Nigeria is a blessed country, yes. However, though she has almost everything she truly needs, she has abandoned her numerous resources for imported, finished goods. When Nigeria kept the faith, her currency, the Naira, was higher than the United States dollar and almost at par with the British pound sterling.
Well, those were the days when Nigeria was a productive country; the days when we were an export-oriented country. We even exported palm trees to Malaysia, which, today, is about the world’s largest producer of palm oil, while Nigeria gradually, but steadily gravitated towards an import-oriented country, no thanks to the discovery of crude oil.
Former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwunmi Adesina, who is currently president of the African Development Bank (AFDB) had said that the country spends over N1.1trn on the importation of wheat, rice, fish and sugar yearly. According to him, the country spent N356bn and N217bn on rice and sugar importation, respectively. The collective amounts – N635bn and N97bn – were spent on wheat and fish, respectively.
One example of the food we import which poses a huge danger to human health is frozen food. The fishes would have been killed weeks – if not months – before finding their way to the ships which spend months on the sea to get to the Benin Republic, from where they are smuggled into Nigeria. All the while, these fishes are preserved using chemicals, to prevent them from going bad.
This importation of fish has discouraged Nigerian fishermen and women from a trade that was lucrative in the past.
Instead of patronizing imported, ‘toxic’, frozen fish and canned meat which have lost their nutritional value, fish-farming can be encouraged in the country.
Nonso Agume, owner of a fish farm in Lagos, told LEADERSHIP Friday that it will take about six months for one to reap the dividends of one’s labor. According Nonso, he has since ceased looking for jobs that are, simply, unavailable, but he has become an employer of labor. Nonso has not only helped conserved the nation’s foreign reserve, he is adding value to the local economy.
Tule gave another vivid description of how the love for imported goods has turned the country into a dumping ground of some sort. Nigerians spend so much foreign earnings in the importation of rice. Rice that has been warehoused for years and may have lost some nutritional value as well in place of the Ofada rice and Abakiliki rice which has more nutritional value than those imported.
When some items were black-listed from accessing the official foreign exchange market, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele said the Federal Government spent $2.41bn on rice importation between January 2012 and May 2015.
He said: “The bank will make funds more accessible to farmers through some of its funding programs, such as the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme and the N220bn Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development fund.
“The funds will be made available to rice farmers through the micro-finance banks at an interest rate of nine per cent and, any bank that charges interest above that rate should be reported to the CBN.
“We appeal to the state governments to provide lands for the farmers on a large-scale, so that we can work with them to take care of some of these impediments.
“We are at a stage where we must feed ourselves and, all hands are on deck to ensure [that] this works,” he said.
There are many other areas in which the country’s economic team could look to reverse the nation’s over-dependence on imported goods.
It could only be news to the younger generation that certain produces like groundnut, rubber, cocoa, animal products, among others, were sources of revenue to the country.
Then, there was – and still remain – a cocoa house to show for the gainful activities of the nation’s founding parents.
There used to be – though it has become history – groundnut pyramids in Northern Nigeria, awaiting exportation, while others like rubber, palm-tree, among others, emerged major contributors to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is safe to categorize most of these high-earning productive sectors of the Nigerian economy under ‘agriculture’.
According to the NBS’s publication, agriculture, as practices in Nigeria, is characterized by considerable regional and crop diversity. Analysis of this sector, particularly the food sub-sector, is fraught with serious data problems. However, the available statistics provide a broad overview of development in agriculture upon which we can make some broad generalizations about its role in economic development and structural change in Nigeria.
In the 1960s, the agricultural sector was the most important in terms of contributions to domestic production, employment and foreign exchange earnings. The situation is a whole new one, with crude oil now the main foreign exchange-earner.
The sector remained stagnant during the decade of ‘oil boom’, beginning from the ‘70s and this accounted largely for the declining share of its contributions. The trend in the share of agriculture in the GDP shows a substantial variation and long-term decline from 60 per cent in the early ‘60s through 48.8 per cent in the 1970s and 22.2 per cent in the ‘80s.
Unstable and often inappropriate economic policies (of pricing, trade and exchange rate), the relative neglect of the sector and the negative impact of oil boom were also important factors responsible for the decline in its contributions.
On its diversity, Nigerian agriculture features tree and food crops, forestry, livestock and fisheries. In 1993 at 1984 constant factor cost, crops (the major source of food) accounted for about 30 per cent of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP), livestock about five per cent, forestry and wildlife about 1.3 per cent and fisheries accounted 1.2 per cent.
In most of the surveys and censuses conducted by the NBS, which is the major producer of agricultural statistics in Nigeria, crops and livestock are always considered together because of the tendency for most of the farmers to practice crops and livestock husbandry simultaneously. A separate discussion of livestock will involve duplication of some aspects of the survey and censuses designed for collating crops’ statistics.
Now, outside agriculture with companies like Niyya Farms making a positive difference, Nigeria has made some positive strides in the automobile industry, no matter how little it may be. Besides Innoson Motors, producing or assembling vehicles in the country – depending on varied economic viewpoints – we also have other car manufacturers assembling cars in Nigeria.
It will go a long way in helping employment and encouraging technology transfer, as well as boost the local economy than rely on the importation of BMW cars and other notable household automobile brands from their country of assembly or manufacture.
Adapting these measures, among others, could make Nigeria great again, swell her foreign exchange reserve and strengthen her currency against the American dollar.
The list is inexhaustible, but we have to start from somewhere, by we the people patronizing Nigerian products. Buying more of Nigerian made products like Farm Pride instead of imported juices, and Innoson instead of imported vehicles.