Nigerian Governors, Ministers and other leaders have lamented over the rising inflation rate of agricultural commodities and other costs of living.
Specifically, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Olawale Edun, on Monday, said the rising prices of food and commodities in the country has become increasingly worrisome for the federal government in Abuja.
Edun said the situation, which had produced growing discontent among the citizenry, was triggered by demand and supply forces and the only solution was to boost agricultural production, in particular, to force down inflation.
The minister spoke during a bilateral meeting with a visiting German delegation, led by the country’s Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Ms Svenja Shulze.
Edun’s comments came as protests rocked Niger State on Monday, as some youths and women resented what they perceived as mass purchase of food items for hoarding and export outside the country. The state government blamed food speculators for the protests.
The police said it used “minimum force” to disperse protesters, who blocked the Minna-Bida Road, and arrested some, whose activities were obstructing vehicular and human movement.
Similarly, Kano State Governor Abba Yusuf, on Monday, lamented that many people in his state were living in misery, amid starvation and acute hunger.
Yusuf said inflation had terribly outpaced incomes, resulting in deaths, as several residents could not cope with the rising cost of living.
At an emergency meeting with the business community in Kano, Yusuf decried the current hardship and starvation faced by residents.
He told the business community, “There is hunger in Kano and we must find a solution to stop people from dying and falling sick. We know you are doing your best as a businessman, but you are not doing enough.
Yusuf urged the business moguls in the state to complement the effort of the government, saying, “I urge you to come up with a solution on how to crash the prices of commodities to make life meaningful for our people.
“Kano has been the centre of commerce in Nigeria, after Lagos. It is such that the state has gone down on the graph today”
“This has led youths into drug abuse, kidnapping, and banditry. People are facing hardship such that a measure of rice cannot be afforded by a lot of families.”
The governor added, “Locally produced rice is now N65, 000; maize is N52, 000; millet N56, 000; and groundnut oil is N4, 500. Where will the people place themselves and what will the salary earner survive on?
“I will meet with Tinubu to inform him that people are hungry in Kano. The federal government should give preferential assistance to the highly populated state.”
Speaking alongside the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, Edun said, “I think the issue of rising prices is of concern to the government and everybody in Nigeria,” and some major steps were being taken to address the situation.
He said, “It is the issue of demand and supply and a lot of emphasis has been placed on increasing agricultural production, in particular.
“The president has intervened in that sector to provide grain, fertilisers to farmers and to bring additional acreage, rice, wheat, maize, and cassava – to increase the output and thereby bring down prices and that will help bring down inflation.
“And, of course, we are in the middle of the dry season farming and we are looking forward to a good dry season harvest that will ameliorate prices, in particular, and the price level in Nigeria, in general.”
Some of those, who spoke on behalf of the business community, like Alhaji Sabiu Bako, Alhaji Salisu Sambajo, Muhammad Adakawa, and Sammani Elsamad, among others, called on Yusuf to lead other governors of the North-west in finding solution to the economic problems of the region.
The business community also lamented that 70 per cent of businesses had closed down due to the devaluation of the naira and the scarcity of the dollar, which also affected the retail prices of goods.
On his part, the Niger State Government blamed food speculators for yesterday’s protest by some youths and women, who were angered by the mass purchase of food items for hoarding and export.
Governor Mohammed Bago told a news conference in Minna, after a meeting of the state executive council, that the protesters’ plan was to attack trucks loaded with assorted food items being conveyed from the southern parts of the state to the north, but intelligence frustrated the effort.
But for the quick intervention of the security agencies, who diverted the trucks loaded with food items to another route, the situation would have been disastrous, the governor said. He added that similar incidents had occurred in Mokwa and Lapai towns.
The governor disclosed that mass purchase of food items, including goats, sheep and cows, had been on the increase in the state. He said a “cartel” was behind the illegal act, which was intended to further increase hunger among the people.
He said, “We don’t have any reason to be hungry, Niger State is an agrarian state. We produce all that we eat, but this cartel wants to create disaffection among the people.”
Bago also said the government had in the past tried to purchase food items for sale at subsidised rates to cushion the effect of the removal of subsidy on petrol, but “these cartels frustrated the plan”.
He said the federal government became interested in the issue after he reported the incident to the vice president, Alhaji Kashim Shettima.
Bago disclosed that some arrests had been made in connection with the protests and those arrested would be charged to court soon.
He did not say how many protesters were apprehended, but stated that the situation had been brought under control with people now going about their lawful businesses.
He said only the quantities of food items enough for family consumption was permitted for purchase from the markets, pointing out that traditional rulers, town unions, and members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) have been asked to join in the implementation of the executive order.
The governor appealed to residents to key into his agricultural revolution policy, which was not “dollarised”, as a sure way to stop hunger among the people.
Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Wasiu Abiodun, told newsmen, “We had to use minimum force to disperse the protesters when all efforts to convince them to stop their action failed.
“Even the deputy governor (Comrade Yakubu Garba) spoke to the protesters, but they did not listen to him. Therefore, we had to use minimum force to disperse them.”
Abiodun, who described the action of the protesters as “abnormal”, declined to say if any permit was issued to the protesters before they embarked on the action.
The PPRO disclosed that a number of protesters had been arrested, but he did not say the exact number. He added that police operatives were still on the ground to make more arrests.
According to the police spokesman, “As soon as they bring them (the protesters) to the office, we will know how many were arrested.”
Abiodun also said police operatives had been deployed to the areas, where the protests took place, to patrol and ensure that peace was maintained.
The Labour Party (LP) also expressed concern over the rising cost of living in the country, saying the president should seek help before the situation becomes unmanageable.
LP said it was deeply concerned about the increasing cost of living in Nigeria and how millions of Nigerians were battling with the crisis of food shortage.
The party recalled that earlier on Monday, residents of Minna, Niger State, blocked 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 response.
In a statement by LP’s National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, the party said, “As at today, essential commodities, such as rice, garri, flour, 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 N7, 000 against N5500, a bag of rice rising above N70, 000, while a kg of meat now sells for N4, 000, amongst others.