Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has reiterated his call on the Federal Government to prioritise steel development, saying it was the bedrock for the country’s development.
Dogara made the call at the ongoing “Open National Assembly Week’’ on Tuesday in Abuja.
He explained that the country had been losing revenue through importation of steel, even more that the government was focused on implementing projects that were dependent on steel.
Dogara said that such projects included the Mambilla Power Project and the Second Niger Bridge.
He also stressed the need for provision of mechanised tools and subsidies to farmers for proper agricultural revolution.
He said: “This is a pointer to any nation out there that is industrialised that doesn’t have a robust steel and aluminium sector.
“As we edge towards the Mambilla Power Project, we are utilising millions in tonnes of steel and if we don’t have a robust steel sector, all the money would go to China for instance, where we will be importing this steel from.
“The second Niger Bridge is there; it’s going to also consume millions of tonnes in steel. If care is not taken, China will also earn all the money.
“So, what are we doing as a government to ensure this doesn’t happen?
“Without the aluminium and steel sector, there cannot be industrialisation in Nigeria.
“The President of Ghana was speaking recently before an enlightened audience and he spoke of the need for Ghana to have a steel plant and they are starting soon.
“So, if care is not taken, Nigeria, the giant of Africa, will be importing steel from Ghana.”
The speaker also emphasised the need to revolutionalise the agricultural sector for the benefit of farmers and the country.
Dogara said: “To be very frank, if we don’t talk of mechanisation and subsidies for farmers, any talk about revolution in agriculture without mechanisation and subsidy is just rendering cheap talk.
“It will not be competitive and it will not work. I’m yet to see any developed country be it in America or Europe, that doesn’t subsidise farming.
“And, I’m yet to see any country that has completely mechanised its agriculture that doesn’t have a competitive edge against other nations.
“What are we doing in terms of mechanisation of agriculture in Nigeria and giving subsidy to farmers?
“Due to the fact that virtually every practice that was there before is still there, you are a farmer and you are looking for loan, forget about anchor borrowers, you might not get the loan.
“And, when you raise your produce, for instance I have an orchard which was done about 15 years ago, they come to your farm and they want to buy your mango for N30 or N50.
“Yet they turn around and sell the same mango for a N150.
“So, the problem has always been these middlemen, and it is more profitable in the agricultural value chain to be a middle man, than to be a farmer.
“So, how do we encourage the farmers so that we grow what we eat, and we eat what we grow?”
The speaker also identified high interest rates on loans from commercial banks as a poverty trap that discouraged entrepreneurship and encouraged the movement of wealth from citizens to the corporations.
According to him, this does not propel growth of the economy as it is actually those who employ between 10 to 30 people that are really the engine growth in any nation.