Diversification: Obasanjo, Atiku failed Nigerians ― APC
Former vice-president and People’s Democratic Party presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has courted the anger of the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress over his critique of the economy.
Atiku in a statement during the week titled, How to Pull Nigeria from the Brink, has advised the APC-led Federal Government to initiate urgent steps to move the economy from its present mono-cultural status.
Appraising the fall in the international price of crude oil which has led to depletion in foreign exchange earnings, the former vice president submitted that Nigeria should learn from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which have seized the initiative to halt reliance on crude oil earnings despite their huge oil reserves.
But the APC in a statement at the weekend signed by its National publicity secretary, Lanre Isa-Onilu, said the Olusegun Obasanjo administration which Atiku Abubakar served as vice president and Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation had the opportunity to diversify the economy.
He maintained that for 8 years, the Obasanjo administration was short-sighted and lacked the vision to move the economy from its mono-product status.
“While we appreciate that Atiku Abubakar is keying into this administration’s policy direction regarding diversification, we are only worried that it took him 13 years after leaving office to realise that the Government under which he served as the Vice President was short-sighted for its failure to faithfully diversify the Nigerian economy.
“Not to be confused, Atiku Abubakar had eight years as a powerful Vice President and Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation with vantage opportunity to lead the country away from its dependence on oil. How Nigeria got worse even when international oil prices were stable and high are matters Atiku Abubakar may still need to address in future.”
Despite the lamentation by the Minister of Finance, Zaynab Ahmed, over dwindling foreign reserves occasioned by low crude oil sales and downward review of crude oil benchmark from $57 to $30 per barrel in the 2020 Budget estimate, Onilu claimed the economy has been better diversified under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He argued that the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), aimed at giving credit to farmers, an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the huge fund to cotton farmers another intervention policy by same apex bank were some of the measures to boost agricultural production and stimulate diversification.
“For free, we would gladly educate the former Vice President on the several policies this administration has introduced since 2015 to diversify Nigeria’s economy.
“As far back as 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), an intervention policy primarily aimed at giving farmers access to finance.
“This entails the provision of credit for financing the production of rice, wheat, ginger, maize and soybeans in many states of the federation.
“This policy driven by the Central Bank of Nigeria is an initiative that has, in the last four years, provided hundreds of billions of naira for rice farming, cultivation and milling. Few years down the line, Nigeria is now rated the highest producer of rice in Africa, producing over seven million tonnes per annum.
“And just late last year, the APC-led government through the CBN has also made available huge funds to our cotton farmers, a move geared towards reviving our moribund textile factories thereby creating millions of direct and indirect jobs.
“Also, as part of the efforts of the President Buhari-led administration to boost agriculture is the massive successes recorded in the local production of fertiliser. This was one policy personally driven by the President and which has received applause from even his most virulent critics. This policy, which is built on a partnership between Nigeria and the Kingdom of Morocco, has led to the resuscitation of 11 blending plants producing about 1.3million tonnes of fertiliser, creation of over 50,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs, in addition to farmers having timely access to the product at an affordable price.
“The contributions of agriculture to the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has consistently been on the increase and is being captured by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in the last four years.
“Most heart-warming is the fact that the private sector is keying into the President Buhari’s agenda. An example is the Dangote Group’s ongoing test running of its $2billion fertiliser plant, which would make Nigeria meet all its domestic demand and also make our country a net exporter of fertiliser.
“So, we ask Alhaji Atiku Abubakar: if all these major achievements are not commendable efforts towards diversification of the economy, what are they?”