Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh has condemned the lending rate being charged by banks in Nigeria, warning that with the development, it will be difficult for businesses to survive.
Ogbeh spoke in Abuja at the 2016 Annual Conference of the Business and Professional Women (BPW) of Nigeria with the theme: “Leaders growing leaders”.
He expressed concern that with high lending rate, doing business in the country would be discouraging.
Ogbeh said while there had been arguments that the lending rate cannot be lower than the inflation rate, the development was not good for the economy.
His words: “Nigeria is a tough environment to do business in. One of the issues that I have always complained about is the outrageous interest rate, which banks charge today.
“For the last 30 years, it has become nearly impossible for small and medium businesses to survive. The interest rate has been hovering around 18 per cent to 22 per cent and now to 30 per cent.
“That kind of interest rate may be good for producing cocaine but it’s definitely not for any legitimate business.
“But for some strange reason, it has been impossible to change it. The argument has always been that interest rate cannot be lower than inflation rate and yet we expect this economy to grow. We have imaginary dreams of growth because what has been growing is poverty.”
He said his ministry as part of efforts to make funding available for farmers has pegged interest rate on loans given by the Bank of Agriculture at seven per cent.
Ogbeh urged professional and business women to embrace agriculture, adding that the ministry would make rice mills available to them in any location of their choice.
He said the renewed commitment of the Federal Government to stop importation of food had started yielding result with the country seeing gradual reduction in food import bills.
The minister added: “We have always been importing all types of things and we have been making the world very happy.
“But since the dollar dried up, I have received delegation from as far as Iceland. Prime Ministers have arrived and come to my office to complain that Nigeria has stopped buying their goods.”
BPW National President Mrs. Angela Ajala said the conference would enable them brainstorm on some of the qualities needed to succeed in a dynamic environment like Nigeria.
She said: “The leadership model for women to excel in their assignments has changed from what we know. Some leadership styles and practices that served us well in times past are no longer suited in today’s world.
“There are emerging trends that will guarantee inclusion, engagement, excellence and success and we must be current with this practice, if we are truly to grow leaders as we go on.”