Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday described as “unpardonable sin”, a situation where the country imports toothpick.
He said the country did not need to import frivolities and what it could produce.
The former president, who spoke at the 23rd Annual Development Forum, organised by Lift Above Poverty Organisation (LAPO) Microfinance Bank in Abuja, expressed concern over increasing poverty in the country and inability of families to survive the harsh economy.
He noted that people’s purchasing power have declined from 33 in January to 38 per cent in July.
Obasanjo stressed the need to embrace agribusiness to reduce hunger.
He blamed the current recession on the country’s failure to produce sufficient food for local consumption and exports.
Obasanjo said: “What are the luxuries that we do not need? What are we importing, definitely we don’t need to be importing toothpicks, can you imagine in 1977 as military head of state I banned the importation of toothpick in this country and that was also when we had ‘Operation Feed the Nation’. We have a situation almost similar to this…. Now, we then started importing toothpick; it is unpardonable sin.
“We have to stop what we can do without and be self-reliant in food. Again, available findings from studies revealed that household purchasing power is far deteriorating; hence families are becoming food insecure.
“This year, percentage of food insecurity rise from 33 per cent in February/ March to 38 per cent in July. That is an increase of five per cent and still counting, we don’t know what it is now in October.
“Prices for local rice and local maize have risen but manual labour wage or any wage remains unchanged, severely reducing household purchasing power.
“Our inability to produce sufficient food for our increasing population have been increasing food import which impact negatively on our foreign exchange earnings. I was explaining the other day that what we have now (the crash of naira) is simple, we are spending more than we are earning.
“If UNICEF reported estimate that about 65 per cent of Nigeria population is food insecure and I believe it is not far from the truth, now we have serious national problem to confront. To be food insecure means there is hunger in the land – that is, if the hunger is not already with us, it is fast-approaching, but it is already with us. Available findings from studies shows that household purchasing power is already deteriorating hence more family in the country are becoming food insecure.”
LAPO Founder Godwin Ehigiamusoe said the initiative was designed due to need to assist rural farmers, especially women.
He said the bank has so far disbursed about N455.5 billion to owners of micro and small enterprises.
Ehigiamusoe added that the bank with a customer base of 2.3 million people currently has offices in the 36 states.