BY Musa Ilallah
Most Nigerians are on the same page with President Buhari on the disturbing rising inflation and sudden spiral increase of food prices at a time when the economy is already mired in a slowdown occasioned by the global Coronavirus situation. Only the doubting Thomases mischievously think and believe otherwise.
Times without number, President Buhari has emphasised that agriculture remains the bedrock and cornerstone of his people centred administration.
Concerned from the bottom of his heart with the current difficult times Nigerians are going through daily, President Buhari has assured all Nigerians that “the situation is transient, noting that his administration had already begun looking and putting in place measures to ameliorate the situation.”
“This year has indeed tested us in ways that globalization has never been tested before since the turn of the century. These challenges have disrupted lives and supply chains all over the world, and Nigeria has not been spared”, a statement by PMB’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu has said.
It is therefore not in doubt that the current situation of high cost of basic foodstuff has been worsened by the speculative activities of a number of rice processors who are ready to pay for paddy rice at any price to keep their mills running non stop coupled
with the activities of “corrupt” middlemen, many of whom are foreigners and other unpatriotic food traders who serve as link between farmers and consumers found to be systematically creating an artificial scarcity.
“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,” Garba added.
To bring sucour into the lives of Nigerians, President Buhari had since approved the release of food items from the strategic grains reserves spread across the country including 30,000 tons of maize to animal feeds producers to ease the high cost of poultry production assuring that Buhari’s administration raising some issues with the various food producer associations, the high food prices should soon be a thing of the past soon.
We are also aware that the Government has in addition, assured that investments in the agro-allied sector by the private sector will significantly increase domestic production of farming inputs, especially fertilizer, further crash prices, create employment and ease the pressure on our foreign reserves.
To further demonstrate his commitment to making the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians better, President Buhari has additionally directed that key government agencies and policy makers with the responsibility and visibility on market activities remain focused on removing structural impediments to the production and free movement of agricultural products in the country.
It should be acknowledged that to further demonstrate his resolve to get Nigeria out of the current doldrums largely brought about by the Covid 19 Pandemic, he has since directed the Minister of Finance, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and all other responsible agencies to ensure speedy and timely release of funds to Ministries, Departments and Agencies for implementation of the N2.3 trillion Economic Sustainability Plan & Capital Projects in the 2020 Budget with despatch.
As part of the Economic Sustainability Plan Stimulus Programme, the federal government has launched a $75 bn survival fund to support micro, small and medium enterprises, MSMEs across the country.
Reacting to the situation and current government efforts to ameliorate the condition of Nigerians in a statement signed by Buhari Media Organisation’s Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, noted that “these increases in prices of foodstuff were reflective of the global economic downturn, expressing the hope that Nigeria would soon find its feet and all these would be history.
“The global economy has been badly hit by the effects of the pandemic. With the disruption of supply chains, the prices of food have gone high across the world. The Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO had in fact highlighted that across the world, the prices of food had risen for the third consecutive month in August.
BMO noted that this was as a result of a weaker dollar and higher demand in Nigeria.
It is very encouraging that the pledge by the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN to produce over five million metric tonnes of rice during the dry season farming will go a long way in softening the situation thus making life more meaningful and lively for all and sundry.
In expressing his contentment with efforts so far by government, President Buhari said the “COVID-19 pandemic exposed the level of preparedness of nations to shocks of food security, explaining that the Federal Government’s wisdom in promoting self sufficiency over the years helped significantly in averting a food crisis.”
The President who spoke at the National Food Security Council meeting in Abuja recently noted that there was need for more effort to increase food production and self sufficiency, assuring that the Federal Government will continue to promote policies that favour investments in the agricultural sector.
“The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated more than any event in recent history how countries must strive harder to protect food systems. This also exposed the limits of dependency on other countries.
In the words of the President, the last five years have recorded notable achievements despite decline in GDP by 6.1 per cent in Q2 of 2020 as a direct result of coronavirus, the agricultural sector continued to grow because of PMB’s government targeted policies. He therefore deemed it fit to commend Nigerian farmers for ‘contributing to the stability in the food security of the country.’
President Buhari has since directed the Central Bank of Nigeria not to issue foreign exchange to any importer wanting to import fertiliser or any food item. Nigeria currently has more than 33 operational fertiliser blending plants.
This is PMB’s further attempt to boost agricultural development of the country to which he has committed himself to doing in his remaining years in office. The President has always reiterated that Nigerians must “Produce what they eat”
It is on record that the PMB administration has invested in building strategic grain reserves in recent years which it recently released significant quantities to cushion the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to vulnerable households.
But beyond these and several other palliative measures put in place by the government, it will continue to drive its policies to ensure that every Nigerian is provided with the opportunity to improve his life and well being.
Hopefully, this pandemic would only be here for a short while, we have seen evidently how Nigeria has weathered through the storm despite proactive efforts by the government to contain the spread of the virus that has ravaged the country.
All patriotic Nigerians have resolved to support the PMB administration to make agriculture as a key strategic cardinal objective of his government realisable.
Ilallah wrote in from Emeka Anyaoku Street, Abuja.