May 20, 2024

As the rising cost of food drags many Nigerians into meltdown, the Federal Government yesterday, raised hopes of a relief as it said it plans to set up a commodity board to regulate the soaring prices of food in the country.

This is coming on the eve of an ultimatum a Federal High Court in Lagos on February 7 gave, ordering the Federal Government to fix the prices of goods and petroleum products within seven days.

The food price hike across all segments had assumed an alarming situation since the turn of the year, especially as data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on January 15, 2024, placed Nigeria’s food inflation at 33.9 per cent. Despite the government declaring a state of emergency on food security, prices continue to climb.

But at a two-day high-level strategic meeting on climate change, food systems and resource mobilisation held in Abuja yesterday came reassuring and soothing words from Vice President Kashim Shettima.

According to Shettima, the board would be given the mandate to assess and regulate food prices, as well as maintain a strategic food reserve for stabilising prices of crucial grains and other food items.

He said food security was one of the eight areas of priority declared by President Bola Tinubu as part of his Renewed Hope Agenda. “Our solution to the potential food crisis has become immediate, medium, and long-term strategies,” he said.

“The short-term strategy entails revitalising food supply through specific interventions like the distribution of fertilizers and grains to farmers and households to cushion the effects of subsidy removal.

“It also entails fostering collaboration between the ministries of agriculture and water resources for efficient farmland irrigation, ensuring year-round food production; and addressing price volatility by establishing a national commodity board.

“This board will continually assess and regulate food prices, maintaining a strategic food reserve for stabilizing prices of crucial grains and other food items.”

The vice president said Tinubu’s administration was fully investing in the restoration of degraded land. According to him, there are ongoing plans to restore four million hectares, or nearly 10 million acres of degraded lands within the nation’s borders as its contribution to the AFR100 Initiative.

“I wish to assure you that we will engage our security architecture to protect the farms and the farmers so that farmers can return to the farmlands without fear of attacks,” he said.

Not impressed by assurances from the Vice President, the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), expressed deep concerns over what it described as biting economic hardship, high cost of essential life-enhancing commodities and alarming food scarcity in the country “occasioned by the ill-implemented policies of the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, which are already causing restiveness and agitations in various parts of the country.”

This was contained in a communiqué issued on Tuesday after its meeting in Abuja. The opposition party noted that the future of democracy is gloomy with veiled attempts to force the country into a one-party state. This was also reiterated by the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed.

Speaking before a closed-door meeting of the party’s BoT, former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, who is also the chairman of PDP’s BoT, said: “If PDP goes under, definitely democracy will go under in Nigeria. We know that there are plans to turn this country into a one-party state but that will be only when we allow it. So, we must fight for democracy in Nigeria and it is only the PDP that can do that.” The communiqué released after the BoT meeting reads: “The BoT is appalled by the monumental corruption and unbridled treasury-looting in the APC administration, especially the looting of billions of Naira meant for palliatives for poor and vulnerable Nigerians.

“The BoT is seriously worried over the fall of the Naira to an abysmal N1,500 to the Dollar, incessant increase in the pump price of fuel, which now sells for over N700 per liter with long queues in various parts of the country.

“These have attendant negative consequences as evident in the nearly 30 per cent inflation rate, 41 per cent unemployment rate and alarming 46 per cent poverty rate where up to 130 million citizens have sunk deeper into multi-dimensional poverty in the last nine months.

“The BoT is disturbed that the catastrophic economic and security situation in the country have left Nigerians hopeless, despondent, angry and constitute a present and immediate threat to the survival of the country as hardworking young Nigerians, professionals in critical fields as well as major multinational companies are now leaving our nation in droves.

“The BoT calls on President Tinubu to know that the situation in the country has become unbearable. Mr. President should immediately address the issues of corruption in his administration, worsening insecurity in the country, continuous fall in the value of the Naira, high fuel price, unbearable food scarcity and unemployment in the country.”

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