Nigeria’s federal government has convened an emergency meeting to address the spate of protests in some parts of the country following the rising cost of food nationwide.
The meeting, held Tuesday evening at State House, Abuja, was chaired by Chief of Staff to the President, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. It came on the heels of protests in Minna and Kano over the rising cost of living in the country.
But even as it convened the emergency meeting, it insisted there was enough food in the country, and accused opposition elements of trying to exploit the high food prices and the depreciation of the naira to cause havoc.
The government urged millers and major commodity traders to make their food reserves available.
President Bola Tinubu, who returned to Abuja Tuesday night after a two-week private visit to France, had directed a special presidential committee to take immediate steps to arrest the worsening food situation.
The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, appealed to the federal government and all critical stakeholders to open the national food reserve. The House also advised the government to explore the option of importation of grains, poultry products, meat, beverages, healthcare and pharmaceutical products as a short-term measure to tackle the growing shortages.
However, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) alleged that the opposition parties were instigating unsuspecting youths to protest against the cost of living, following the protests in Niger and Kano states on Monday.
Youths in Minna, the Niger State capital, had on Monday blocked the busy Minna-Bida Road at the popular Kpakungu Roundabout, demanding that the Tinubu administration must address “hunger in the land”.
The “crucial” meeting on Tuesday was attended by members of the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention. It was aimed at arresting the brewing crisis as a result of the soaring prices of food items and its attendant hardship on the citizenry.
Briefing newsmen after the over three hours meeting, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, expressed Tinubu’s concerns about the worsening food crisis in the country.
Idris said the president had directed that the situation should be arrested by the presidential committee.
He stated, “We just rounded off a meeting. It is a special presidential committee to address the issue of food shortage or lack of enough food on the table of most Nigerians. This is just the beginning of that meeting. It is going to continue tomorrow and day after tomorrow.
“The government is very concerned about what Nigerians are going through, especially what has happened in Minna on Monday and, therefore, government is taking some action to ensure that Nigerians have some relief in terms of the availability of food on the table.
“Of course, this meeting is not by itself exhaustive. It’s just, like I said, the beginning. It is going to continue tomorrow and the day after.
“Now, some of these will involve unlocking the foods that are available in most of the storage facilities (National Food Reserve) around the country. You know that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has some food reserve. That is going to be made available to Nigerians.”
Idris said the government had opened discussions with millers and major commodity traders on how to open up their stores to make food available to the Nigerian populace.
According to him, “The government is also talking to major millers and major commodity traders, to also see what is available in their stores. To open it up so that government will provide some intervention, discuss with them, provide some intervention to make this food available to Nigerians.
“What the government is noticing is that, actually, there is still food in this country. Some people are taking advantage of the situation, especially, because of the high cost, the depreciation in the value of our currency that has led to the cost of these food items also going up.
“So all these issues were discussed. The governor of the central bank was here. The Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy is in that meeting.
“Of course, the Chief of Staff, the National Security Adviser, because it also has some national security implications. So, all these have been discussed. And like I said, this conversation or discussion is going to continue.”
The information minister added, “What I will tell Nigerians is that the president has directed that government needs to step in to stem this tide. Government will not fold its arms and see the way Nigerians are suffering in terms of the availability of these food items.
“So, I want to plead with you to understand with the government. By the time these meetings are concluded, we’ll be able to issue a definite statement on what the position of government is in this regard. But all I can say is that discussions are ongoing, and very soon a solution is in sight for Nigerians.”
On the possibility of some immediate actions, following the meeting, the minister said, “Some of them are dependent on the follow-up meeting on all this hardship. The government is stepping in a big way to ensure that Nigerians have succour going forward.”
The meeting held behind closed-doors at the Office of the Chief of Staff was attended by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Yemi Cardoso.
In attendance also were Ministers of Education, Dr Tahir Mamman; Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Olawale Edun; Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu; Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari; and Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security, Sabi Abdullahi.
Lawmakers Want FG, Stakeholders to Open National Food Reserve
The House of Representatives appealed to the federal government and critical stakeholders to immediately open the national food reserve and also consider importation of grains, poultry products, meat, beverages, healthcare and pharmaceutical products as a short-term measure.
The lawmakers urged the government to increase trade finance and enhance the supply chains as a vital tool in addressing the current cost of living crisis.
The House further appealed to manufacturers, producers, middlemen, sellers of goods and services, and other relevant stakeholders to be realistic in fixing prices of their goods and services, especially, items not dependent on the foreign exchange, like raw materials for cement, which are sourced locally.
The resolutions followed the adoption of a motion under matters of urgent national importance on the urgent need for government action to reduce cost of living, moved by Hon. Isiaka Ibrahim, at plenary on Tuesday.
Ibrahim, while presenting the motion, anchored his argument on, “The cost of living, which has been a pressing issue for many citizens around the world, and the situation has only worsened in recent times,” adding, “The impact it has on individuals and families and the urgent need for government intervention to bring down the cost of living in Nigeria.”
He identified, “The skyrocketing expenses, such as housing, food, healthcare, and education, all of which have seen significant increases in prices.”
Ibrahim stated, “The current inflation has eroded the purchasing power of individuals with higher prices for goods and services.
Stagnant wages and limited job opportunities have also further exacerbated the financial strain on individuals and families, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.”
He stressed that the effect of the rising cost of living was particularly severe for low-income households, who were forced to make difficult choices between basic necessities.
Ibrahim stated, “The financial burden has also led to increased levels of stress and anxiety, contributing to a decline in overall well-being of the Nigerian citizens.
“Furthermore, the high cost of living hinders economic mobility, making it challenging for individuals to save for the future or invest in their education and career advancement.
“Aware that as at date, poultry meat is one of the most traded products in the world, the top exporters of poultry meat are Brazil, the United States, and other countries that export beef in the world are Japan; frozen bovine meat exports, Republic of Belarus, Republic of Nicaragua, Netherlands, Republic of Poland, Republic of Ireland, Canada and Republic of Paraguay.
“Despite its current export restrictions, India remains the world’s largest rice exporting country with other major rice exporters that include Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, the United States, China, Burma, and Cambodia.
“These eight countries account for about 90 percent of the total volume of annual global rice exports.”
The lawmaker said the various radical policies and approaches of the Nigerian government were not only necessary but compulsory to stimulate the economy, improve the standard of living and emergence of Nigeria as an economic destination of the world.
“But, the caveat is, the gestation period that has to come with unbearable hardship. Truly, incisions of tribal marks are associated with pains and only when it heals that the beauty radiates,” Ibrahim said.
Bauchi Governor to Introduce Policies to Stem Economic Hardship
Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, expressed his determination to introduce policies and programmes aimed at alleviating the suffering among the citizenry.
Mohammed disclosed this on Tuesday at Jama’are during the continuation of the week-long activities for the inauguration of road projects in some parts of the state.
The governor expressed concern over the rising price of essential commodities and the hardship it had brought on the citizens. He assured that his administration was determined to introduce measures that would improve commercial activities in the state.
He said the ongoing construction of rural roads was aimed at connecting communities to their farmlands and enabling smooth movement of goods and services.
Mohammed urged the people of Jama’are Emirate to cooperate with the contactors handling the project in the area to facilitate timely and successful completion.
Responding on behalf of the benefiting communities, Emir of Jama’are, Alhaji Nuhu Muhammadu Wabi, pledged the people’s readiness to support all policies aimed at improving the wellbeing of residents.
APC: Opposition Parties Instigating Protests to Undermine Government
APC alleged that opposition parties had resorted to instigating unsuspecting young people to protest, following the protests that rocked Minna and Kano on Monday over the hardship in the country.
A statement issued on Tuesday by National Publicity Secretary of APC, Felix Morka, claimed that the protests in Minna and Kano on Monday were the manifestation of some devious and unpatriotic plot.
Morka stated, “It was part of desperation to portray the ruling party as underperforming. In its arrant desperation to portray the APC-led administration as under-performing, opposition parties have resorted to instigating unsuspecting young people to protests in the streets of some major cities.
“The protests in Minna and Kano on Monday were the manifestation of this devious and unpatriotic plot. That the protests happened simultaneously in both cities is not coincidental. It bears a bold stamp of an orchestrated and coordinated effort to instigate unrest and undermine the government.
“This mercenary opposition tactic is a clear and present threat to public peace and national security.
“While the party recognised the right of citizens to engage in peaceful protest, it urged the people to be vigilant and not lend themselves to the treacherous attempt by the opposition to promote social strife by its incendiary rhetoric and manipulative plots.”
Morka stressed that the President Bola Tinubu administration was solidly committed to doing everything in its power to mitigate the transient pains of critically important reforms that were crucial to economic recovery and sustainable prosperity for all Nigerians.
PDP Slams Tinubu, APC for Attempting to Politicise Hardship, Insists Nigerians Have Right to Protest
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemned attempts by the presidency and APC to politicise the protests by Nigerians over economic hardship and worsening insecurity in the country.
National Publicity Secretary of PDP Debo Ologunagba said, “The action of the APC in threatening Nigerians for exercising their democratic and constitutional right to protest in the face of misrule, agonising poverty, hunger, killings and other harrowing experiences under the Tinubu administration shows that the APC is insensitive and relishes the life-discounting situation in the country.
“This approach by the APC, instead of listening to the people, is not only offensive, but akin to pushing Nigerians to the wall and daring them to do their worse.”
The PDP spokesman said it was an assault on the sensibility of the people that rather than provide answers to how the Tinubu-led APC government, in a space of nine months, turned the country’s economy upside down, leading to terrifying food scarcity and catastrophic high cost of living, APC was seeking to label and clamp down on the suffering masses.
According to Ologunagba, “The APC is insensitive to the fact that because of its policies more than 104 million citizens have sunk deeper into poverty; Nigerians can no longer afford their daily meals, with families now going to bed on empty stomach, as poverty rate soars to over 46 per cent.
“Any government that has an idea of macro-economic policy management ought to have recognised that the suffocating policies of abrupt increase in the pump price of petroleum products, high cost of electricity, and arbitrary floating of the naira, as executed by the Tinubu administration without due considerations, would have excruciating consequences to the economy, as being witnessed today.”
PDP alleged, “The thoughtless policies by President Tinubu and the APC are responsible for the crippling of the productive sector with 28 per cent inflation rate, crashing of the naira from N167 to over N1, 500 to a dollar, closure of millions of businesses, and mass exodus of international companies from Nigeria, resulting to a distressing 41 per cent unemployment rate and unbearable pressure on millions of families across the country.
“Today, Nigerians are resorting to suicide while thousands of our promising youths are leaving the country in droves.
“Is it not provocative that in the last eight years and nine months, instead of deploying the nation’s resources for the improvement of critical infrastructure and the productive sectors, Nigerians have witnessed massive looting of over N20 trillion by APC leaders and its officials in government through direct pillaging of government vaults, budget padding, contract inflation, oil subsidy scam, palliative racketeering and phony programmes, which have no benefit and consequence to the lives of the citizens?
“Since President Tinubu took office on May 29, 2023, no fewer than 5,000 Nigerians have been killed by terrorists, apparently, emboldened by the laidback attitude and body language of Mr. President, who has failed to show seriousness on issues of security or empathy to victims either by words or action.”
Report: Nigerians Burdened with Food Price Fluctuation, Rising Cost
A research conducted between November and December 2023 by Consumer Advocacy and Empowerment Foundation (CADEF) revealed concerning trends in Nigeria’s food pricing landscape.
According to the research report released yesterday, which spans the six geo-political zones, there were fluctuations in food prices, especially staple items, like yam, garri, rice, beans, chicken, and groundnut oil, within the period that the research was conducted.
Earlier research in August last year by both CADEF and Consumers International also revealed a substantial rise in retail/consumer prices compared to wholesale/market prices for essential food items. This, according to analysts, suggested that Nigerian consumers were disproportionately burdened with increased costs, raising questions about fairness in the market.
Consumers International, representing consumers worldwide, developed a tool called the Fair Food Price Monitor. The tool tracks the relationship between food prices at different supply chain stages, utilising data from reputable sources, such as the National Bureau of Statistics and FEWS NET.
Specialist in Fair Food Prices in Africa at Consumers International, Davine Minayo, highlighted the importance of data-driven decision-making to address market imbalances.
According to Minayo, “Our collaborative efforts aim to shed light on the issues affecting consumers and farmers in Nigeria. Calls for a thorough investigation by national authorities have been made, especially in markets of concern.”
Detailed analysis of farm gate, wholesale, and retail prices for commodities, such as maize, rice, beans, yam, palm oil, and chicken over the past three weeks revealed notable price fluctuations.
Executive Director of CADEF, Professor Chiso Okafor, stressed the need for regulatory intervention to ensure fair pricing in food markets.
Okafor said, “The findings underscore the urgent need for authorities to investigate and address any unfair practices that may be contributing to the burden on consumers and farmers.”
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Juliet Akoje, Emma Okonji and Segun Awofadeji