President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday appealed to the people of the Niger Delta to embrace peace and focus on agriculture for sustainable economic development and wealth creation.
Buhari made the appeal at the 20th Anniversary of Nigerian Agip Oil Company’s Green River Project Farmers Day, held at the Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha Banquet Hall in Yenagoa.
The President was represented at the occasion by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri.
He commended the unrelenting efforts of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company, who he said had proved that oil production and agriculture can coexist.
Buhari said the focus of his administration was to redirect attention to agriculture in its entirety and empower Nigerians in a productive and sustainable manner.
He said the process entailed treating agriculture as a business to create wealth and provide employment. According to him, it also involved taking the country from being an import dependent country to a self – sufficient nation, with surplus for export to earn foreign exchange.
The President noted that Nigeria spent an average of $22billion annually on wheat, rice, sugar and fish imports. Buhari said that Nigeria had an estimated 84 million hectares of arable land with an estimated 10 per cent only being optimally utilised.
He said there was an abundance of land available for cultivation to meet the demand of about 170 million consumers in the Nigerian domestic market and the entire West Africa sub region.
The Managing Director and Vice Chairman of Agip, Mr Massimo Insulla, said it was significant to choose the theme Sustainable Farming for Sustainability for the milestone celebration.
Insulla expressed gratitude to Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson, for accepting to host NAOC Green River Project’s Farmers and other farmers from Delta, Imo and Rivers states. Prof. Humphrey Ogon, Vice Chancellor, Niger Delta University, Amassoma, said the programme was timely and is commendable considering the economic situation of the country.
Ogon said that the benefits included improving the livelihood of farmers in the region, food security and creation of employment.