By Ismaila Chafe
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the disbursement of produce processing machines to Nigeria farmers in the rural areas to boost food security across the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who disclosed this in Abuja on Wednesday, said the project is another indirect measure meant to discourage rural-urban migration in the country.
He pointed out that the machines would boost the cultivation of crops like rice, cassava, millet, maize and processing of other local produce among farmers.
The minister said the project was being executed in partnership with the Ministry of Finance.
“We will identify commodities in various locations, identifying what is suitable in each area, according to their ecological situation, organise the people into cooperatives and allocate the machines to them as loans,’’ he added.
He stated that each beneficiary must be registered with the village chiefs, the police and other security agencies for easy identification and prompt repayment of the loan.
Ogbeh added that the country was fast losing its productive young people who should have engage in agriculture to political thuggery, migration to Europe and motorcycle operations.
He said: “Government will be irresponsible if we don’t do anything.
“These people can hardly pay interest rates of between 18 to 25 per cent.
“This is a way to assist them make meaningful earnings through agricultural revolution.’’
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, who fielded questions on the payment of Paris Club refund to state governments, explained that the states must meet the conditions attached to the payment of the refund before they benefit from it.
She said: “In respect of the Paris Club, Mr President has given approval for the payment of the last Paris Club refund to the states but the approval came with some conditions which we are trying to work out together with the states to meet.
“Those conditions that Mr President gave is that we must show that the states have used the previous refund for payment of salaries and they will use this one also for payment of salaries.’’
The minister also reassured that the federal government would pay the remaining balance of N22.4billion entitlements to ex-staff of Nigeria Airways in 2019.
She disclosed that already government had commenced payment of N22.6 billion out of their total entitlements of N45billion.
“The approval given for payment of entitlements to the ex-staff of Nigeria Airways was N45 billion and because of paucity of funds, Mr President gave approval for the payment of 50 per cent of N22.6 billion.
“We hope to pay the balance in 2019,’’ she added.