The National Executive Council (NEC) of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) met in Lagos recently on the state of the nation and came out with some recommendations on how to move the nation forward.
In particular, the TUC National Executive Committee (NEC) called for the revival of Bank of Agriculture (BOA) and the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND) to help boost agricultural production in the county.
Coming at a time when the government is diversifying the economy away from the oil sector to agriculture and urging the youths to embrace agribusiness, the TUC’s call is appropriate and timely.
It observed that government parastatals like Bank of Agriculture (BOA) and National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND) whose activities could boost government’s economic diversification programmes, are not given adequate financial subventions as at when due.
The NEC- in session therefore, strongly advised the federal government to urgently revive BOA and NERFUND through adequate funding to enable them extend appropriate finance for economic programmes particularly to farmers in the rural areas and small scale businesses.
It is also important for government to reintroduce Export Expansion Grant (EEG) which was stopped some years back so as to encourage exporters of processed agro-allied products to increase their production for export and bring more inflow of foreign exchange into the country.
However, it is sad that the same government which is clamouring for the diversification of the economy is at the same time paying lip service to those programmes and organisations that could significantly help to ensure accelerated diversification of the economy.
At the same time NERFUND which was established to fund small scale industries especially those in the agribusinesses seemed to have been left behind in the current efforts to wake up agriculture in the country.
There is no doubt that NERFUND has not done well in the last decade or so because of poor budgetary allocation to it for disbursement to its clients.
At the same time, some of its staff, particularly those at the top echelon of the organisation might have entrenched themselves in corruption over the years.
The answer to such an organisation where the leadership is corrupt is not to abandon the organisation as the government has done but to make the corrupt officials account for their misdeeds while the organisation should be reorganised for better performance.
The country is focusing on agriculture to diversify the economy away from oil which took ascendancy over agriculture since the early 1970’s.
BOA understands the culture of famers and is well placed to provide funds for the production, processing and marketing of agricultural products by small, medium and large scale agribusinesses.
The government should therefore fund BOA well so that it can in turn fund agriculture and agribusinesses in the efforts to revitalise agricultural production in the country at this point in time.
With the renewed interest in agribusiness across the country a virile agricultural bank is needed to service the needs of entrepreneurs in agribusiness.
The high interest rates charged by commercial banks make them unsuitable as sources of funds for those in agribusiness.
Therefore, the government should also review upward the capitalisation of BOA from its present N1 trillion to at least N1.5 trillion so that it can better serve its clients and be able to give more funding to agribusinesses.