By Our Reporter
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja said the ongoing efforts to reduce poverty in the country continued to grow with 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households, comprising more than 8 million individuals currently benefiting from the conditional cash transfer (CCT) programme, while N300 billion had been disbursed to farmers.
Speaking virtually at the opening ceremony of the 14th Annual Banking and Finance Conference of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, the president said the National Social Register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians had 32.6 million persons from 7 million poor and vulnerable households identified, imploring bankers to play a stronger role in improving livelihoods.
“From this number, 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households, comprising more than 8 million individuals are currently benefiting from the conditional cash transfer programme, which pays a bi-monthly stipend of N10, 000 per household,” he said.
President Buhari said the National Social Investment Programme was biggest in sub-Sahara Africa and one of the largest in the world.
He said, “Some of the various initiatives embarked upon to boost agric trade in Nigeria include the Anchor Borrowers Programme through which the Central Bank of Nigeria had made more than N300 billion available to over 3.1 million smallholder farmers of 21 different commodities including rice, wheat, maize, cotton, cassava, poultry, soybeans, groundnut, fish, cultivating over 3.8 million hectares of farmland.
“It is on record that 80 percent of rice consumed in Nigeria is now produced locally.”
To further strengthen recovery and empower more Nigerians, President Buhari said last year he approved the establishment of InfraCo Plc, a world-class infrastructure development vehicle, wholly focused on Nigeria, with combined debt and equity take-off capital of N15 trillion, managed by an independent infrastructure fund manager.
“The Solar Power Naija project was launched in April 2021 with the aim of delivering 5 million off-grid solar connections to Nigerian households. In May 2021, the Rural Electrification Agency announced the planned deployment of solar-powered grids to 200 Primary Health Centres and 104 Unity Schools nationwide.
“Under the Family Homes Fund Limited, Social Housing programme incorporated by the Federal Government of Nigeria, more than two thousand hectares of land with title documents have been issued by 24 states with the capacity to accommodate about 65,000 new homes. The Central Bank of Nigeria is providing a N200 billion financing facility, with a guarantee by the Federal Government,’’ he said.
The president affirmed that the theme of the conference, ‘Economic Recovery, Inclusion, and Transformation: The Role of Banking and Finance’, was most appropriate, following the global shocks from COVID-19.
“I salute the Institute and the entire banking and finance industry for the commitment towards charting a practical path for economic recovery and transformation of our country, Nigeria, and by extension Africa as epitomised by the theme of your conference.
“I commend the financial services industry for its interventions and contributions towards the promotion of financial inclusion and literacy in our country. And more importantly, the roles played by the banks in fostering economic growth of the country.
“I am confident that the speakers that have been carefully selected to contribute to the conference will share insights that will help individuals, businesses and governments at all levels make necessary adjustments and take the right steps towards our collective resolve to position Nigeria as one of the top economies in the world,” he added.
The president said a report from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product grew 5.01 percent in the second quarter of 2021, the strongest rise since the fourth quarter of 2014.
“This is cheery news and an indication that the efforts of this administration at repositioning the economy is paying off,” he said, urging bankers and financial institutions to leverage on the abundant business opportunities to grow the economy.
In a goodwill message, President Paul Kagame of Republic of Rwanda said exploring new technology in the banking sector, with more focus on innovation, will enhance financial inclusion.
“The banking sector can lead the way in integration. Banking is about trust,” he said.