NIGERIAN government officials have announced ambitious plans to ensure that 2.4m households benefit from the Covid-19 stimulus package aimed at providing families with cash handouts in a bid to boost the economy.
Badly hit by the coronavirus lockdown, Nigeria’s economy has nose-dived mainly due to the fact that crude oil prices and demand have collapsed, badly affecting government revenue. This has not only limited imports but has hurt local production too as many companies have found it hard to operate as they cannot source machinery, raw materials and other products needed to facilitate their operations.
Dr Andrew Kwasari, President Muhammadu Buhari’s senior special assistant on agriculture, said that the government, said the new programme was introduced to guarantee food security. He added that it will be anchored on the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Committee plan to secure the economy against the effects of Covid-19.
This stimulus package will be provided through the Agric for Food and Jobs Plan under the agricultural sector of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP). Set up by President Muhammadu Buhari in March, the NESP is being chaired by vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo, with members from key sectors of the economy and is designed to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy.
Dr Kwasari said: “The Economic Sustainability Committee needed to be very strategic in utilising the minimal resources, overall, not only for the agriculture sector. So, for the agric sector, we decided that we would use this strategy to utilise available cash to work with financial institutions, led by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to see how we can get stimulus packages to about a minimum of 2.4m households or to fund 2.4m hectares of land that will be cultivated during this 2020 wet and dry season farming.”
He added that it was in a bid to answer the question what must Nigeria do to ensure food sufficiency in the wake of Covid-19 that the agricultural sub-sector of NESC decided to clearly define and understand the global scenario of the pandemic. Households to benefit from the Agric for Food and Job Project are small scale farmers with farmlands ranging from one to five hectares across the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory and enumeration is already in progress.
Dr Kwasari added: “The Nigerian economy was already disrupted, as we had lost a large share of our gross domestic product (GDP) income which comes from oil. So, with this reduced GDP, even if there is a stable food systems supply, Nigeria may not be able to afford importation of food in order to feed over 200m people.
“Imagine then where we have both global food system disruption in productivity and output and the loss of national income from oil revenue losses. We are in a more dangerous situation.”
According to Dr Kwasari, Nigeria has a plus in terms of a large population that can be channelled into food production. He noted that in tackling the problem of the impending economic depression, the committee also had to increase its limited resources to reach the larger population of indigent Nigerians.