Three days after Nigerians staged street protests across the country’s major cities against the hardship imposed on them by the economic policies of the Federal Government, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has said that they are not starving.
Ogbeh said on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that there is abundant food supply in the country, hence “there can't be any talk of starvation in Nigeria.”
According to the minister, “there is food everywhere but the prices are very high.”
The minister told journalists after the FEC that Council approved some of the recommendations of the taskforce, including the removal of 20% tariff on greenhouse equipment to reduce the cost of large scale production of tomatoes in the country.
There is also the decision to restrict imports of fully processed tomato products into the country as well as dumping of other agro products’ imports in the country while food trucks criss-crossing the nation's roads are given easier passage without delays by law enforcement agencies.
Ogbeh said: "We identified the causes of food price increases. The good thing is that there is no real shortage of food. There is food but the prices are a bit too high and Nigerians are groaning under the pain.
"One of the things we found out is that the cost of transportation is becoming extremely high, especially because most of our transportation is by road and diesel prices have gone up and trucks are finding it difficult to move from place to place at old prices.
"So, we considered the following alternatives: using railway wagons along the current railway network. As we did before when we moved cattle from North West to Lagos, we brought down the cost and avoided the multiple taxation on transporters by local governments which delays movement.
"We have decided to work with the state governments and the police to reduce delays. We are going to adapt what they have in Ivory Coast. Trucks carrying foods are given labels. In fact, in Ivory Coast, they cannot be stopped for more than 10 minutes anywhere.
"Even if something serious has happened, the security agencies will follow them to their destinations and come back to investigate whatever has happened.
"Finally, we shall be looking into our reserves if in the next few days, the situation persists, to see what we can bring out to lower the prices because another bumper harvest will be coming up again at the end of March.
"There is really no starvation in the land. The other factor is what you know already. There is a lot of pressure on Nigerian food from West, North and Central Africa. Our food production is very robust and we are doing pretty well," Ogbeh said,
Meanwhile, FEC has approved the reconstruction of Ilorin-Umuaron-Kabba-Egbe Road to link Kwara and Kogi States at the cost of N21 billion.
The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), said that the Council also approved N589 million consultancy services contract for social management plan to access Japanese loan to support electricity transmission in the country.