President Muhammadu Buhari says N300billion has been disbursed to farmers while 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households, comprising more than 8 million individuals are currently benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer programme.
The President revealed this while virtually declaring open the 14th Annual Banking and Finance Conference of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja.
According to him, one of the various initiatives embarked on to boost agricultural trade in Nigeria is the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
He said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had made more than N300billion available to over 3.1 million smallholder farmers of 21 different commodities.
He said the commodities included Rice, Wheat, Maize, Cotton, Cassava, Poultry, Soybeans, Groundnut and Fish, cultivating over 3.8 million hectares of farmland.
“It is on record that 80% of rice consumed in Nigeria is now produced locally.”
He noted that the National Social Register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians had identified 32.6 million persons from seven million poor and vulnerable households, imploring bankers to play a stronger role in improving livelihoods.
“From this number, 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households, comprising more than eight million individuals are currently benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer programme, which pays a bi-monthly stipend of N10,000 per household.”
President Buhari said that the National Social Investment Programme was the biggest in Sub-Saharan African and one of the largest in the world.
The President said that he approved the establishment of InfraCo Plc last year, a world-class infrastructure development vehicle, wholly focused on Nigeria.
He said the company, with combined debt and equity take-off capital of N15 trillion to further strengthen recovery and enable more Nigerians, was being managed by an independent infrastructure Fund Manager.
“The Solar Power Naija project was launched in April 2021 with the aim of delivering 5 million off-grid solar connections to Nigerian households.
“In May 2021, the Rural Electrification Agency announced the planned deployment of solar-powered grids to 200 Primary Health Centres and 104 Unity Schools nationwide.
“Under the Family Homes Fund Limited Social Housing programme, incorporated by the Federal Government of Nigeria, more than two thousand hectares of land with title documents have been issued by 24 States with the capacity to accommodate about 65,000 new homes.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria is providing a N200billion financing facility, with a guarantee by the Federal Government.”
The President affirmed that the theme of the conference, “Economic Recovery, Inclusion, and Transformation: The Role of Banking and Finance” was most appropriate, following the global shocks from COVID-19.
“I salute the Institute and the entire banking and finance industry for the commitment towards charting a practical path for economic recovery and transformation of our country, Nigeria, and by extension Africa as epitomised by the theme of your conference.
“I commend the financial services industry for its interventions and contributions towards the promotion of financial inclusion and literacy in our country.
“More importantly, the roles played by the banks in fostering economic growth of the country.
“I am confident that the speakers that have been carefully selected to contribute to the conference will share insights that will help individuals, businesses and government, at all levels, make necessary adjustments and take the right steps towards our collective resolve to position Nigeria as one of the top economies in the world.”
The President said a report from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 5.01 per cent in the second quarter of 2021; the strongest rise since the fourth quarter of 2014.
“This is cheery news and an indication that the efforts of this administration at repositioning the economy is paying off.”
He urged the bankers and financial institutions to leverage on the abundant business opportunities to grow the economy.
President Buhari also implored financial institutions to play a stronger role in making sure the Nigerian Small and Medium Enterprises were fit for purpose, with support in full implementation of “Agreement”.
“Indeed financial intermediaries could not be any more relevant than at a time like this.
“We need you, the banks to drive value creation by developing new technologies, scaling payment infrastructure to serve the diversified economies expected to benefit from this Agreement.”
He said technological innovation was also important in the modern business terrain, noting that most transactions now take place online given the advent of the “Internet of Things”.
The President stressed that as the nation continues to progress towards the next frontiers of digitisation, it must harness all opportunities while being mindful of the inherent risks.
“For example, the protection of data is now of utmost importance to provide users with more secure access to the online space.”
President Buhari said the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything in the world, from interaction, work, communication to general lifestyle.
He noted that the epidemic also triggered new opportunities which helped to reshape the economy in the areas of digital transformation, trans-African trade, financial inclusion, security, workforce of the future, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, processing, supply and logistics.
“As we look beyond the effects of the pandemic to the future, there are bountiful opportunities ahead of us.
“As you all may know, the African Continental Free Trade Area, of which Nigeria is subscribed, is not only an opportunity for the growth of trade but also the growth of Pan African businesses.
“It portends opportunities for our teeming youth population, the women, the creative industry, the digital economy, the financial services sector, agricultural value chain, commerce, industry, education and indeed every aspect of the economy as Nigerians will have unfettered access to the over 1.3billion consumer market.”
President Buhari commended the CBN, working in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, for providing single-digit financing to young Nigerians in the fields of fashion, film, music and Information Technology through establishment of the Creative Industry Financing Initiative.
In a goodwill message, President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda said exploring new technology in the banking sector, with more focus on innovation, would enhance financial inclusion.
“The banking sector can lead the way in integration; banking is about trust,” Kagame said.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the regulatory body had been working with the Bankers’ Committee to scale the challenges posed by COVID-19, which include reduction of interest rates on loans, increasing the moratorium for payments and injecting N3trillion loans in the private sector.
“We do expect that the pace of inflation will moderate as we approach the harvest season.”
He expressed the hope that banks would remain strong, resilient and healthy, adding that the N15trillion infrastructure fund will be inaugurated in October 2021.
According to Emefiele, innovations like the Nigeria/International Financial will provide a gateway for capital and investments and digital currency, e-naira, will enhance inclusion.