Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi has said that the 2016 recession has exposed the vulnerability of the Nigerian economy to both internal and external shocks; saying that the nation is at a point where it can no longer pay lip service to economic diversification.

Speaking in Lagos at the Agra Innovate Agric Expo, the Governor stated that Nigeria must strengthen new frontiers sectors to contribute to her economic stability and prosperity in view of “the exploding population growth that is disproportionate to our economic growth prospects”.

Dr Fayemi who noted that the population growth has left the country with the rattling challenge of high rate of unemployment opined that efforts of critical stakeholders at the agric expo would align with the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to fast-track rapid economic development in the country.

He urged Nigerians to embrace the “new thinking championed by the Federal Government that prescribes a fundamental shift from focus on government to drive agribusiness to a private sector -led agribusiness sector value chain development model”.

“The structure of our economy has remained highly undiversified, import dependent, and consumption driven. As at today, crude oil still accounts for about 90% of revenue from exports and foreign exchange earnings. Decades of consumption and high oil price-driven growth have led to an economy with a positive but jobless growth trajectory, while the agricultural and manufacturing sectors which account for less than 20% of total exports have declined drastically”, he said.

Dr Fayemi who spoke on “Food Security: The role of finance in the creation of commercial opportunities for agricultural value chain stakeholder operations” asserted that no State in Nigeria has the capacity to finance modern agro-business models from regular budgetary provisions hence the need for creativity in tackling the issue.

The governor who noted that lack of finance has remained one of the key factors accounting for the sub-optimal performance of the agric sector stated that without adequate finance, “the much hyped potential of agriculture to drive our economy would remain a mirage”.

Fayemi stressed that agriculture remains one of the cardinal focal areas of his administration because of the belief that the future of Nigeria lies in agriculture, even as his administration intends to partner with relevant stakeholders to bring back “the good old days enjoyed” during his first tenure.

“In demonstration of my unalloyed belief in the power of agriculture as a catalyst for youth development, I established Youth Commercial Agriculture Development (YCAD) programme in my first term in office which has since remained part of our success story. We are determined to strengthen this in collaboration with major industry players and the federal government with a view to engaging more youths”, Fayemi said.

Also speaking at the forum, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sarah Alade, lamented that the nation’s N22 billion import bill saying that agriculture is the way to go in order to grow the nation’s economy.

She added that governments at all levels must be proactive so that Nigeria can make the best out of the entire agric value chain.

In his remarks, Michel Deelen, Deputy Head of Netherland Mission in Nigeria urged Nigerian youths to make use of the opportunities which the agric value chains have to offer rather than come to Lagos to seek white collar jobs.

He added that Nigeria could generate revenue from the agric sector if the country sees the sector as an investment rather than a means to feed itself.