It was gathered that the Federal Government, at the weekend, met with some state governors and a Chinese company, YTO China-Africa Machinery Corporation (CAMACO), to finetune implementation of the $4.5 billion agriculture infrastructure loan agreement with the Peoples Republic of China.
The Chinese government had, during President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to China, last year, promised to support agriculture in Nigeria essentially with machinery, including tractors and irrigation infrastructure.
Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara state, Alhaji Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa) and Chief David Umahi (Ebonyi) with representative of Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state attended the meeting.
The governors harped on the quality of the equipment, adaptability to Nigerian weather and technical maintenance, among other details.
Umahi warned against low quality equipment and asked for detailed specification of what would be supplied to avoid bringing in machinery that may not be suitable for the country’s hot weather.
In the same vein, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, clearly stated that government cannot accept any equipment of low quality and urged the Chinese company to also work out how it would first, assemble in Nigeria and eventually, manufacture some of its components locally.
The minister also noted that government will not just take loans without designing means of repayment.
“We are negotiating the interest rate, telling them to produce here, when our steel mill comes on stream.
“We are harping on specification. We are also discussing how to pay back the loan, through export of agriculture produce,” Ogbeh told newsmen at the weekend.
The governors agreed to meet again with the technical committee, to identify agriculture produce in the states that could be exported to China as a means of attracting foreign exchange.