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Protests: Nigeria Mulls Import of Food If Hunger Persists

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•Orders release of 102,000 metric tonnes of rice and maize •Threatens hoarders of foodstuffs

ABUJA – THE Federal Government announced yesterday that it was taking into consideration importing food as a vital alternative to stop the high cost of goods in the nation and lessen Nigerians’ suffering.

102,000 metric tonnes of rice and maize have been ordered to be released immediately from the national grain reserve by the government in the interim.

This was revealed by Mohammed Idris, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, to State House media following the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention meeting at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He emphasized that whatever it takes, food will be provided as per the President’s directive.

The decision came after three days of deliberation by the committee, in reaction to the protests by Nigerians over high cost of food and other economic challenges.

The minister also said the government would mete out appropriate sanctions on food hoarders adding that emergency situations required emergency measures to ensure food was available to Nigerians.

He called on Nigerians to be patriotic and desist from hoarding food, while the government deliberately invest massively in food production.

On the consideration of food importation if the suffering continues, the minister said: “Now, the third item is that the government is also looking at the possibility, if it becomes absolutely necessary as an interim measure on the short run, to also import some of these commodities immediately so that these commodities can be made available to Nigerians within the next couple of weeks.

On the outcome of the meeting, Idris said: “Today’s (yesterday) meeting was again on the issue of difficulty, like I said two days ago, of putting food on the table of most Nigerians, and has come up with a number of measures to ensure that food becomes more readily available to Nigerians.

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?”The first one is that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has been directed to release about 42,000 metric tons of maize, millet, garri and other commodities in their strategic reserve so that these items will be made available to Nigerians; 42000 metric tons immediately.

?”The second one is that we have held meetings with the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria, those who are responsible for producing this rice and we have asked them to open up their stores.

”?They’ve told us that they can guarantee about 60,000 metric tons of rice. This will be made available and we know that that is enough to take Nigerians for the next one month to six weeks, perhaps up to two months.

”They’ve agreed that they will make that available to Nigerians to bring it out to the market so that food can be made available.

“Now the whole idea of this is to crash the cost of these food items. And these are measures that will happen immediately.

“42,000 metric tons from the strategic government reserve, about 60,000 metric tons of rice from the Rice Millers Association, they have them in all their storage facilities and government, in conjunction with them, after this exhaustive meeting, has directed that they also bring this out immediately so that food, I mean the price of rice, will come down significantly.

?”Now, with all these emergency measures, there is, of course, a directive to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to invest massively, in conjunction with Nigerian farmers and other producers, so that we can have better season coming up shortly. ?

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“Now, we all know that dry season farming is happening. That will take effect very shortly, and that we hope will also contribute, because as soon as the dry season farming gets underway, it is the hope of government that food prices will also come down.

“Like I said, these are all measures that are taken to immediately, and as an emergency measure, bring down the cost of food items. In the long run, Federal Ministry of Agriculture is going to invest massively, so that Nigeria will recover its potential as a food basket and we don’t expect that going forward we are going to be faced with these challenges again. “

The minister warned those hoarding food items to desist from it, threatening that anyone found doing so would face the wrath of the government.

?He said: “Now government, of course, is also looking at all those who are hoarding these commodities because actually these commodities are available in the stores of many traders.

“Government is appealing to them, that they should open up these stores, make these commodities available in the interest of our nation. There is no point when the whole country is looking for this food, you are locking up this products so that you make more money and then Nigerians suffer.

?”Of course, government will not fold its arms. We know where all these major traders are. We know where all these major stores are. And if they don’t respond by bringing these commodities to the market, government will take appropriate measures to ensure that these products are made available to Nigerians.”

On the appropriate measures to be meted out on those hoarding the products, he said: “Well, you cannot hold the nation to ransom. You cannot have these commodities and you’re hoarding them in your stores when we all need them.

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”We are in an emergency situation and we’ll take emergency measures to make sure this food is available to Nigerians.”

On whether how much rice and other food items would be sold was discussed at the meeting, the minister: “Yes, the government has looked at that and what I can tell you is that whatever the government will do to ensure that this food is made available to Nigerians at an affordable cost, the government will do.”

?On his impression about a general concern of high-level inflation, not only food that affects the high cost of living in terms of prices of general goods, particularly as it affects forex, he said: “Well, people always talk about that, even some commodities that do not have direct dollar denomination are always quoted in dollar. That is unfortunate.

”We ask that Nigerians need to be more patriotic. Be our brother’s keepers and sell this thing at a margin that is not also killing to Nigerians. ?

“You know, you need to be patriotic at this point. This is an emergency situation. Every nation faces emergency situations like this. It is not the first time it has happened. Many countries of the world have faced this.”


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