ABUJA, March 21 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari urged banks on Monday to boost lending to the agriculture sector, part of his drive to encourage diversification away from oil production in Africa’s largest economy.
Buhari also vowed to improve energy provision in a country long blighted by power shortages.
Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, has been hit hard by a fall in crude prices that has cut vital oil revenues – which account for 70 percent of national income – causing the economy to grow by just 2.8 percent in 2015, its slowest pace in decades.
“Our real wealth is in farming, livestock, hatcheries, fishery, horticulture and forestry,” Buhari told a gathering of the advisory National Economic Council (NEC) attended by Nigeria’s 36 state governors, the budget minister and central bank governor.
“Banks should be leaned upon to substantially increase their lending to the agricultural sector. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should bear part of the risk of such loans as a matter of national policy,” he said.
Buhari said his government planned to add 10,000 megawatts to the national grid in its remaining three years in office.
“In 2016 alone we intend to add 2,000 megawatts to the national grid,” he said, adding that the government was considering the fast-track completion of pipelines from gas points to power stations.
He was speaking at his presidential villa in the capital Abuja at the start of a two-day NEC ‘retreat’ devoted to discussing ways of reinvigorating Nigeria’s economy.
Inflation in Nigeria has hit a three-year high of 11.4 percent, leaving little scope for the central bank to cut borrowing costs to help stimulate growth.
Eighteen of 20 analysts polled by Reuters expect the CBN’s monetary policy committee to hold rates at 11 percent on Tuesday. (Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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