The Soil Science Society of Nigeria (SSSN) says Federal Government’s outright banning of food importation will lead to inflation and further impoverish the masses.
The President of the society, Prof. Bashir Raji, said this while reacting to the recent pronouncement of President Muhammadu Buhari, that Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should not give “a cent’’ to importation of food.
In a telephone interview with newsmen, yesterday, he described the move as “a right policy, right timing but wrong approach.’’
It would be recalled that Buhari had, last Tuesday, in Daura, Katsina State, directed the CBN to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food into the country with the steady improvement in agricultural production and attainment of full food security.
He said the foreign reserve would be conserved and utilised strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food import bills.
The country had achieved food security, and for physical security, “we are not doing badly,’’ the President had said.
But Raji, who emphasised that the policy would be good if properly articulated, however, advised that the president should put into consideration the nation’s food production as well as consumption.
The don specifically noted that the country required about eight million tonnes of rice annually, adding that “currently, the country is producing just about 3.7million tones.’’
Raji decried that the country was not meeting up to 50 per cent of its needs.
“With the outright ban, there is no way the country can meet up with the required 50 per cent in one year,’’ he said.
He suggested that the Federal Government embark on the ban gradually over the next five years putting in place incentives and measurable targets to ensure that the 50 per cent shortfall was met during the period.
“But now the way was going, definitely there will be a lot of inflation, there will be high prices and considering the economy at the moment a lot of people will suffer.
“The president must have been fed the impression that because of the drop in the importation of rice through our ports, the rice we consumed in this country is produce locally which is not true.
“There is a lot of increase in the production of rice locally but there has been increasing smuggling from neighbouring countries which eventually ends up in Nigeria to complement what is produce locally.
“The policy if properly articulated will be beneficial on the long run but is quite clear that we still rely a lot on importation of food and outright banning is likely to bring about inflation.
“It will also bring about pressure on the black or parallel foreign exchange market and high cost of food, especially rice.
“We don’t import yam, we don’t import cassava, beans and we don’t actually import most of our staple food; the ones we import are basically rice maybe wheat, milk, sugar and some of the exotic foods.
“Unless we can produce one and a half times what we required, it will not be a good decision to ban outright importation of food, especially now that a lot of people are suffering economically,” Raji said.
The SSSN president decried that a lot of populace were currently not eating local rice as it ought to be due to series of complaints. He however advised the Federal Government to give incentives in terms of free seeds of the varieties to enable people to eat locally produced rice.
Raji urged the government to consider issues regarding production and processing by buying some of these medium scale processing mills and giving them to cooperative farmers at 50 per cent discount.
“Government should give incentives in terms of input and processing so that the rice can meet the standard required by the people.
“Such incentives will go a long way in assisting the country to meet the required target of rice production and consumption in the next five years before banning importation,” he said.
Raji pledged the readiness of the society to work with the Federal Government to ensure that land degradation and climate change mitigation safeguards were put in place following the envisaged massive farming activities the policy might generate.
In the same token, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, described President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), not to release forex for the purpose of food importation as a move by the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress to punished and further impoverish Nigerians.
The PDP said the directive would worsen food scarcity, “exacerbate the already harsh economic situation and the general depression, frustration, resentment and despair in our country under President Buhari’s watch.”
In a statement issued by party’s spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday, the PDP said rather than formulating and implementing policies to make life suitable for Nigerians; the APC-led government is taking pleasure in inflicting more pains to its citizens.
The statement read: “It is indeed appalling that instead of bringing solutions to the depreciating living conditions in our nation, President Buhari is rather imposing more suffering by ordering the removal of subsidy on food even when it is manifestly clear that he had failed on all fronts to achieve any level of food security despite the huge resources available to his administration.
“The party says by the directive, the Buhari-led Presidency and the APC have again demonstrated their insensitivity towards millions of Nigerians who are already suffering from acute hunger and starvation due to severe food shortage and high prices brought by President Buhari’s misrule.
“The PDP states strongly that Nigerians do not, in any way, deserve such suffering being foisted on them by such directive on food.
‘Such situation will only breed further despondency among our citizens, heighten our security challenges and put more pressure on compatriots, many of who, in the face of suffering occasioned by APC misrule, are resorting to suicide and slavery mission as options.”
The party counselled that instead of removing subsidy on food and putting more suffering on Nigerians, President Buhari should cut the “billions of naira being wasted on luxuries in his Presidency and free the funds for the welfare of the masses.
“Furthermore, the PDP urges President Buhari to recover the over N14 trillion siphoned by APC interests under his administration including the stolen N9 trillion detailed in the leaked NNPC memo and channel the resources towards food security for Nigerians.
“The PDP states that it is a complete disservice to Nigerians for the government to place restrictive directives on food for the masses, while interests condoned by the same administration are frittering our common patrimony.
“The PDP wants to believe that while Mr. President enjoys the comfort, luxury, sufficiency and safety of the government house, he is barely aware of the sufferings of Nigerians.”
Also reacting, a Nigerian knowledge institution, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rescind his directive to the Central Bank of Nigerian (CBN), to stop issuing forex for food importation into Nigeria, warning that such restriction would increase the rate of suffering among majority of Nigerians.
S’Court Judgement On Bayelsa: RSG Condemns Attacks On Peter Odili, Family …Bemoans FG’s Silence On Threat To Ex-Gov’s Life
The Rivers State Government has condemned the cowardly attacks on the former state Governor, Dr Peter Odili and his family, especially his wife, Hon Justice Mary Odili, for performing her official duties as Justice of the Supreme Court in effort to further deepen democracy and promote the rule of law in Nigeria.
The condemnation was contained in a statement, signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, shortly after the State Executive Council (SEC), in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The state government, which described the attacks as unacceptable and unfortunate, said it would not fold its hands and watch lawless Nigerians attack the former First Family of the state with impunity, and cautioned those involved in the dastardly act to retrace their steps and find more noble things to do to give their lives meaning.
The statement reads in full, “The Rivers State Executive Council at its meeting held on Wednesday, 19th February, 2020 at the Government House, Port Harcourt, reviewed the recent attacks on the residence of the former governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili as a result of the Supreme Court judgment that nullified the election of David Lyon as governor of Bayelsa State and resolved as follows: ‘That the Rivers State Executive Council observed that the Federal Government seems not to show interest in the sponsored threats to the lives of Dr Peter Odili and members of his family.
“That the Rivers State Executive Council condemns the barricading of the residence of Dr Peter Odili at Maitama, Abuja by sponsored thugs of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“That the Rivers State Executive Council wondered why Dr Peter Odili’s family should be singled out for the unwarranted attack, when the judgment that ousted David Lyon as Governor of Bayelsa State was a unanimous decision of a five-member panel of Supreme Court Justices.
“That the Rivers State Executive Council warns the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva and the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole and their hired agents to desist from the sponsorship of violent attacks against Dr Peter Odili and members of his family.
“That the Rivers State Government will hold Timipre Sylva and Adams Oshiomhole responsible if anything happens to Dr Peter Odili and members of his family.
“That the Rivers State Executive Council noted that in the past Rivers State suffered unfavourable Judicial Pronouncements and never resorted to self-help as being promoted by APC Leaders in the case of Bayelsa State.
“That the Rivers State Government will employ all legal means to protect Dr Peter Odili and members of his family.
“That the Rivers State Government will protect Rivers State Indigenes who are serving Federal and State Judicial officers.
“That the Rivers State Government warns that should this harassment and intimidation continue, it will have no alternative than to retaliate.
“That the Rivers State Government will defend the lives and property of Rivers people at all times. Enough is enough”, the statement added.
NUPENG Shuts Filling Stations In Rivers …RSG Cautions Consumers Against Panic Buying
Barely 48hours after stakeholders averted proposed strike over seizure of petroleum tankers by personnel of security agencies, including the Army, the leadership of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Employees (NUPENG) has succumbed to pressure, and directed filling stations in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and its environs to shut down operations following fresh disagreement between tanker drivers and security agencies in the state.
But in a swift reaction, yesterday, the Rivers State Government has called on members of the public to avoid panic buying of petroleum products as it has taken steps to resolve issues leading to the protest by petroleum tanker drivers in the state.
Most of the filling stations monitored across Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas in Rivers State, yesterday, were discovered to have complied with the fresh directive to embark on strike over the arrest of some tanker drivers and seizure of their vehicles.
The shutdown of operations has led to fuel scarcity and resurgence of black market in Port Harcourt and its environs.
Also, black market operators have taken advantage of the development to make brisk deals.
Our correspondent, who monitored the industrial action by the filing station operators, reports that queues have continued to build up in most filling stations in the state capital.
The majority of the filling stations were said to have stopped dispensing fuel to motorists and other consumers since midnight on Tuesday after another tanker was said to have been seized by the Task Force on Illegal Parking.
Our correspondent, who monitored the situation in Port Harcourt, yesterday, observed that Tonnino Filling Station, Jet Filling Station and Royal Dynasty Filling Station on Ada-George Road, as well as some filling stations on Port Harcourt-Aba Road, and the few between Rumuomasi through Elekahia, were all shut down.
Also, Eterna Filling Station and Forte Filling Station located along Peter Odili Road were both shut down.
Our correspondent also tracked a Toyota Sienna and Hiace buses populated by NUPENG strike enforcement team, monitoring compliance with the directive within Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGAs.
The two buses were seen criss-crossing the roads, monitoring all filling stations from Aba Road through Waterlines, and from Rumuokalagbor-Elekahia through Nkpogu to Peter Odili, and onward to Port Harcourt Township through Eastern Bypass.
Speaking on the action, the National Treasurer of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Employees, NUPENG, Comrade Alex Agwanwa, explained that the action was due to the inability of security agents to respect the understanding they reached with the union, last weekend.
Agwanwa, who is also the chairman of the United Labour Congress in Rivers State explained that between Sunday and yesterday, more trucks have been arrested alongside the drivers by security agencies.
“Instead of maintaining our understanding, they decided to arrest more trucks. As we speak, 27 trucks carrying legal products have been arrested. It is unacceptable.
“This matter has been on for the past two years. We did not want it to get to this stage but here we are,” he added.
The NUPENG official maintained that the filings stations would remain shut until all their members and trucks seized by the security agencies are released.
Some filling station attendants, who spoke with The Tide said their services were withdrawn following directives from the leadership of the joint body of petroleum marketers in Rivers State.
The Chairman of the Licensed Filling Station Owners in Rivers State, Comrade Sunny Nkpe, who spoke with The Tide on the issue, said the action was taken because of the violation of an agreement reached by all stakeholders on the matter, which shelved the earlier planned strike.
He said their members were still facing intimidation and arrests by the state task force on illegal parking and other security operatives.
On his part, the National Public Relations Officer of NUPENG, Comrade Chinedu Ukadike, said the decision reached on February 16 for security agencies and the state government to release the union’s trucks in detention by February 17 was yet to be carried out, hence the directive to withdraw of the services of members.
He further claimed that the arrests were unnecessary and carried out without proper investigation.
He said, “Most of these trucks are carrying our products. If they continue to hold our trucks in detention, what do they want us to sell?”.
Some motorists, who spoke with our correspondent, lamented the situation, stating that it was difficult for them to operate due to scarcity of products.
A commercial driver, Akanimo Abel, said he bought a liter of fuel at N350 from black market operators.
He said, “My business is badly affected by the strike, the strike took all of us by surprise, and we did not expect it. We thought all the issues have been resolved. I want the issues to be resolved once so that normal business can go on.”
Another commercial taxi driver, Chris Agbogu, said the strike has caused grave difficulties to the users of the products, adding that he was finding it difficult to buy enough fuel to enable him do his business.
In reaction to the surprise strike by tanker drivers and filling station owners in the state, the Rivers State Government, yesterday, advised members of the public to avoid panic buying of petroleum products as it has taken steps to resolve issues leading to the protest by petroleum tanker drivers in the state.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Energy, Dr Peter Medee, who gave the advise in an interview with newsmen in Government House, Port Harcourt, said the lingering protest was as a result of several threats by the union that they want to go on strike.
“There are catalog of what they actually requested that we do, and we have been making efforts to see what we can do to resolve those things”, he said.
He explained that the state government had approached the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army on some trucks seized by soldiers and that the GOC had graciously approved release of those trucks.
“Unfortunately, some of those trucks were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further investigation.
“There are processes that we have to take to get those ones that were sent to EFCC released, and we are in the process of getting them done”, the commissioner said, adding that the trucks at the 6 Division have already been released.
On the trucks impounded by the state task force on decongestion of roads, Medee said they had also made efforts to get them released, and also gone to the prison to release members of the union that were imprisoned, while those in police custody for wrong parking have also been released.
“What I am saying in essence is that we are making several efforts. Now, we have started engaging directly with their national leadership because we have seen that their union people in the state are beginning to show lack of understand of the sensibility of government”.
He noted that the government of Chief Nyesom Wike was very careful with the ease of doing business initiative because it was his vision that nothing should hinder business activities in the state, hence the need to thread with caution.
The commissioner further stated that the Federal Government was battling with oil theft, which was why a lot of trucks involved in sharp practices were being impounded daily by security agencies.
He gave kudos to the union leaders for declaring that they would not support any of their members involved in illegality.
“However, we expect the union to understand and bear with us. All the efforts we are making are gradually paying off. We are releasing the trucks. We are releasing their members that were arrested.
“We are not ignoring them. We are doing our very best to make sure that the problem is resolved, and I can assure you that in a short time, whatever you are seeing will be over.
“My advice to Rivers people is that they should avoid panic buying, relax, we will definitely handle this problem”, the commissioner assured.
Chris Oluoh, Taneh Beemene & Benice Iragunima
Tribute To Bishop Matthew Kuka’s Homily
Like a vote of thanks, a tribute is meant to give praise and honour to whom such is due; especially in an environment where people live in fear to say the truth, or tell an emperior that he is dressed like a clown, or behaves like one. Anybody who is acquainted with Bishop Matthew Hassan Kuka would testify that he is an ideal human being and also a shining light of what a Christian should be.
Anybody reading the homily of Bishop Kuka titled “For a Tormented Nation and a Besieged Faith”, carried by The Tide newspaper (Friday February 14, 2020), would be deeply touched by the message contained therein. In the language of the Catholic Church, a homily is a speech or advice given at a special religious ceremony, in this case, burial of a Seminarian, Michael Nnamdi, in Kaduna, murdered by kidnappers recently.
Maybe Michael was not the first or only Seminarian kidnapped in Nigeria for a ransome, but from the Good Shepherd Seminary, Kaduna, that incident was a shock. His death was a greater shock, both to Catholics in Nigeria and across the globe, with a total of 3,305 persons lighting candles shortly before his burial on the February 5.
An ancient sage once said that it is to those who understand the world, not those who disfigure it; those who strive to liberate humans from plight and enslavement, not those who aggravate them, that we owe our loyalty.
We live and intermingle in a world where there are noble and ignoble people and where those who strive to ennoble the status of mankind stand in danger. Yet, the likes of Bishop Matthew Kuka should not be lacking in every society, for they provide courage to the stooping spirit of man. Not only are humans standing in a moment of decision, moment of separation of the darkness from light and moment of rudderless navigation. In the words of Bishop Kuka: “Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud and pharisaism have caught up with us”.
Truly, Nigeria is at a point where we must call for a verdict; a time to confront and dispel the clouds of evil that hover over us; for we have practiced madness for too long. Kuka, in his homily recalled how, in Chatham House in London, Buhari said: “If I am elected President, the world will have no reason to worry about Nigeria. Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa … And I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front”.
Bishop Kuka spoke the whole truth and on behalf of Nigerians that “this President has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interest of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women … Today, in Nigeria, the noble religion of Islam has convulsed …”
Unfortunately, Islam is beginning to earn an unpleasant reputation through the instrumentality of bad politics. It is true that Muslim scholars, traditional rulers and intellectuals have continued to cry out helplessly, asking for their religion and region to be freed from chokehold. Bishop Kuka tells us that “neither Islam nor the North can identify any real benefits from these years that have been consumed by the locusts that this government has unleashed on our country. The Fulani, his innocent Kinsmen, have become the subject of opprobrium, ridicule, defamation, calumny and obloquy”.
Is it a hate speech to say that this administration is “running the most nepotic and narcissistic government in known history”? Or that “the North still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution”? does the fact that The Sultan recently lamented the tragic consequences of power being in the wrong hands, not indicate that all is not well with Nigeria currently?
Similarly, we are told that “the Northern Elders who is 2015 believed that General Buhari had come to redeem the North, have now turned against the President.” Is it not true that things fall apart when politicians use religion to extend the frontiers of their ambition and power? Why do kidnappers separate their victims and force Christians to become Muslims?
Apart from the killing of Late Seminarian Michael Nnamdi by his kidnnappers, had there not been similar killing of Christian clerics by kidnappers and terrorists in recent times? Should we accept the logic of a presidential spokesperson that since more Muslims are being killed than Christians, then there is sense in senseless killings? From the homily of Bishop Kuka that “killing Christian and destroying Christianity is seen as one of their key missions,” it become obvious that kidnappers and terrorists are out on a definite purpose.
The fact that His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto and the Emir of Kano, two most powerful leaders, have expressed their unhappiness over the situations in the country. But in spite of the obvious provocations and trends, Bishop M. Kuka can still tell the world that “we have no vengeance or bitterness in our hearts…Trials of every sort come our way, but we are not discouraged…”
Bishop Matthew Hassan Kuka has aptly shown through his homily that he has a clear understanding of the problems of this country, one of which is the use of religion as an instrument of political power. While not suggesting the use of violence or vengeance on the part of Christians, he has asked the current administration to run an inclusive system where everyone would have a sense of belonging and contribute to build up Nigeria.
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