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President Muhammadu Buhari has
appealed to the people of the Niger Delta to embrace peace and focus on
agriculture for sustainable economic development and wealth creation.

Buhari urged them to take advantage
of the huge potential in agriculture and stop the destruction of oil and gas
pipelines which only served to destroy the country’s ecosystem and economy.

The President, represented by the
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken
Lokpobiri, made the appeal on Saturday at the 20th anniversary of the Nigerian
Agip Oil Company’s Green River Project Farmers’ Day in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa
State capital.

Buhari said, “I wish to acknowledge
the unrelenting efforts of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company,  which, in its bid to prove that oil
production and agriculture can coexist, 
has for the past 29 years supported its host communities to focus on
agriculture through the GRP,  a corporate
social responsibility initiative, which has resulted in sustainable development
in these communities.

“I appeal to the people of the
Niger Delta region to embrace peace and focus on agriculture for sustainable
economic development and wealth creation.

“I urge you to take advantage of
the huge potential in agriculture and stop the destruction of oil and gas
pipelines, which only serve to destroy our ecosystem and economy.

“The present administration is
committed to doing everything possible to support the people of the Niger Delta
to achieve their potential in agriculture, which is far more than its
endowments in oil and gas.”

The occasion, with the theme,
‘Sustainable Farming for Sustainability’, had in attendance representatives of
governors of Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and Imo states; Chairman, Agip, Mr. U.
Carrara; and the Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Agip, Massimo Insulla.

Buhari said the focus of his
administration was to redirect attention to agriculture and empower Nigerians
in a productive and sustainable manner.

He said the process entailed
treating agriculture as a business to create wealth and provide employment and
take the country from being an import-dependent country to a self-sufficient
nation with surplus for export to earn foreign exchange.

The President noted that Nigeria
spent an average of $22bn annually on wheat, rice, sugar and fish importation.

Buhari said Nigeria had an
estimated 84 million hectares of arable land with an estimated 10 per cent only
being optimally utilised.

He said there was an abundance of
land available for cultivation to meet the demand of about 170 million
consumers in the domestic market and the entire West African sub-region.

The President noted that Agip, as
part of its GRP, was supporting some farmers with processing facilities such as
cassava, rice and oil palm mills, noting that they were significant as
post-harvest losses were estimated to be about $9bn annually.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture
and Rural Development was also procuring sundry processing equipment for
farmers across the country.

The President encouraged the host
states to collaborate with the ministry to make agriculture a key business in
Nigeria.

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