In recent weeks , there appears to be a conspiracy of sorts against Nigerian consumers as all price indices are on the upward swing. Food, the next thing to life itself, is taking the worst hit as prices of crops have risen astronomically putting serious pressure on families across the country. We view this as most unacceptable especially in a country that prides itself as an agricultural hub.
The development is perceived as a threat to the gains so far made in the life of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration as far as agricultural revolution is concerned. Indeed, if there’s anything that this government should be credited for, it is the special attention it has paid to the agricultural sector since inception.
Market survey indicate that a bag is now being sold for as high as N26,000 in some places. The same price hike goes for most staple foods in the country. Not just that, poultry farmers have also raised the alarm over the rising prices of poultry feeds in the country which may force some of them out of business and invariably jerk up the prices of poultry products.
This precarious situation is being made worse with the likely further increase in the cost of staple foods in the country as oil marketers hiked petrol price from N148 to N162 per litre.
This newspaper observes that in Nigeria where everything is determinedby the price of petrol, there is no doubt that food prices will hit the roof sooner than expected.
The conspiracy against the Nigerian citizens is stretching to power as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) also within the week approved an increase in electricity tariff with effect from September 1, 2020.
The increment will be based on hours of electricity supply as against the previous categories of residential, commercial and industrial customers with different bands (A to E) depending on the level of supply.
For Ikeja Electric, a residential customer on single-phase receiving a minimum of 12 hours of supply will pay N42.73 per KWh up from N21.30 per kWh.
In the new price regime, Eko Electricity Distribution Company will charge a residential customer on single-phase receiving a minimum of 12 hours of supply N43.01 per kWh, up from N24 per kWh. And for Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, a residential customer on single-phase receiving between 12 to 16 hours of supply will now be charged N45.69 per KWh, up from N24.30 per kWh.
All these, in addition to affecting the cost of doing business, may also have a direct impact on the cost of living generally in the country.
Though some have adduced the current rising food prices to banditry presently upsetting some rural communities in parts of the country as well as the farmers-herdsmen conflict, there’s no gainsaying it that the factors enumerated above have tremendously been responsible for this sorry situation in the country.
However, it is gratifying to note that President Buhari has expressed the concern of his administration about the sudden spiral of prices generally at a time when the economy is already mired in a slowdown occasioned by the global coronavirus situation.
The President in a statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu assured Nigerians that the situation is transient adding that his administration has already begun looking and putting in place measures to ameliorate its impact.
Buhari said: “But of all these problems, the most worrisome are the activities of “corrupt” middlemen (with many of them discovered to be foreigners) and other food traders who serve as the link between farmers and consumers found to be systematically creating an artificial scarcity so that they can sell at higher prices.
“In dealing with these problems, the administration has, in line with its ease of doing business mantra, avoided imposing stockholding restrictions, in order not to discourage investments in modern warehousing and cold storage.
“The President has just approved the release of food items from the strategic reserves, including 30,000 tons of maize to animal feeds producers to ease the high cost of poultry production.
We commend the efforts of this administration for the concerns it has shown over the plight of Nigerians as well as its spirited zeal to address the disturbing situation. It needs be emphasised that Nigerians are presently going through one of its worst economic crises and any efforts to assuage the suffering of the masses will be a step in the right direction.
Consequently, we call on President Buhari to tackle the root causes of the rising cost of food prices in particular. It is our opinion that priority should be given to tackling banditry and reckless killings in the rural areas which, no doubt, have a direct effect on food security.
Coming at a time that Nigerians are still grappling with the shock waves of the Coronavirus global pandemic, we also make bold to say that the increase in the price of fuel and electricity tariff is ill-timed and has exacerbated an already bad situation.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the middlemen creating artificial scarcity of food items should be identified and drastically dealt with, making them to face the full wrath of the law.