Asked about poor economic performance, Buhari says ‘return to farm’

President Muhammad Buhari dismissed his administration’s woeful economic indicators in an interview aired Wednesday, telling Nigerians they should embrace farming to solve the country’s myriads of economic challenges.

The president stated this in an interview aired by Channels Television.

In the interview, conducted by Channels’ Seun Okinbaloye and Maupe Ogun-Yusuf, the president disputed some of the economic indicators reeled out by the presenters showing how the Nigerian economy has deteriorated since he came to office in 2015.

In the interview, Mr Okinbaloye compared some of the key economic indicators between 2015 and 2021, explaining how the figures have kept Nigerians worried about the poor state of the economy.

“When you took over in 2015, our debt stock at the time was about 12 trillion, now it’s about 32 trillion,” Mr Okinbaloye said.

“Inflation rate was about 9%, it’s now sitting at about 15%; unemployment rate was about 9.2%, it’s now at about 32.2%; exchange (rate) was about N197 to a dollar, now it’s way over 400 naira to a dollar.

“Now people would look back and say before you took over some of these indicators were fair, and now the figures are not friendly at all.”

But Mr Buhari responded by disputing the data reeled out by the journalist, but he failed to engage them. He would later restate his oft-repeated claim that Nigerians must return to the farm in order to fix the economy.

“Well, I am not sure how correct your calculations are,” the president said, “but all I know is that we have to allow people have access to the farm. We just have to go back to the land.”

Last year, Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 33.3 per cent (23.2 million people) from 27.1 per cent, the highest in at least 13 years and the second-highest rate in the world.

The country’s unemployment rate has more than quadrupled since 2016 when the economy slipped into a recession.

When Mr Buhari took office in 2015, he promised to diversify Nigeria’s oil-dominated economy by investing more in agriculture and encouraging farming.

He also urged Nigerians to “grow what they eat, and eat what they grow,” to boost food self-sufficiency and increase foreign exchange earnings.

Current data show things have been a lot worse than when Mr Buhari took office. Food prices reached the highest levels in more than a decade in 2021.

On Wednesday, the president claimed that only 2.5 per cent of Nigeria’s arable land is being used for agricultural purposes.

“If we invest more in agriculture, people won’t be shouting of unemployment,” Mr Buhari said.

The president also said that when Nigeria closed the land border, it stopped the importation of rice.

“Now in Nigeria, we produce the rice we need and we even export,” he said.

“We have to exploit our capacities.”

Mr Buhari said Nigerians have to make sure that their industries are patronised, and that they have to stop smuggling to ensure that developed countries do not dump goods indiscriminately into Nigeria.

“Because of technology, they can produce faster and can produce more with less resources, and it will make life unbearable for Nigerians if permitted,” Mr Buhari said.

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