The federal government yesterday attributed the hike in the prices of foodstuff to bulk purchase of food commodities by the three tiers of government and wealthy individuals for distribution as COVID-19 palliatives.
The National Food Security Council which disclosed this after its meeting at the presidential villa also hinted that it will ensure the reduction on the cost of NPK fertiliser from N5,500 to N5,000 per bag as earlier ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari in April to boost food production in the country.
Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, who is also vice chairman of the National Food Security Council gave the hint while briefing State House correspondents alongside his Jigawa State counterpart, Abubakar Badaru, after the meeting of the Council.
He revealed that the federal government spent a whopping N31billion to support farmers as part of measures to avert food crisis.
Bagudu stated: “In fact, one of the key initiatives as the very first intervention of the national food security council, was to recognize how to support people to resume economic activity following the disaster.
“That is why in 2018, N23 billion was spent to support farmers in 14 states as well as another N8 billion to support some states that were affected by conflict and the need for people to resume economic activity.’’
Explaining the hike in foodstuff prices, Bagudu said, “The CACOVID was buying food items for the coronavirus pandemic response in bulk at a peak of the beginning of the season, at a time when demands are not high. So, it contributed to the high cost.
“The global lockdown also contributed because of lack of movement of food items. But now, harvests are coming in and it is good.
“Yes, there are some states that experienced huge draught but that has been overcome by the food coming from elsewhere.”
On President Buhari’s order to stop fertilizer importation, the governor explained that the implementation of the president’s directive was informed by the fact that production of the commodity had been normalized in the country following the reopening of Indorama plant in Rivers.
He said the plant was closed because of COVID-19-related deaths.
Bagudu further expressed optimism that prices of food items and goods would soon be coming down judging by the data obtained and made available to him.
He assured that the prices of food items would come down as harvest season has begun and more commodities are arriving markets across the country.
He said, “Yes, I said food prices for crops have started coming down. That was from data collated and made available to me in my state and from a pre-meeting with all the commodity association and farmer groups prior to the National Food Security Council meeting.
“I have been going round my state in the last one week and have seen further drops in prices and it makes sense and is self-explanatory. Harvest is coming in; harvests of millets, maize and of rice.
“Yes, we had a lot of devastating floods that affected the rice crop but again, there is upland rice that is being harvested that has not been affected by flood.’’
Bagudu assured that despite the flood disasters in parts of the country this year, which he said was worst that previous ones, “there won’t be food crisis’’.
He continued: “Is there going to be goods crisis? No, by God’s grace. Yes, flooding is devastating. Unfortunately, that is part of life. We have a good eco-system where immediately after flooding we can plant again. In fact, the farmers are more confident because the risk of flooding has reduced.
“So, what is important is for us to mobilise and ensure we time properly and is part of the reason Mr President has been working very hard because that is what bothers him most, how to deliver to Nigerians.
“That is why since last week and a week earlier, the challenge has been ‘come up with how we can intervene so that farmers, fishermen and those in husbandry can resume economic activities as quickly as possible”.
Nigeria To Stop Importation Of Fertilizer By 2022
Meanwhile, the federal government has said Nigeria will stop the importation of fertilizer within the next two years.
The country currently has over 33 fertiliser blending plants with a combined capacity to produce about five million metric tonnes of the product annually.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mahammad Sabo Nanono, who disclosed this yesterday at the opening of a three-day
workshop on the operationalisation of the National Fertiliser Quality
Control (NFQC) Act 2019 at Orozo, Nasarawa State, said Nigeria
presently needs seven million metric tonnes of fertiliser.
“With five million metric tonnes already being produced locally and a number of other blending plants that are coming up with the capacity of adding additional three million metric tonnes in the next two years, Nigeria will have no need to import fertiliser into this country,” the
Nanono noted that the primary goal of the fertilizer regulatory system is
to increase agricultural productivity for national food security which
can only be achieved through the provision of quality fertilisers and
other key farm inputs.
“The system will eliminate the rampart cases of
fertiliser sharp practices across the country in the areas of nutrient
deficiencies, adulteration, misleading claims, short weight etc. The
Act will also protect your investments as manufacturers, blenders or
distributors as well as other service providers along the fertiliser
value chain,” he stated.
The minister noted that to ensure smooth implementation of the fertiliser Act, the ministry along with other stakeholders has developed Fertiliser
regulations and forwarded same to the Federal Ministry of Justice for
review by legal draftsmen. The regulations he said provide step by
step process, procedures and implementation guidelines to be followed
for effective enforcement of the Fertiliser Act.
The workshop was organised to sensitise members of Fertiliser
Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) as well as
other distributors and farmers on the operationalisation of the Act.
Also present at the workshop include members of the National Assembly, development partners including International Fertiliser Development Centre among others.
Labour To Protest Petrol, Electricity Price Hike Sept 28
Meanwhile, Organised Labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has asked Nigerians to prepare for an unprecedented mass action against the recent hike in electricity tariff and pump price of petrol.
The mass action, according to the two labour unions, will commence on September 28, 2020 unless the government heed the call to reverse the recent increase.
TUC president, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, in a statement, said Nigeria workers “can no longer take” government policies that impoverish the poor.
He noted that the TUC after an exhaustive meeting held to review its mobilsation strategies on the forthcoming strike to protest fuel hike and electricity tariff resolved that the Congress was going to work in collaboration with its sister Labour Centre, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Civil Society allies to execute the strike.
LEADERSHIP reports that the TUC had earlier issued a 7-day ultimatum which expires today, but has now agreed to shift it by one week to match with the September 28 date issued by the NLC.
Quadri said, “We want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians, especially those in the informal sector to bear with us while the industrial action lasts
“There is no need for the pains we bear. It is a needless one. They ask us to tighten our belts while they loosen theirs. Services are not rendered yet we are compelled to pay estimated bills. You will recall that this government during its electioneering campaigns in 2014 told the world there is nothing like subsidy.
“We were told that they will build refineries; all that are history now. We run a mono economy and any hike in fuel automatically will have adverse effect on us yet successive government toed that path because they are not creative.”
He further lamented that about eight states were yet to commence the payment of new minimum wage and its consequential adjustment even though President Buhari had signed it into law on April 18, 2019.
Meanwhile, the NLC after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting said it has started mobilising workers for September 28 mass action.
The NLC in a communiqué signed by its president, Ayuba Wabba, at the end of its NEC meeting endorsed the strike and protest actions put forward earlier by its Central Working Committee (CWC) to shut down the economy on September 28.
The communiqué noted: “NEC resolved to reject in its entirety, the issue of hike in electricity tariff by almost 100 percent. Also, NEC resolved to reject he fuel price increase in the name of full deregulation.
“This decision is premised on the fact that, these decisions alongside other decisions of government or policies which includes increase of VAT by 7.5 percent, including the various sundry charges being charged by commercial banks on debitors without explanation will further impoverish Nigerian workers and citizens including their families. These increases coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is counterproductive.
” NEC also observed that the privatisation of the electricity sector seven years down the line has not yielded any positive results perhaps the entire privatisation process the entire sector was sold at about 400 billion we are also surprised that government in the last four years injected 1.5 trillion over and above the amount used in selling this very important asset therefore, NEC came to the conclusion that the entire privatisation process has failed, and the electricity hike is actually a concept of continuous exploration of Nigerians.
“On the issue of the refineries and also the increase in the pump price of fuel, this particular issue has been on the table for more than three decades and the argument has not changed whether it’s in the name of full deregulation, subsidy removal what is obvious is this fuel price hike and this has further eroded the gains of the N30,000 minimum wage because it has serial effects which includes the high cost of goods and services, and the reduction in the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerians.
“In line of all of these, NEC thought that the issue of the deregulation will be a continuous exploitation if it is import driven. While demanding that our three refineries should be made to work optimally to benefit Nigerians, NEC also concluded that government has a business because the primary purpose of governance is about the security and welfare of the people.
“If in other OPEC countries government are maintaining refineries and are working optimally for the benefit if the people, Nigeria cannot be an exemption
“In line with all of these, NEC decided to endorse the two weeks ultimatum given to the federal government to try reverse those obnoxious decisions and also pronounce that the actions proposed by the Central Working Committee is hereby endorsed by the NEC that 28 of September will be a date that those actions would be challenged by Nigerian workers, our civil society allies and also other union movements.”
UN Commends FG On Humanitarian Efforts In Northeast
Meanwhile, amidst international concerns on the activities of terrorists and violent extreme groups in the Northeast, the United Nations has commended the federal government’s efforts to improve humanitarian support in the region, saying the Buhari administration “has taken important steps to improve access to people in need.”
Lately, some international humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had expressed worry on their inability to operate effectively and distribute relief materials in parts of the Northaast because of security concerns, especially in some remote areas of Borno State.
In a bid to reverse the trend and ensure effective access to vital food supplies, the Humanitarian Affairs minister, the National Security Adviser and members of the national humanitarian coordination committee escalated the matter to the presidency.
The president then mandated Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to work with the committee, governors in the region and relevant MDAs, including service chiefs to resolve the matter in conjunction with international NGOs and multilateral agencies operating in the region.
The vice president then held series of meetings, bringing together the governors, all the relevant government agencies and representatives of international agencies and INGOs.
This intervention by the presidency led to a renewed and coordinated effort of providing a new template that supports the activities of the INGOs and offers a more secured access to the areas in question.
In reaction to this intervention and new arrangement, the United Nations secretariat in a briefing last week by the Under Secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock to the UN Security Council said, “I am pleased to report we have had constructive engagements in recent days with the Nigerian authorities, and the Government has taken important steps to improve access to people in need, which we look forward to building on further.”
Lowcock had indicated earlier that “in north-east Nigeria, as we told you…violence by extremist non-state armed groups is largely responsible for driving up humanitarian need.”