© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
“You work with figures, I work with facts…’ Buhari insists Nigeria has achieved food security
DESPITE the many negative reports by several internationally recognised bodies on the rate of hunger and poverty in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari insists that the nation has achieved food security under his administration.
Buhari said this during an interview conducted by a team of journalists drawn from Arise Television, ThisDay Newspaper, and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). The interview was aired on Arise TV on Monday night and is also available on the station’s Youtube Channel.
Buhari said he and his team were “very lucky”, having prayed a lot to God, and as a result, the rainy seasons of 2016, 2017, and 2018 were quite favourable to Nigerian farmers, regardless of the flood disasters that occurred in some states across the nation.
He accused the media of not fully appreciating “the luck we have, and what we did in Agriculture”.
“I am sure you will know that we have virtually achieved food security,” Buhari said.
He explained that he directed the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to come up with measures that would ensure that local farmers are able to access soft loans in order to improve their harvests.
“We made fertilizer available at virtually half the price we met it, and we are producing it locally. We work together with another African country, Morocco.
“…I’m sure you have felt it. We don’t import rice, virtually, anymore. We don’t import rice, we have stopped importing rice, and we are even exporting grains.
“But we want to be self-sufficient in maize so that the chicken feed and so on, can be there locally. We made tremendous progress.
“I very much recommend that you do some in-depth study in it and see how much we have earned in Agriculture.”
However, one of the journalists pointed out to Buhari that his comments on food security were contradictory to the realities on the ground as evidenced in several reports by reputable international organisations. For instance, figures show that several millions of Nigerians are unemployed and the country recently overtook India as the poverty capital of the world.
To this Buhari replied, “You work with figures, I work with facts. I’m telling you this, (and) that’s why I recommend that you see the Minister of Agriculture and the Governor of the Central Bank (to explain to you) how much money Nigeria was thought to be allocated to import rice, to import other foodstuffs, and how much we are now giving for import of food.”
Buhari said many people are leaving their white collar jobs and are returning to agriculture and many hitherto unemployed Nigerians have taken up agriculture and are doing well.
There are no available statistics to support Buhari’s claims that Nigeria has achieved food sufficiency. Rather Buhari’s administration claims it has reduced rice importation by 90 percent. A fact-check report by The ICIR showed this claim is false.
In fact, the 2018 United States Department of Agriculture report puts Nigeria’s rice importation in 2018 at about 400,000 tonnes and estimates that the country will only be second to China in rice importation by 2019.
The CBN Governor, Emefiele, however, disputes the USDA report, saying that available data shows “that rice imported legally into the country is less than 25,000 tonnes in 2018 so far”.
But as Nigeria records a drop in the rate of legally imported rice, the Benin Republic, one of Nigeria’s closest neighbours continue to record a huge spike in theirs.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, once confessed that “as Nigeria’s rice import falls, Benin’s rice imports increase” and that “most of the parboiled rice imported by Benin eventually land in Nigeria through smuggling”.
According to data from the International Grains Council, over half of Nigeria’s imports in 2015 entered from neighbouring Benin, where the duty on rice is only 12 per cent, and most of Benin’s rice imports, up to 30,000 truckloads per year, are routed via transit shipments through Niger to the northwest of Nigeria.