The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has traced the root of excruciating inflation and food crisis in Nigeria to the doorsteps of the security agencies.
Ogbe made these allegations on Thursday, before the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development at the National Assembly in Abuja.
He blamed men of the Nigeria Police, Army and Customs Service for mounting series of roadblocks in the country that resulted to the prolonged ”high cost of food prices, through unbearable extortions from truck drivers conveying farm produce to various urban centres”.
According to the minister, one of the key factors responsible for high cost of food prices in the country, “is the daily unbearable extortions men of the Nigeria Police, their counterpart in the Army and Customs Service visited on truck drivers conveying farm produce from the hinterland to urban centres, under the guise of carrying out security checks”.
“These truck drivers based on raw lamentations made to the Ministry in recent time, alleged that, at every check points, they are always forced to part with reasonable amount of money by any group of the security agencies, which they said, made farmers to have no option than to factor cost of the extortion into prices of the food items”, he added.
Ogbe’s lamentation is coming on the heels of complain by farmers across the country, kicking against the move by the federal government to effect reduction in the prices of food items.
The Minister however, explained to the committee members that, based on the complaints by the truck drivers, his ministry wrote to the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and heads of other security agencies, to dissuade their operatives from the act, but daily reports available to the ministry still show that such motorists are still being extorted.
He also cited high cost of diesel, which now sells for N300 per litre, as another factor responsible for the skyrocketing prices of food items in the country, since according to him; trucks conveying farm produce are powered by diesel.
Ogbe’s list of alleged factors responsible for high prices of food items in the country also includes, the treaty on free movement of goods and services put in place by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) among member states, gives room for movement of not less than 300,000 trucks of grains outside Nigeria on daily basis, which the ministry cannot check.
The minister however, assured the committee members that the federal government would soon see to reduction in prices of food items, going by the committee set up to that effect, but said farmers were already kicking against the move.
He further explained that the farmers were angry with him over the move because, they saw the situation on ground as very favourable economically to them.
“The situation on ground as far as high prices of food items are concerned is one of a dilemma to me because, while the city dwellers are unhappy with us, farmers are very happy and seriously kicking against any move to tamper with their happiness by cutting down the high price of farm produce, for now,” he said. .
Specifically, he said, one of such farmers tackled him recently in Katsina not to tamper with the current price of food items, by claiming that he made N4million from the sales of Sorghum.
Ogbe noted that another farmer in Anambra state also claimed to have made N1million profit from sales of rice as a result of the current market.
He further assured that the Ministry’s 2017 budget defence before the joint committee, that the implementation of the budget would be driven by the need for food security in the country.