Prof Cletus Agu, Head, Department of Economics, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in Enugu State, has urged the Federal Government to diversify the economy by investing in agriculture sector.
Agu told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Nsukka on Thursday that this would forestall the total collapse of the economy. He added that the country’s economic dependence on oil alone for foreign exchange was not a good development. He said the recent fall in the price of oil in international market was a strong indication that money from oil could no longer sustain the economy of this country.
“From every indication, it is clear that money from oil alone can no longer sustain the country’s economy; there is urgent need to diversify to prevent total collapse in future. Some states and local governments in the country are unable to pay workers salaries because of fall in oil price that resulted in reduction of federal allocations to states and local governments”.
“Government, as a matter of necessity, should seriously invest in agriculture to boost the economy as well as provide employment to millions of jobless graduates roaming the street,” said.
He said state governments should start harnessing solid minerals in their various states as part of diversifying the economy.
“There is no state in this country that has no one solid mineral that when harnessed, will become a foreign exchange earner for the country. Our problem is that as soon as oil was discovered, we abandoned agriculture and other natural resources in the country, State governors should look inward on how to generate funds to run their states; the present situation where governors rush to Abuja every month end to share oil money is not the best,“ he said.
Agu recalled that before the discovery of oil, agriculture was main foreign exchange earner, noting that some premier universities in the country were built from the proceeds of agriculture like palm oil, groundnuts and cocoa.
“It is unfortunate that as a result of oil boom, we abandoned agriculture and all eyes focused on oil; today we are bearing the consequence of that great neglect of agriculture. It is indisputable that agriculture provides about 60 to 80 per cent of foreign exchange to most countries of the world”.
“Federal Government should put measure in place to build farm settlements in all local governments in the country which will help to ensure food security as well as provide employments to millions of Nigerians.”
He expressed concern about the inability of successive governments in the country to use money generated from oil to adequately develop the country.
“If all the revenues generated from oil have been well spent, the level of poverty and unemployment could have been small”.
“The truth is that our leaders saw oil money as national cake, so everybody is busy trying to cut his or own, instead of thinking how to use it to develop people’s welfare and the country,”Agu said