Nigeria’s South-South region now showing interest in the various intervention funding of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is already yielding fruits.
The Governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, disclosed at the commissioning of the Rivers State Cassava Processing Plant, located at Afam/Ban-Ogoi Link Road in Oyigbo Local Government Area, Rivers State, on Thursday, last week that the apex bank has granted a total of N333.2 billion intervention loans to businesses in the region.
Some critics had faulted the CBN for what they described as an undue concentration on a certain part of the country while neglecting some parts of Southern Nigeria. But the CBN governor said that the apex bank has been working to boost economic activities in all parts of the country, without neglecting any region.
He said, “So far, our developmental finance initiatives at the Central Bank of Nigeria have been focused on creating an enabling environment that will drive both public and private sectors participation in the real sector with strategic deliverables around price stability, job creation, financial inclusion, import substitution and accretion to foreign reserve among others.
“Our interventions seek to improve access to credit for households and businesses which will enhance productivity and create value across a wide range of economic activities. Our interventions have cut across key sectors such as agricultural, manufacturing, health, and infrastructure. So far, the sum of N333.196 billion has been disbursed to various projects in the South-South region covering activities in these different economic sectors.
“Land development has been identified as a major constraint to increase in agricultural activities in the Southern parts of the country due to its topography. As a result, the CBN has partnered with several States Governments in the Region under the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
“The sum of N7.436 billion has been accessed by four States in the South-South regions to open up more land for cultivation, create access roads to agricultural lands, and provide infrastructure among other support services in the region. These measures are helping to induce greater activity in the agricultural sector and are enabling the movement of goods from farm to factories, and to the markets.”
Mr. Emefiele added that funds have been made available for States governments in the region that want to use the bank’s facilities to clear agricultural lands for their farmers, given the difficulties of the environment.
Speaking of the cassava processing plant, Emefiele said that he would encourage more of its type in the region and across the country, in order to generate more employment and reduce imports of cassava derivatives.
According to him, “Another key benefit of this facility is the impact it could have on improving local sourcing of inputs for households and businesses. With the ability to process over 45,000 tons of cassava, this facility will provide high-quality cassava flour for households, industries and bakeries. Notwithstanding our position as the largest producer of cassava in the world, Nigeria imports over $580m worth of cassava by-products.
“With facilities such as this, it will help in reducing our reliance on imports of cassava by-products, which serves as a key input in the production of food items in several factories.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria is keen on encouraging similar projects like this, given the headwinds that we have faced over the past year. As we are all aware, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic along with the 60 percent decline in crude oil prices in the 1st half of the year had a significant effect on the Nigerian economy.
“With over 80% of our export revenues coming from the sale of crude oil, the drop in crude prices along with the imposition of the lockdown measures had a significant constraint on GDP growth. This impact led to the Nigerian economy falling into recession in the 3rd quarter of 2020.
“The emergence of the Nigerian economy from the recession in the 4thquarter of 2020, and the recent report that the economy continued to experience positive growth in the 1st quarter of 2021 was due to significant growth in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Given the multiplier effects of these two sectors on growth, employment, and wealth creation, it is imperative that we continue to encourage more investment in these critical sectors of our economy.
“Principal agencies of government at the federal and state level should continue to work hand in hand towards diversifying our economy and creating an enabling environment for further investment by firms such as the Rivers Cassava Processing Company.
“With deliberate emphasis on reducing our dependence on the oil sector, agriculture and the manufacturing sectors have emerged as key catalysts for reducing unemployment and driving growth in Nigeria. With the decline in our foreign exchange earnings, we can no longer afford to support continued importation of items that can be produced in Nigeria.
“Our current situation has also made it imperative for the Central Bank to work towards supporting programs that will enable greater cultivation and processing of key agricultural commodities in Nigeria.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, said that Nigeria has been spending huge sums in foreign exchanging to import wheat flour, annually, and that it is time to substitute it with high quality cassava flour.
He said the nation was targeting 60 per cent wheat flour import by 2030 and that the cassava farmers in Rivers State would readily benefit from it.
The minister pledged to support the farmers with high yielding cassava stems developed by the National Root Crops Council.