* Says heavy sanctions await food hoarders
President Bola Tinubu has directed immediate release of over 100 metric tons of assorted food items from both the strategic reserve and the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria as a short term response to rising food shortage in the country.
Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, made this disclosure to State House Correspondents after a meeting of the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention on Thursday.
He further disclosed that the government has proposed to embark on importation of whatever shortfalls that may be experienced after the release of the food commodities.
The Minister also said the government will mete appropriate measures on food hoarders adding that emergency situations requires emergency measures to ensure food is available to Nigerians.
Idris said: Today’s meeting was again on the issue of difficulty, like I said two days ago, of putting food on the table of most Nigerians, and has come up with a number of measures to ensure that food becomes more readily available to Nigerians.
“The first one is that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has been directed to release about 42,000 metric tons of maize, millet, garri and other commodities in their strategic reserve so that these items will be made available to Nigerians; 42000 metric tons immediately.
“The second one is that we have held meetings with the rice Millers Association of Nigeria, those who are responsible for producing this rice and we have asked them to open up their stores.
“They’ve told us that they can guarantee about 60,000 metric tons of rice. This will be made available and we know that that is enough to take Nigerians the next one month to six weeks, perhaps up to two months 60,000 metric tons. They’ve agreed that they will make that available to Nigerians to bring it out to the market so that food made available.
“Now the whole idea of this is to crash the cost of these food items. And these are measures that will happen immediately.
“42,000 metric tons from the strategic government reserve, about 60,000 metric tons of rice from the rice Millers Association, they have them in all their storage facilities and government in conjunction with them after this exhaustive meeting, has directed that they also bring this out immediately so that you food, I mean the price of rice will come down significantly.
“Now the third item is that the government is also looking at the possibility, if it becomes absolutely necessary as an interim measure on the short run to also import some of these commodities immediately so that these commodities can be made available to Nigerians immediately within the next couple of weeks.
“Now, with all these emergency measures, there is of course a directive to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to invest massively in conjunction with Nigerian farmers and other producers so that we can have better season coming up shortly.
“Now, we all know that dry season farming is happening, that will take effect very shortly, and that we hope will also contribute, because as soon as the dry season farming gets underway, it is the hope of government that food prices will also also come down.
“Like I said, these are all measures that are taken to immediately, and as an emergency measure bring down the cost of food items. In the long run Federal Ministry of Agriculture is going to invest massively, so that Nigeria will recover its potential as a food basket and we don’t expect that going forward we are going to be faced with these challenges again.
“Now government of course is also looking at all those who are hoarding these commodities because actually these commodities are available in the stores of many traders. Government is appealing to them, that they should open up these stores, make these commodities available in the interest of our nation. There is no point when the whole country is looking for this food, you are looking up this products so that you make more more money and then Nigerians suffer.
“Of course government will not fold his arms. We know where all these major traders are. We know where all these major stores are. And if they don’t respond by bringing these commodities to the market, government will take appropriate measures to ensure that these products are made available to Nigerians. “
Asked if the meeting talked about the products at which the items will be sold, Idris said: “Yes, the government has looked at that and what I can tell you is that whatever the government will do to ensure that this food is made available to Nigerians at an affordable cost, the government will do that.”
Ob the appropriate measures that will be meted out on those hoarding the products, the minister said, “Well, you cannot hold the nation to ransom. You cannot have these commodities and you’re hoarding them in your stores when we all need them. We are in an emergency situation and we’ll take emergency measures to make sure that this food is available to Nigerians.”
Asked what he thinks about the general concern of high-level inflation particularly as it affects Forex, he said: “Well, people always talk about that even some commodities that do not have direct dollar denomination are always quoted in dollar. That is unfortunate. We ask that Nigerians need to be more patriotic. Be our brother’s keepers and sell this thing at a margin, but at a margin that is not also killing to Nigerians.
“You know, you need to be patriotic at this point. This is an emergency situation. Every nation faces emergency situations like this. It is not the first time that it has happened. Many countries of the world have faced this.
“It is our own time to face this challenge. Government is going to respond adequately and it is already responding adequately.
“The President has directed that whatever it will take, food will be available to Nigerians at a cost that is also very reasonable. And that is what the summary of this meeting entails.”