Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Federal Government is targeting creating five million jobs with the launch of ‘The Green Imperative’ agricultural mechanization programme, with a $1.1 billion loan from the Brazilian government.

The Green Imperative is a Brazil – Nigeria bilateral project conceived to enhance the agricultural sector through the provision of modern machineries/ implements.

The $1.1 billion partnership also include 10,000 tractors to be assembled in Nigeria, more than 707 centres to be established to train not less than 10,000 Nigerians.

This is coming as part of federal government plans to mitigate key agricultural gaps, including the inability to meet domestic food requirements and Nigeria’s inability to satisfy growing export demands in terms of quantity and quality.

The country is challenged by her input system, hampered by farming models that are largely inefficient, poor seedlings, lack of adequate fertilizer input, poor irrigation system as well as absence of crop protection.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo launches the project Thursday at the State House Conference Center, in Abuja.

Osinbajo described the project as “signature focused”, noting that “We cannot bring our nation out of poverty without investment in agriculture. Also the share number of young people coming into of age will not only need to be fed but employed. They want dignified jobs with decent pay.”

The Vice President further described the  ‘Green Imperative’ as a game changer,  because with mechanized agriculture everything becomes different.

“Today, we are producing paddy rice as much as we need because of mechanization of agriculture. The only way to make the quantum leap required in our economy is what we are doing today with this project, the Green Imperative.”

Osinbajo added that “One of the reasons young people don’t warm up to agriculture is because it is not mechanized but that will change with this project.”

He added that with the Green Imperative, “We have made a significant difference in creating food sufficiency and decent jobs. We have ensured that this will be private sector driven.”

The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, advises youths to to seek wealth through agriculture, adding that “With Brazilian support we will get to where we want to get to.

“Importation alone does not make a country great, production does. By importation we also imported poverty and unemployment but this administration is set to reverse all that. Work is prayer in action.”

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Ogbe assured the Brazilian team that the environment will be friendly and welcoming, adding that, “There is nothing wrong in borrowing if you use it well, it is when you waste that you invite disaster.”

Minister or Finance Zainab Ahmed, in her remarks, said Buhari administration sees it as a national emergency to explore every possible opportunity to grow the non-oil sector.

She said the launch of one of the ’Green lmperative’ is designed to promote agricultural mechanization, create employment opportunities for energetic youth and help achieve food seIf- sufficiency.

Ahmed added that “the project we are launching today will be implemented with a total loan package of US$1.1billion majorly from the Brazilian Government which will be disbursed in four tranches over a period of two years. It is pertinent to state here that greater percentage of the loan will be provided in kind through the supply of agricultural machineries and implements in form of Completely Knocked Down (CKD) parts. This arrangement is expected to reduce fiduciary risks and create more employment opportunities for our teeming youth and those that will be involved in assembling the machineries and implements.

“Another important benefit of the project is that its implementation will be purely private sector led in all its operations including the assembling of the machineries/implements, operation of the service centres and the agro-processing centres. The project will be implemented in all the 774 Local Government Areas of the country in phases.

“Let me use this opportunity to sensitize the Nigerian private sector, youth and women to get ready for business. The selection of the participants in this project will be done on merit as our concern is nothing but the success of the project. We will ensure that participation is devoid of politics and any form of nepotism.”

The minister said the federal  government is aware of the concerns of many Nigerians with regards to obtaining external loan, making the assurance that, “this project is designed to repay the loan facility through its proceeds. The repayment will not bring any fiscal burden on the tax payers.”

Ahmed added, “l have no doubt that this project will help to ensure food self – sufficiency, create more employment opportunities for our teeming population and also help transform the economic land scape of Nigeria.”

The Brazilian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ricardo Guerra de Araujo, said that $1.1 billion contract said the project aims to create over five million new jobs, especially amongst Nigerian youths.

“It has become imperative to make agriculture attractive to young farmers, since this is the only way to develop human capital.

“The truth is that agriculture has the potentials to create jobs for millions, support small scale farmers to actualize their potentials,” Araujo said.

The Brazilian envoy called on the Nigerian government to urgently work hard to halt the challenge of post-harvest loses estimated at billions of Naira.

The initiative is aimed at tapping from the successful experience of Brazil in agriculture to successfully improve agriculture as Nigeria.

Agriculture, which contributed about 39 percent to the Gross National Product (GNP) in 2017, employs no less than 80% of the Nigeria Labour force.