President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday lamented over the disruptive impact of the Boko Haram insurgency on agriculture. He said that the activities of the bandits had forced many to abandon their farms and homes in most parts of the country affected by the insurgence.
The President made the statement as he received a delegation of eminent and respected citizens of Niger State led by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello in the Statehouse, Abuja.
According to him, in spite of the favourable weather for farming, agricultural output has been affected in some parts of the country owing to the onslaught of the bandits who have attacked many farmers as well as made others to stay away for safety.
However, he denied that "It is not ethnicity or religion, rather it is one evil plan against the country.
Hence, he reiterated that his administration has taken it upon itself to be "harder on them".
He said, “I was taken aback by what is happening in the North West and other parts of the country. During our campaigns, we knew about the Boko Haram. What is coming now is surprising.”
He stressed that “harder times’’ await bandits whose disruptive activities have brought sorrow to Nigerians, kept many away from their means of livelihood, and heightened insecurity in parts of the country.
Buhari stated that the discovery of oil and gas reserves in Chad Basin, Benue trough and Bida, and some parts of Bauchi and Gombe, would further bolster current efforts to strengthen the Nigerian economy.
However, he noted that instead of the heavy reliance on oil, diversifying into agriculture would significantly control the level of poverty currently experienced in the country.
He called on more Nigerians to take up agriculture. Meanwhile, he advised leaders in the Niger Delta to “counsel those who blow up pipelines, resulting in spillages that affect farming and farmlands.’’
He noted that the loss had always been collective, sometimes turning hard-working farmers to victims.
“We have to be harder on them. One of the responsibilities of government is to provide security. If we don’t secure the country, we will not be able to manage the economy properly," he said.
The visitors said their visit was to appreciate Buhari for his interventions on infrastructure, security, and appointment of indigenes of the state into key positions of government.
Speaking on behalf of the group, the former governor of Niger State, Aliyu Babangida, said the activities of bandits had rendered many homeless, while others could no longer go the farms.
He, therefore, urged the President to intervene in the matter as well as in the completion of some federal roads, like the Mokwa-Birnin Gwari-Kaduna road and Kotongora road.