Amidst the cost of living crisis caused by persistent increase in the prices of goods and services, the chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum and governor of Kwara State, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, has declared that food in Nigeria remains the most affordable in West Africa.
The governor said that despite challenges, Nigeria maintains a competitive edge in food affordability compared to its neighbouring countries.
This is as residents of Minna, the Niger State capital, took to the streets yesterday to protest the high cost of living, carrying various placards saying they were hungry and the authorities were aloof.
The Governors’ Forum chairman Abdulrazaq, who made this comment in Abuja when he led Governors Agbu Kefas of Taraba State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa of Ondo State, and Usman Ododo of Kogi State to visit the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, revealed neighbouring countries rely on Nigerian agricultural produce for trade.
The visit was part of the ongoing collaborative efforts between the federal and state governments in order to ensure smooth implementation of the second phase of the 2023-2024 dry-season farming.
The governor urged the federal government to transfer the responsibility of any agricultural programmes domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
The governor said that the previous agricultural programmes under the CBN was not effective and did not meet the expectations.
He also said that Nigeria had the potential to become a major food exporter in West Africa, as the devaluation of the Naira had made food cheaper in the country despite systemic challenges.
He expressed the interest of the governors in joining the second phase of the dry-season farming programme to improve agricultural output and food security.
While he acknowledged the federal government’s support, he called for concerted efforts to elevate agriculture, including farmer education, to optimise yields per hectare.
He said, “What I’ve also noticed is that in West Africa, food in Nigeria is the cheapest in West Africa and our neighbours are using our food to trade.
“What you’re having now is that because of the devaluation of our Naira, food is the cheapest in West Africa despite the complaints from my system.
“What we need to do to mitigate that is to ramp up our production into high yields to make sure we feed West Africa; that’s our intention: feed ourselves 100 percent and export food to the world. That is the goal which we must achieve.”
According him, the ministry of agriculture is the right ministry to handle agricultural programmes.
“It should be a one-stop shop and the previous programme domiciled in the central bank was a bit challenging and we could not achieve what we wanted to achieve. That’s part of the reason we’re here today.
“The issue of food security is paramount and we need to concentrate on what we’re doing and take advantage of the dry-season farming.”
Earlier, the minister of agriculture and food security, Abubakar Kyari rolled out adjusted guidelines for the smooth implementation of the forthcoming second phase of the dry-season farming.
The minister said that the move was necessary to address challenges encountered during the first phase after detailed and careful stakeholders’ evaluation of some of the glitches that characterized that phase.
“Among the readiness criteria that we would like to reiterate for this phase are that the land is prepared and available for immediate cultivation; that the irrigable lands are allotted or owned by verifiable genuine farmers; and that the state is participating to the last mile of the entire chain”, the minister said.
Protest Rocks Niger 3 Days After Kano
Frustrated by high cost of living, some women, who were later joined by some youths, took to the streets and blocked the Kpagungu axis of Minna-Bida Road in the Niger State capital city, protesting the situation.
LEADERSHIP observed that as early as 6:30am the women were already gathered around the centenary roundabout at Kpagungu before they were joined by some youths.
The women were carrying placards with the inscription “No food, we are dying of hunger”, while demanding for a better condition of living and reduction in cost of living.
They alleged that political officeholders were insensitive to their plight as they can hardly get one square meal.
The protesters caused traffic gridlock on the ever busy Minna-Bida Road, which is a link road to the South-Western part of the country from the North-Central and North West.
LEADERSHIP observed that policemen fired teargas canisters to disperse the protesters.
Meanwhile Niger State Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago has issued an Executive Order to curb food speculators who were allegedly responsible for protests in Minna.
He attributed the hunger protest that rocked Minna to the activities of food speculators who are mopping up food stuff from local markets and making it scarce and costly for people to buy.
The governor told journalists that the protesters acted on intelligence that some trucks loaded with food and heading towards Abuja for storage would be passing through the route.
Consequently, he alleged, some unidentified hoodlums mobilised women and youths to block the road and hijack some trucks carrying foodstuff, but the timely intervention of security agencies made their plans unachievable.
He disclosed that similar attempts were made on other trucks conveying foodstuff from Mokwa and Lapai local government areas of the state before security agencies stepped in to maintain order.
He said: “I have decided to issue an executive order effective today to stop food speculators from invading our local markets with a view of mopping up farm produce.
“By this order any truck found in any rural market coming to load food supplies in bulk will be confiscated and the produce auctioned immediately until further notice.”
Three days ago, hundreds of producers of local bread, popularly known as Gurasa, had protested the rise in the price of flour in the country, saying it is threatening their business.
The producers, mostly women, took to the streets in the ancient city of Kano on Friday to express their anger over the incessant rise in the price of flour.
The local bread that sold for a little less than N100 a few months back, now sells for not less than N200.
Leading the protest, Hajiya Fatima Awwal, the leader of Gurasa Bakers Association of Kano, said the rise in price of flour was threatening a closure of their clusters of micro industry, a situation that will not only worsen hunger, but also increase unemployment.
She explained that in the past they bought a bag flour at the rate of N16,000, but currently sells for N43,000.
“We are out here on the streets protesting to let the leaders know the deteriorating situation in which we are at the moment.
“This our small-scale business is facing deterioration due to the rise in price of flour. It is a business for the poor that the rich cannot dare venture into.
“We are in a very difficult situation, we need help. This is a small-scale industry mostly run by women. Life is becoming more difficult; we can hardly feed or send our children to school due to this hardship.
“Many have lost their capital. It is such that only 25 percent of us are now remaining in the business as many others have closed down due to lack of capital.
“We are calling on the authorities and those concerned to look into this matter because we are running out of business and it is affecting our families.”
Seek Help, LP Tells Tinubu
Meanwhile, the Labour Party (LP) has said it is deeply concerned about the increasing cost of living in Nigeria and advised President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to seek help in how to manage the situation.
According to LP, millions of Nigerians are battling with the crisis of food shortage and high cost since the turn of the year.
A statement issued by national publicity secretary of the LP, Obiora Ifoh, referenced yesterday’s protest by residents of Minna, the capital of Niger State, who blocked the main roads in the city to protest the high cost of living.
It said, “Women and young people among the demonstrators were heard shouting protest songs while accusing the government of insensibility and inadequate responses.
“As of today, essential commodities such as rice, flour, garri, and protein have witnessed exponential increase in prices since January. For instance, a carton of Indomie noodles now sells for N10,000, a 50kg bag of sugar is now selling at N73, 000 as against N62, 000 sold in early January. A bag of cement now sells upward of N7000 against N5500, a bag of rice is rising above N70,000, while a kg of meat now sells for N4000, amongst others,” LP said, adding that the party was aware that the organised labour and the government had been in a long protracted dialogue on a possible salary increase for civil servants.
“There is an air of despondency across the nation. The immediate fallout of this situation is increasing crime particularly among the youths who are desperate to remain alive; incidences of suicide are in upswing. It has now become a familiar scene for people to jump into the Lagoon, hang themselves or take lethal substances.
“It is either that the government is bereft of ideas on how to check this unfolding catastrophe or that it choose to continue to act as if it is still campaigning for office. This is no time for politics.”
The LP statement recalled that the Tinubu administration had promised Nigerians that by removing fuel subsidy, the economy would be revamped.
It lamented the continuous fall in the value of the naira against the US dollar and expressed concern that the situation is now unsolvable.
The party went on: “We have always said it, that the hasty manner with which President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was obviously basking in the euphoria of his swearing-in, announced the subsidy removal by fiat, his action was not taken through the rigours of consultations and planning. We knew this would lead us into economic trouble. Our leader, Mr. Peter Obi, and our party gave words of caution but we were called names,” the statement added.