I welcome all of you to the formal inauguration of the Production and Processing Support Programme of the Job and Wealth  Creation  Scheme under our S.M.A.R.T  agenda. Today’s event is particularly significant for two reasons.

First, it is the fulfilment of the promise I made after my inauguration as Governor. On that day I said: “The need to diversify our economy and reduce undue dependence on the proceeds from oil has become quite urgent, and this is one agenda that this administration shall give great attention to… We are committed to the building and consolidation of a state in which there shall be more employment opportunities, a flourishing agriculture and agribusiness sector.

Secondly, it heralds an innovative approach to policy formulation and implementation strategies for effective economic diversification and self-reliance. Delta State is blessed with abundant natural resources, very favourable climatic conditions, vast arable land and fertile soils. Unfortunately, either by omission or commission, the State, like most other States in the Federation, is yet to maximize  her potential  in

Agriculture was the first occupation of man from creation and remains the most vital for man’s continuous survival and well- being. It is also the biggest employer in Nigeria and is a key driver of economic self-reliance, jobs creation, value addition and sustainable development. In addition, economies that are self-sustaining in agriculture are known to have relatively lower inflation rates. It, therefore, goes without saying that any nation that is serious about self-reliance and sustainable development must pay very serious attention to its agricultural sector.

Through the PPSP, this administration hopes to transform  the agricultural sector and thereby stimulate development in all directions. But we obviously cannot do it alone. To restore agriculture to its pride of place in the Nigerian economy, we must address the issue of financing for the agricultural sector.

Despite the acknowledgement that agriculture plays a crucial role in driving economic development, inadequate funding has, inexplicably, continued to be a recurring decimal. From available statistics, the bulk of our small-scale farmers regrettably do not have access to credit finance and are, therefore, unable to invest in basic farming inputs such as implements, seedlings and fertilizers. As a result, farm yields have remained abysmally low, leading to widespread poverty and stunted economic growth.

The PPSP has been conceived to help overcome the problems of resource scarcity, poor technology and infrastructure deficits. However, there is no gainsaying the fact that our  financial institutions must rise up to the challenge of agricultural financing if we are serious about economic diversification and self-reliance. I, therefore, call on the banking sector to come up with robust credit policies in agriculture that will address credit turnaround time, the recruitment and training of specialist bankers who understand the dynamics of agriculture and agribusiness, especially the fact that they are time and season bound.

Finally, I charge our first set of beneficiaries of the PPSP to reciprocate the good gesture of the government by ensuring that they apply themselves diligently to their business. A lot  is expected from you. Always bear in mind that this is not just about you; the fortunes of many other people and small-scale businesses are inextricably tied to your success in this business.

I, therefore, urge you to be good ambassadors of the PPSP. I am hopeful that you will continue in the same spirit of discipline, hard work and good organization that qualified you for this programme.

Speech at the inauguration of Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP)