PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Monday declared that his administration would construct additional 400 dams to boost irrigation across the country before the expiration of his term in 2019.
He also revealed that Nigeria’s population doubles itself every 25 years, stressing that this was why the government had decided to focus on revamping agriculture and solid mineral sectors.
Buhari disclosed this to delegates from Africa and other continents at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Food Crisis Prevention Network which was held in Abuja.
The President said the government had started implementing measures to expand the production of grains and other agricultural produce in Nigeria, adding that the country would start experiencing three harvesting seasons when more dams become operational in the next two years.
Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said, “We can no longer rely on rainfall, we have to create more dams, water reservoirs and insist on harvesting food at least three times in a year.
“I am happy to tell you that that programme is being designed and in the next two and half years we shall add to the existing 200 dams at least another 400 dams across the country to encourage irrigation on a large scale.”
On Nigeria’s increasing population, he said the number of citizens across the country might hit 500 million by 2050 and that there was the need to plan how to feed the nation when its population gets to that level.
Buhari said, “We are not unmindful of our huge population here, hence the need to urgently ensure that the agricultural sector is revitalised as soon as possible. Our population here doubles every 25 years. Estimates are that by 2050 Nigeria will be in the region of 450 to 500 million persons, making us the third most populated country on planet earth coming after China and India.
“The question, therefore is, how do you feed 500 million people with hoes and cutlasses as their tools for agricultural development? However, we are proud to say that we are currently achieving a lot. This year, the harvest of grains in Nigeria has been absolutely exceptional as other African countries have been coming here in search of grains.”
The President noted that the poor handling of agriculture by government had contributed to the depletion of the country’s foreign reserves, as Nigeria spends $22bn annually on food imports.
“Our failure to restore agriculture in the face of crisis in the North-East has increased the percentage of food imports and caused a severe reduction in our foreign reserves. Africa is said to spend $35bn annually on importing food. Of that amount Nigeria accounts for $22bn and there is no need for this, because presently Africa has no excuse of not being able to feed itself,” he added.
This, he said, had warranted a renewed focus by the present government to revamp agriculture and solid minerals development, to revive the economy and make it an export-driven one capable of sustaining prosperity for the masses.
Buhari added that it was high time African countries stopped the importation of harmful foods from other continents as most of these items were toxic and cause health challenges based on findings by an agency in Nigeria.
He said, “Our National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control have had reason to analyse certain products not originating in West Africa but imported into West Africa and then into Nigeria to be of extremely harmful effect in the diet of our people. Too many of our people are dying of new diseases as a result of this.
“We are therefore making an appeal to all of us in the sub region to do what we can to make sure that nothing harmful comes in through our borders.”
The President also urged African countries to change the method of cattle breeding on the continent, as he stated that there was need to stop the roaming of cattle in order to forestall conflicts between herdsmen and farmers.