Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said yesterday that higher electricity tariff was inevitable. He urged Nigerians to brace for a new regime.
He spoke at the Sixth Presidential Business Forum held at the old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The forum, which focused on agriculture and its value chains, had the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe; the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah; officials of government agencies and stakeholders in the agriculture sector in attendance.
Prof Osinbajo said there is no question at all about the tariff increase, adding however, that government was not going to implement it now but was working towards cleaning the electricity value chain.
According to him, the N700 billion Payment Assurance Guarantee (PAG) set aside by government was payment to ensure uninterrupted payment for gas and liquidity in the power sector.
Osinbajo said the PAG was to fund a smooth transition “from where we are to a much more market-determined policy for electricity”.
The vice president said government was working with the World Bank on this initiative.
He also disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that a committee be set up to explore the use of government’s intervention funds in agriculture.
“I’m chairing a committee to look at how to not only use intervention funds but how to monitor the use of intervention funds,” Osinbajo said.
He explained that the idea was to ensure that intervention funds go to the right persons.
Stressing that the government would not bring down interest rate overnight, he said: “The way out is by some kind of intervention and that’s what the President has asked that we do.”
Osinbajo said government was refining the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and other intervention funds for agriculture with a view to making them more effective in assisting farmers.
The issue of smuggling of agricultural produce into Nigeria, he said, is an existential threat to the country’s agric sector.
He said there were about three ship loads of about 120, 000 metric tons of rice coming from Thailand bound for one of the neighbouring countries.
“It is very clear that the rice is meant for Nigeria because they don’t consume parboiled rice; they consume the white broken rice. Our neighbours do excellent business with allowing rice to come into Nigeria.” he said.
He said a similar thing happened last Christmas when Nigeria blocked about 500,000 metric tons of rice coming into Nigeria from one of its neighbours.
He said Nigeria would go to these countries in friendly and polite manner to ensure that the practice stops.
Osinbajo also identified the low duty paid in some of the neighbouring countries as one of the factors that encouraged the smuggling of rice and other agric produce through them into Nigeria.
Among other issues which the vice president spoke on at the forum included the gridlock at the Apapa and Tincan ports in Lagos as well as land ownership, titling and clearing.
Giving an overview of the progress made in agric, Chief Ogbeh said Nigeria’s import of rice has dropped by about 95 per cent from 644, 131 metric tons in September 2015 to 20,000 tons in September 2017.
According to him, there are 12.2million farmers growing rice in Nigeria, mainly in states such as Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano, Ebonyin and Nassarawa.
“We should be almost certain to meet our needs in local rice production,” he said.
Enelamah gave an update on the Export Incentive Grant; and the Chief Executive Officer of the WACOT Rice Mill in Kebbi State, Rahul Savara.
Participations from the private sector at the meeting also raised questions and made observations on issues such as access to credit, quality control, protection of local farmers, land, among others.