COVID-19: AfDB Approves $2m Emergency Assistance For WHO

AFDB, Abia

 

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank on Tuesday approved $2 million in emergency assistance for the World Health Organization (WHO) to reinforce its capacity to help African countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impacts.

The grant, which is in response to an international appeal by the WHO, will be used by the world body to equip Regional Member Countries to prevent, rapidly detect, investigate, contain and manage detected cases of COVID-19.

It is one part of several Bank interventions to help member countries address the pandemic which, while slow to arrive in Africa, is spreading quickly and is straining already fragile health systems.

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Specifically, the WHO Africa region will use the funds to bolster the capacity of 41 African countries on infection prevention, testing and case management. WHO Africa will also boost surveillance systems, procure and distribute laboratory test kits and reagents, and support coordination mechanisms at national and regional levels.

This grant “will enable Regional Member Countries to put in place robust containment measures within 48 hours of COVID-19 case confirmation and also support the WHO Africa Region to disseminate information and increase public awareness in communities,” said the Bank’s Human Capital Youth and Skills Development Department.

The grant will contribute toward a $50 million WHO Preparedness and Response Plan, which other partners including the United Nations system, are also supporting.

It is estimated that Africa will require billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scramble together contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns, in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies

African Development Bank Launches Record Breaking $3bn ‘Fight COVID-19’ Social Bond

AFDB, Abia

 

The African Development Bank has raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year bond to help alleviate the economic and social impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on livelihoods and Africa’s economies.

The Fight Covid-19 Social bond, with a three-year maturity, garnered interest from central banks and official institutions, bank treasuries, and asset managers including Socially Responsible Investors, with bids exceeding $4.6 billion. This is the largest dollar denominated Social Bond ever launched in international capital markets to date, and the largest US Dollar benchmark ever issued by the Bank. It will pay an interest rate of 0.75%.

The African Development Bank Group is moving to provide flexible responses aimed at lessening the severe economic and social impact of this pandemic on its regional member countries and Africa’s private sector.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: CBN Grants Two-Week Market Holidays To Bureau De Change Operators

“These are critical times for Africa as it addresses the challenges resulting from the Coronavirus. The African Development Bank is taking bold measures to support African countries. This $3 billion Covid-19 bond issuance is the first part of our comprehensive response that will soon be announced. This is indeed the largest dollar social bond transaction to date in capital markets. We are here for Africa, and we will provide significant rapid support for countries,” said Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group.

The order book for this record-breaking bond highlights the scale of investor support, which the African Development Bank enjoys, said the arrangers.

“As the Covid-19 outbreak is dangerously threatening Africa, the African Development Bank lives up to its huge responsibilities and deploys funds to assist and prepare the African population, through the financing of access to health and to all other essential goods, services and infrastructure,” said Tanguy Claquin, Head of Sustainable Banking, Crédit Agricole CIB.

Coronavirus cases were slow to arrive in Africa, but the virus is spreading quickly and has infected nearly 3,000 people across 45 countries, placing strain on already fragile health systems.

It is estimated that the continent will require many billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scrambled contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies toward recession.

Commenting on the landmark transaction, George Sager, Executive Director, SSA Syndicate, Goldman Sachs said: “In a time of unprecedented market volatility, the African Development Bank has been able to brave the capital markets in order to secure invaluable funding to help the efforts of the African continent’s fight against Covid-19. Not only that, but in the process, delivering their largest ever USD benchmark. A truly remarkable outcome both in terms of its purpose but also in terms of a USD financing”.

The Bank established its Social Bond framework in 2017 and raised the equivalent of $2 billion through issuances denominated in Euro and Norwegian krone. In 2018 the Bank was designated by financial markets, ‘Second most impressive social or sustainability bond issuer” at the Global Capital SRI Awards.

“We are thankful for the exceptional level of interest the Fight Covid-19 Social Bond has raised across the world, as the African Development Bank moves towards lessening the social and economic impact of the pandemic on a continent already severely constrained. Our Social bond program enables us to highlight our strong development mandate to the investor community, allowing them to play a part in improving the lives of the people of Africa. This was an exceptional outcome for an exceptional cause,” said Hassatou Diop N’Sele, Treasurer, African Development Bank.

Fight Covid-19 was allocated to central banks and official institutions (53%), bank treasuries (27%) and asset managers (20%). Final bond distribution statistics were as follows: Europe (37%), Americas (36%), Asia (17%) Africa (8%,) and Middle-East (1%).

African Development Bank Denies Cancelling Nigeria’s $400m Loan

AFDB, Abia

The African Development Bank has said that it is strongly in support of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) of the Nigerian Government refuting earlier claims that it has called off $400m loans to Nigeria.

Director, Communication and External Relations of AfDB, Victor Oladokun, in a statement on Tuesday, said AfDB says it ”strongly supports the ERGP and efforts to stem corruption and strengthen fiscal consolidation and efficiency.”

The AfDB in the statement added that AfDB is highly encouraged by the economic recovery of Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Ogun Gets AFDB Support For Critical Sector Development

“The African Development Bank wishes to categorically refute the statement that it has “called off loans to Nigeria”, as reported in Reuters and credited to Vice President Amadou Hott.

“The African Development Bank is highly encouraged by the Economic Recovery of Nigeria from the recession and salutes the government’s efforts towards diversification of the economy.

“The Bank also strongly supports the Economic and Growth Recovery plan of the government and efforts to stem corruption and strengthen fiscal consolidation and efficiency,” the statement read.

Oladokun explained further that apart from the $600 million loan approved by the Board of the AfDB, an additional $400 million support could be considered to support Nigeria’s economy.

“In November 2016, the Board of the African Development Bank approved a $600 million loan to support Nigeria’s efforts to cope with macroeconomic and fiscal shocks that arose from the massive decline in the price of crude oil.

“An additional $400 million support could be considered, if requested and approved by the Board, as part of a larger coordinated effort with other development partners, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.”

The statement added that the African Development Bank is in consultations with the government on how best to continue its support for Nigeria’s laudable Economic and Growth Recovery Plan through investment projects that will help address existing structural challenges, including infrastructure, power, agriculture and support to boost the private sector and jobs creation.

The Bank assures the Nigerian government of its full support for its continued reforms to diversify the economy and boost economic growth and development.

President Buhari To Launch ERGP 2017-2020

Buhari Extends Return To NigeriaNigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, will formally launch the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020 on Wednesday, April 5.

A statement issued on Tuesday by the President’s spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, revealed that the ceremony will take place at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

The statement explained that the launch is “in furtherance of the current administration’s drive to sustain and build on the successes so far recorded in tackling corruption, improving security and revamping the economy.

“The Medium-Term ERGP, which had been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), has amongst its broad strategic objectives: restoring sustainable, accelerated inclusive growth and development; investing in the people; and building a globally competitive economy”.

The ERGP, which unveils a road map for Nigeria’s economic recovery, growth and sustainable development, was made public on March 7, while President Buhari was on his medical vacation in the United Kingdom.

The Media Adviser to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Akpandem James, had said the ceremonial presentation will take place when the President returns from his vacation.

FG Releases Economic Recovery Plan

FG Releases Economic Recovery Plan (ERGP)The Federal Government has released the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which unveils a road map for Nigeria’s economic recovery, growth and sustainable development.

This was according to a statement issued on Tuesday by the Media Adviser to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Akpandem James.

According to the statement, the development of the plan went through a rigorous process including wide consultation and robust engagements with stakeholders from a range of relevant fields.

They include: economic experts from the public and private sectors, academia, the Organised Private Sector, Civil Society groups, Organised Labour, sub-regional governments, International Development Partners (including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank), the National Economic Council (NEC) and the National Assembly.

The statement hinted that the Plan has been approved by the Federal Executive Council, adding that its ceremonial presentation would take place when President Muhammadu Buhari returns from vacation.

Achieving Structural Economic Change

The statement read: “The core vision of the Plan is one of sustained inclusive growth. There is an urgent need as a nation to drive structural economic transformation with an emphasis on improving both public and private sector efficiency.

“The aim is to increase national productivity and achieve sustainable diversification of production, to significantly grow the economy and achieve maximum welfare for the citizens, beginning with food and energy security.

“The Plan envisages that by 2020, Nigeria would have made significant progress towards achieving structural economic change with a more diversified and inclusive economy. Overall, the Plan is expected to deliver on Five key broad outcomes namely: a stable macroeconomic environment, agricultural transformation and food security, sufficiency in energy (power and petroleum products), improved transportation infrastructure and industrialisation focusing on small and medium scale enterprises.

“Realising that the country’s economy would remain on a path of decline if nothing was immediately done to change the trajectory, the present administration, when it assumed office, embarked on strategic moves to halt the trend and redirect the course of the country’s economy and growth process.

A Knowledge-Based Economy

“The process started with the development of the Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) for the 2016 Budget of Change as a short-term intervention. The ERGP, a Medium Term Plan for 2017 – 2020, builds on the SIP and has been developed for the purpose of restoring economic growth while leveraging the ingenuity and resilience of the Nigerian people.

“The Plan seeks to eliminate the bottlenecks that impede innovations and market based solutions, recognises the need to leverage Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to build a knowledge-based economy, and is consistent with the aspirations of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The ERGP differs in several ways from previous strategies and plans as it:

  • is anchored on focused implementation which is at the core of the delivery strategy over the next four years;
  • outlines bold initiatives such as ramping up oil production to 2.5mbpd by 2020, privatising selected public enterprises/assets, and revamping local refineries to reduce petroleum product imports by 60 percent by 2018;
  • builds on existing sectoral plans such as the National Industrial Revolution Plan and the Nigeria Integrated Infrastructure Master-plan;
  • signals a changing relationship between the public and private sector based on close partnership.
  • utilises the value of the merger of budget and planning functions into one Ministry to create a better and stronger link between annual budgets and the ERGP; and
  • provides for strong coordination with the States to ensure that the Federal and sub-regional governments work towards the same goals.

Vision Of Inclusive Growth

“The thinking behind the development of the Plan was driven by several fundamental principles, including a focus on tackling constraints to growth; leveraging the power of the private sector and promoting national cohesion and social inclusion, as well as allowing markets to function.

“The Plan has three broad strategic objectives which are expected to help achieve the vision of inclusive growth: restoring growth, investing in the people, and building a globally competitive economy.

“The ERGP focuses on achieving macroeconomic stability and economic diversification by undertaking fiscal stimulus, ensuring monetary stability and improving the external balance of trade.

“The delivery mechanism has been identified as a major determining factor in the successful implementation of the Plan. The implementation strategy therefore focuses on prioritising the identified strategies, establishing a clear system of accountability for well-defined assignment of responsibilities, setting targets and developing detailed action plans, allocating resources to prioritised interventions, creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment, developing an effective monitoring and evaluation system to track progress, and using effective communication strategies”.

5th Africa CEO Forum To Kickoff March 20 In Geneva

5th Africa CEO Forum To Kickoff March 20 In GenevaHaving cemented its status as the foremost business personalities meeting dedicated to the development of the African private sector, the Africa CEO Forum is set to kick off its 5th edition, themed: “re-thinking Africa’s business model”.

The 2017 edition, set to take place in Geneva, would focus on how to succeed in this new economic cycle on the continent.

Slated to hold between March 20 and 21, the programme would bring together more than 1000 personalities, key decision makers in industry, finance and politics from the African continent and around the globe.

The Africa CEO forum 2017 would open the debate with the economic boom of the 2000s, the context of economic growth in Africa and the critical decisions that must be taken to reach rapid and sustainable growth.

Other themes to be discussed include: Unleashing innovation and the entrepreneurial potential of youth and women, making Africa more attractive for international investors, turning African stock exchanges into competitive powerhouses and creating the next generation of African exporters.

Find out more about the programme

The forum would also offer 20 sessions for debate and reflection, allowing participants to hit strategic topics for driving African corporate growth including: digital transformation, fintech, agri-business, private equity, emerging African champions, electricity and innovation.

Some of the African and international personalities slated to take part in the discussion and debate include:

President, African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, CEO Unilever, Paul Polman, President, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mo Ibrahim, CEO, OTMT Investments, Naguib Sawiris, Chairperson, MTN, Phuthuma Nhleko, Co-Founder and Group Executive Director, Sahara Group, Tonye Cole, CEO, United Capital, Oluwatoyin Sanni, Chairperson, Firstbank, Ibukun Awosika, CEO, Mohammed Enterprises, Mohammed Dewji, CEO, Africa and Middle East, Orange, Bruno Mettling, CEO, MSC, Diego Aponte, CEO, Afreximbank, Benedict Oramah, CEO, Rougier, Marie-Yvonne Charlemagne, CEO, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Sola David-Borha, CEO, Uchumi Supermarkets, Julius Kipng’etich, CEO, Cevital, Issad Rebrab, CEO, Casablanca Finance City Authority, Saïd Ibrahimi, CEO, NSIA, Jean Kacou Diagou.

For more information, visit the African CEO Forum website.

Nigerian Air Force Pledges To Provide Logistics In Northeast Reconstruction

Northeast-Nigeria-developmentThe Nigerian Air Force has pledged to provide logistics during the rebuilding of the northeast ravaged by over seven years of insurgency.

While receiving members of the Presidential Committee on Northeast Initiative, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar, revealed that the Air Force was setting up an operation theatre for the hospital in Bama as part of efforts to improve health care for Internally Displaced Persons in the region.

The Vice Chairman of the committee, Mr Tijani Tumsah, explained that the committee was negotiating a loan facility of about $400 million from the World Bank and the African Development Bank to commence the project.

“We seek the collaboration of the Nigerian Air Force in a lot of areas. Some of the areas include using your experiences in countering violent extremism, disarmament, mobilisation, re-integration of civilian JTF, counter-radicalisation programmes, construction and renovation of schools and roads among others,” he told the Air Chief.

Assuring the committee of the force’s support, Air Marshall Abubakar said: “I want to say that we are open anytime you feel that we can be of support to you and we are most willing to support in the area of reconstruction and renovation.

“We have also made it clear that we have directorate of works that is building our works and renovating accommodation in all our barracks. They are building the post-housing projects for our officers and we believe that they are there and if there is need for us to support your reconstruction efforts we will not hesitate to deploy them to see how they can assist you”

The Chief of Air Staff further assured the committee members that the Air Force could help move materials from any part of Nigeria to Maiduguri through its C-130 aircraft, which he said could carry up to 20,000 kilograms.

“We are willing to support you and give you this aircraft,” he added.

2016 Budget: F.G Persuades AFDB For Funds

AFDB, AbiaThe Federal Government is persuading the African Development Bank (AFDB) to speed up the delivery of the 1 billion Dollar facility promised, as support for the implementation of its 2016 budget.

In making the appeal, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma says the loan is expected to cover the 35 per cent shortfall in the budget.

He adds that government is relying on the credit facility to boost the economy and spend out of the current recession.

The economic recovery plan of the government has been in the areas of infrastructure development, processing of export zones and the restoration of oil production to 2.2 million barrels per day.

AfDB Offers Nigeria Over Four Billion Dollar Lifeline

AfDBAs Nigeria battles with economic recession and the dire need to raise funds, particular foreign exchange, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is looking to provide over $4billion dollars between 2016 and 2017.

President of the bank and Nigeria’s former agriculture minister, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina who is on his first official visit to Nigeria in his capacity as president of the AfDB says the funds would be used to develop the power and agriculture sectors in the country.

Dr. Adesina was speaking after holding talks with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital.

The plan includes; $1 billion of budget support, $300 million to create jobs for 185,000 youths, $250 million towards northeast infrastructure development, and $1 million grant to deal with challenges of internally displaced persons (IDPs),

It also includes $300 million for infrastructure development around Abuja, and $200 million for Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to deepen electricity facilities.

While holding talks with the Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Dr Adesina had said that “deepening the level of diversification in critical sectors” such as agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing, was of particular importance.

“I expect that our portfolio in Nigeria will not decrease – it will actually grow. We expect to invest in Nigeria, by 2019, a total of $10 billion,” said Adesina,

The Finance Minister allayed fears that the country could be over-borrowing. “What we are trying to do is to ensure that this money we are borrowing, we use it on the key infrastructure that will drive the economy,” she said.

We’ll Get Out Of Our Problems, Buhari Assures African Development Bank

Akinwumi-Adesina-Buhari-CTVPresident Muhammadu Buhari has given the assurance that Nigeria has the people and the resources to surmount her economic problems.

He gave the assurance while receiving President of the African Development Bank (ADB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, at State House, Abuja, on Monday.

President Buhari said: “God has given us people and resources. It will take hard work on our part, but we will make it. We will get out of our problems. We are determined to produce what we eat, and stop importation. We will also chase those who stole, and get them to refund.”

The President said the country appreciates helping hands being lent by the ADB, assuring Nigerian-born Adesina, who was the immediate past Minister of Agriculture, that “we will not let you down. Your country won’t disappoint you.”

Too Big To Fail

Adesina appreciated President Buhari for the support the country gave when he ran for ADB presidency, thus making him the first Nigerian to occupy such position since the bank was established in 1964.

He also lauded the Nigerian President for successes recorded in securing the country, particularly in the North East, noting that “there can be no development without adequate security.”

The ADB boss described recent economic decisions taken in the country as “bold, tough, uncomfortable, but right,” adding that Nigeria would reap the dividends in the short and long run.

Adesina-Buhari-Adeosun-CTV

“You can count on the ADB as a true friend of Nigeria. You should support massive investment in infrastructure, and we are here to also support. Closing the infrastructure deficit will enable growth, and create employment. Nigeria is too big to fail,” Adesina said.

Packages For Nigeria

The ADB President unfolded the packages his institution has for Nigeria, which include; $1 billion of budget support, $300 million to create jobs for 185,000 youths, $250 million towards North East infrastructure development, $1 million grant to deal with challenges of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), $300 million for infrastructure development around Abuja, $200 million for Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to deepen facilities, among others.

Dr Adesina expressed delight with what he called “President Buhari’s push on anti-corruption, and stance on governance,” adding that building institutions was critical.

To that end, he said ADB would give a total of $4.8 million as grant for institutional support, with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) getting $2 million, and $1million to Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). “You can always count on my support, and that of the ADB,” he concluded.

Nigeria Set To Inject $1.1 Billion To Boost Economy

Kemi-AdeosunThe Nigerian government is set to inject an additional 350 billion Naira ($1.1 billion) into the economy and raise $1 billion from Euro-bonds by mid-December to ease the recession.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, told reporters in Abuja on Friday that the additional funding, on top of the initial 420 billion Naira released in May, was primarily for capital expenditure projects that would also involve support from local banks and transaction partners.

“We are raising money. As you know the Euro-bond capital raise is on.

“We are about to appoint advisers so we we will be raising additional $1 billion.

“Two weeks ago we approved the external borrowing plan and that was very important,” the Minister said.

Plans To Borrow

According to her, the government plans to borrow a total of 1.8 trillion Naira at home and abroad to fund an expected budget deficit of 2.2 trillion Naira.

In an attempt to reviving the crashed economy, the government has approved borrowing from the African Development Bank, China, Japan and World Bank with rates of 1.25 per cent and a 20-year maturity.

“When we said we will borrow, we said we will borrow the cheapest money first.

“We have approvals in that plan from the World Bank, ADB, with interest rates as low as 1.5 per cent and tenures as low as forty years to intervene in some specific areas which include agriculture, education, health, rebuilding of the northeast and of course the railway project that are very key to what we are doing,” Mrs Adeosun explained.

Bureaucracy in the civil service is an issue that critics have asked the government to address to hasting the release of funds that would provide needed infrastructures and add impetus to the economy to cushion the effect of the recession on Nigerians.

The Minister also pointed out that the issue with fiscal initiatives was that “there is always a lag”.

“There is always a time difference between when you release money and when it has an effect. We are trying to work on how we can shorten that lag,” the Minister stated.

She highlighted that some of the delays were in the procurement process, which, according to her, were being looked into, with the government doing its best to speed up the process.

Another area that the government is looking to push funds to, according to the Minister, is the Social Intervention Programme, which she said would receive 60 billion Naira. “That is very important in terms of putting money into peoples pocket,” she stressed.

She had on August 19 said that the government would allocate 60 billion Naira ($180 million) more spending on capital projects, as part of the 2016 budget.

She told reporters that the allocation was an addition to earlier releases, aimed at boosting the economy.

Mrs Adeosun said that before the allocation of the 60 billion Naira the government had spent over 400 billion Naira on capital.

Economy In Recession

Nigeria’s economy had glided into recession few weeks ago, after a report by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the nation’s Gross Domestic Product contracted by by 2.06% in the second quarter of 2016.

According to the report, the decline has caused the Naira to get weaker while lower oil prices dragged the oil sector down.

The output shrunk by 0.36 in the first quarter.

During the quarter, nominal GDP was 2.73% higher at 23.48 million Naira at basic prices.

The oil-rich nation’s economy suffered a set-back when the price of crude oil dropped, dipping the nation’s revenue.

The situation was, however, compounded by the resurgence of militants activities in the south-south region where there nation’s wealth is.

A group that calls itself the Niger Delta Avengers have attacked different oil installations in Niger Delta, forcing some oil companies to declare force majeure.

Their activities have lowered the nation’s crude oil output by 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.56 million bpd in the last few months.

Changes Would Come

After the report of the bureau was published, the government had at different occasions reassured Nigerians that the economic recession would be short-lived.

Osinbajo
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is optimistic that the economic recession will be short-lived

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo last week expressed optimism that the economic recession the country is battling with would ease out soon.

He said changes would come ‘once the Federal Government is able to resolve the issues concerning the pipeline vandalism and focus on sustainable diversification policy’.

The Vice President gave the assurance while speaking to reporters at the Redeemers University in Ede, Osun State.

The current administration of the All Progressives Congress has also blamed the administration of the Peoples Democratic Party for the recession, saying that the previous administration refused to invest in infrastructure and save money for the nation when the price of crude oil was over $100 per barrel.

Promising to correct the maladministration of the past government, President Muhammadu Buhari decried what he inherited from past administrations.

He said he would correct them with the help of Nigerians.

Muhammadu-Buhari-on-Nigeria-economy
President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration is making effort to correct the maladministration of the previous government

“I want Nigerians to realise what this government inherited after 16 years of PDP [Peoples Democratic party] and eight consecutive government.

“There was no savings, no infrastructure was done, no power, no rail, no road and security. This is what the other party left for Nigerians.

“Now they have seen what we have done from Boko Haram to what we are trying to do now with the militants.

“We have identified these problems, three of them – security, economy and fighting corruption.

“You have to secure our country to efficiently manage it. You have to create jobs for our youths and then we are fighting corruption which is continuous,” President Buhari said.

FG Dismisses Claims It Wants To Import Genetically Modified Rice

Reps summon finance and agric ministersThe Federal Government of Nigeria has described reports on social media linking it and Dangote group with a plan to ‘flood’ the country with genetically modified rice (GMO) as extremely uncharitable.

In a statement on Monday, by the spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Femi Adesina, the government warned purveyors of such malicious information and those thinking of embarking on the same route to have a rethink and retrace their steps.

Explaining government’s involvement in boosting production of rice in Nigeria, the Federal Government said it signed a $1 billion Memorandum of Understanding, (MoU) for investment in integrated rice project with Dangote Industries Ltd.

“Further to this agreement, Dangote Industries Limited this year cultivated over 8,000 hectares in Hadejia, Jigawa state, creating over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs for farmers who are the major beneficiaries of the scheme.

“In consolidation of the rice project of the Federal Government, President Muhammadu Buhari administration is also in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other reputable companies to tap into the vast potentials in the private sector and broadening the economic base of the country.

“The gains of the diversification drive especially in the Agriculture sector are already yielding dividends, as shown by the recent statistics in the sector as published by the National Bureau of Statistics,” the statement read.

According to the Federal Government, these engagements would continue until the present administration has laid a solid foundation for the economic development of the nation.

It further described the reports about plans to import genetically modified rice as ridiculous, insisting that it was wholly devoted to the generation of employment for Nigerians especially through Agriculture.

“It is unfortunate that while the Buhari administration is working assiduously with well-meaning Nigerians to bring the country out of the current economic situation it has found itself, a few self-serving individuals are bent on distracting the administration from the avowed focus to reflate the fortunes of the country through the diversification of the economy which, very soon, Nigerians will begin to see and experience the results,” the spokesman for President Buhari wrote.

Mr Adesina pointed out that President Buhari has said repeatedly that, “we have the capacity to feed ourselves in Nigeria and even export from what we produce in the country”.

President Buhari has also said that through the provision of 200 billion Naira by the CBN for small-holder farmers and processors involved in local production of rice and other grains, rice importation will hopefully stop in the next three years.