion of the project.
The Minister and his team were earlier received by the people of Lejja at their community secondary school field.
An address by the traditional ruler of the community, HRH Igwe Ugwuoke Nwani, read in parts, “This is the first time this ancient community of more than 2000 B.C is seeing a tarred road in the town, it is the first time our peace-loving people are working, riding and driving on a tarred road in our town, and it is the first time we have ever gathered together to celebrate such a phenomenon in this town not minding the fact that the tarring has not covered all of Lejja.
“We thank you Mr. Honourable Minister for the history you and the Federal Government have made in Lejja. 19th February 2021 is a day Lejja will ever continue to remember. On this day, you have written your name on the marble in our town.”