Food security capable of addressing recession —Obasanjo

Former military head of state and former chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has said the Federal Government can tackle the current recession by seriously embracing agriculture.

Obasanjo said beyond agriculture, the country could also boost revenue generation, create jobs and provide adequate food for local consumptions and exports through agribusiness.

He disclosed this on Tuesday, at the 23rd Annual Development Forum organised  by Lift Above Poverty Organisation (LAPO) Microfinance Bank in Abuja.

He said the import rate of the country was unsustainable, adding that it should be discouraged to promote local production.

According to him, Nigerians purchasing power has dwindled swiftly resulting in poverty and hunger in the country.

“Again available findings from studies revealed that household purchasing power is far deteriorating hence families in the country are becoming food insecure, in 2016 this year, percentage of food insecurity rise from 33 per cent in February and March to 38 per cent  in July. That is an increase of 5 per cent and still counting, we don’t know what it is now in October.

“Prices for local rice and local maize have risen but manual labour wage or any wage remains unchanged, severely reducing household purchasing power.

“Our inability to produce sufficient food for our increasing population has been increasing food import which impact negatively on our foreign exchange earnings. I was explaining the other day that what we have now (the crash of naira) is simple, we are spending more than we are earning.

“If UNICEF reported estimate that about 65 per cent of Nigeria population is food insecure, and I believe it is not far from the truth, now we have serious national problem to confront.

“To be food insecure means there is hunger in the land that is, if the hunger is not already with us, it is fast approaching, but it is already with us. Available findings from studies shows that household purchasing power is already deteriorating hence more family in the country are becoming food insecure.”

Speaking further on the economic recession, Obasanjo restated that the Federal Government, state and all individuals should return to the farm and take agriculture seriously.

He said youths should be actively involved in the sector, adding that problems such as poor access to finance, fertilizers, improved seedlings, mechanization, among other inputs, should be addressed.

In his remarks, the founder LAPO, Godwin Ehigiamusoe, said the initiative was designed due to the need to assist rural farmers, especially women.

He disclosed that the bank has so far disbursed about N455.5 billion to owners of micro and small enterprises.

Ehigiamusoe added that the bank with a customer base of 2.3 million people currently has offices in the 36 states.