By Rita Iliya
Minna – Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday urged commercial banks to lower their interest rates to enable farmers access loans for improved agricultural production.
Obasanjo made the call at the opening ceremony of the 2017 Niger State Investment Summit held at the Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi Conference Centre, Minna.
According to him, doing agriculture and charging the rate of interest in double digit is to promote failure.
“The interest rate of banks in Nigeria is one of the obstacles that are affecting our farmers.
“They are not able to pay banks after taking loans and at the same time still able to run their agriculture business successfully,’’ he said.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the summit’s theme: ‘‘Advancing Agricultural Economy through Innovation and Truly Niger,’’ was organised to attract investors in various fields to boost the state economy.
The summit attracted experts, industrialists, manufacturers as well as governors across the country.
The former Nigeria leader described agriculture as ‘a renewable business’ that could create jobs and catapult the nation to economic prosperity.
He said paucity of funds and high interest rates were part of factors responsible for the under-development of the nation’s agricultural sector.
The former president, however, advised the Niger Government to take advantage of the arable land to attract investors to embark on commercial farming in the state.
He urged the state government to create employment and market through agriculture because of its proximity to Abuja.
“A state cannot develop in isolation, you have to work with other states and take advantage of economy of scale and identify areas that are profitable; then utilise them,’’ he added.
He called on the Federal Government to develop infrastructures in the state to enable farmers transport their farm produce to urban centres.
Similarly, a former Head of State, Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami, expressed optimism that agriculture was taking a centre stage in the nation’s drive to diversify the economy.
He urged commercial banks to lower their interest rates for farmers to obtain money for their agricultural activities.
According to him, the interest rate in Nigeria is 18 to 25 per cent, while for farmers it is nine per cent and 2.5 per cent in some other countries.
“If we want to make progress as a country, we need to look into our interest rate to make it easier for our farmers to access loans,’’ he said. (NAN)