FG Expresses Concern over Rising Cost of Living, Protest in Minna

FG Expresses Concern over Rising Cost of Living, Protest in Minna

•Says situation caused by demand, supply forces 

•Govt looking forward to good harvest that will reduce prices

•Yusuf declares Kano people dying of hunger 

•Bago blames food speculators 

•LP advises Tinubu to seek help in time

Chuks Okocha, James Emejo in Abuja, Laleye Dipo in Minna and Ahmad Sorondinki in Kano

Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minster of the Economy, Mr. Olawale Edun, yesterday, said the rising prices of food and commodities in the country had become increasingly worrisome for the federal government.

Edun said the situation, which had produced growing discontent among the citizenry, was triggered by demand and supply forces.

The minister spoke in Abuja during a bilateral meeting with a visiting German delegation, led by that country’s Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Ms Svenja Shulze.

Edun’s comments came as protests rocked Niger State yesterday, as some youths and women resented what they perceived as mass purchase of food items for hoarding and export outside the country. The state government blamed food speculators for the protests.

The police said it used “minimum force” to disperse protesters, who blocked the Minna-Bida Road, and arrested some, whose activities were obstructing vehicular and human movement.

Relatedly, Kano State Governor Abba Yusuf, yesterday, lamented that many people in his state were living in misery, amid starvation and acute hunger. Yusuf said inflation had terribly outpaced incomes, resulting in deaths, as several residents could not cope with the rising cost of living.

Similarly, Labour Party (LP) expressed concern over the rising cost of living in the country, and advised President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to seek help before the situation became unmanageable.

Edun, who spoke in response to current realities, said the only way to address the situation was to boost agricultural production, in particular, to force down inflation.

Speaking alongside Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, Edun said, “I think the issue of rising prices is of concern to the government and everybody in Nigeria,” and some major steps were being taken to address the situation.

He said, “It is the issue of demand and supply and a lot of emphasis has been placed on increasing agricultural production, in particular.

“The president has intervened in that sector to provide grain, fertilisers to farmers and to bring additional acreage – rice, wheat, maize, and cassava – to increase the output and thereby bring down prices and that will help bring down inflation.

“And, of course, we are in the middle of the dry season farming and we are looking forward to a good dry season harvest that will ameliorate price, in particular, and the price level in Nigeria, in general.”

Edun said the partnership with Germany offered an opportunity for skills development between both parties, adding that it would help to boost job creation and reduce poverty.

Uzoka-Anite also said the partnership with Germany was aimed at developing Nigeria’s Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) subsector. She added that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) would soon be signed by both countries in this regard to improve access to finance for women-owned enterprises.

The minister said the collaboration will further enhance talent acquisition and challenge, and develop renewable energy, in line with Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, which partly aimed at industrialising the country.

She said supporting the SMEs could add about 55 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), adding that though both countries currently have strong mutually beneficial relationship, it could get better.

On her part, Shulze said both countries had established cooperation in common interest, pointing out that there are currently over 90 German companies operating in Nigeria.

She attested to the abundance of creative young talents in the country, saying Nigeria’s security challenges can only be addressed by tackling the underlying causes, including jobs and education, rather than militarily.

She stressed that Germany was looking to deepen cooperation with Nigeria.

Yusuf: Kano People Dying of Hunger

At an emergency meeting with the business community in Kano, Yusuf decried the current hardship and starvation faced by residents.

He told the business community, “There is hunger in Kano and we must find a solution to stop people from dying and falling sick. We know you are doing your best as a businessman, but you are not doing enough.

“We should join hands to salvage the situation, as governor and my deputy, we do not need a penny from anyone. All we need is for you to come and help us assist the poor people.”

Yusuf urged the business moguls in the state to complement the effort of the government, saying, “I urge you to come up with a solution on how to crash the prices of commodities to make life meaningful for our people.

“Kano has been the centre of commerce in Nigeria, after Lagos. It is such that the state has gone down on the graph today.

“Formerly, business people used to come to Kano to buy whatever from other neighbouring states and neighbouring countries. But all these have now deteriorated.

“All major business people from Niger, Cameron, Chad, and others had made Kano their home. But today all these have changed. The patronage has been reduced.

“In the past, there were a lot of employment opportunities for people from Kano with the available industries, which had provided a livelihood for many.

“All of these are no more. This has led youths into drug abuse, kidnapping, and banditry. People are facing hardship such that a measure of rice cannot be afforded by a lot of families.”

The governor added, “Locally produced rice is now N65, 000; maize is N52, 000; millet N56, 000; and groundnut oil is N4, 500. Where will the people place themselves and what will the salary earner survive on?

“I will meet with Tinubu to inform him that people are hungry in Kano. The federal government should give preferential assistance to the highly populated state.”

Some of those, who spoke on behalf of the business community, like Alhaji Sabiu Bako, Alhaji Salisu Sambajo, Muhammad Adakawa, and Sammani Elsamad, among others, called on Yusuf to lead other governors of the North-west in finding solution to the economic problems of the region.

They denied raising the prices of their products, but said the producers increased their prices, while they only purchased and sold accordingly.

The business community also lamented that 70 per cent of businesses had closed down due to the devaluation of the naira and the scarcity of the dollar, which also affected the retail prices of goods.

They urged the government to ensure that the gas pipeline construction was completed to ease the supply of the product to industries.

But the business representatives lamented alleged extortion by traffic officials, which they claimed added to the problem of transporting goods to and from Kano.

Bago Blames Protest on Food Speculators

Niger State Government blamed food speculators for yesterday’s protest by some youths and women, who were angered by the mass purchase of food items for hoarding and export.

Governor Mohammed Bago told a news conference in Minna, after a meeting of the state executive council, that the protesters’ plan was to attack trucks loaded with assorted food items being conveyed from the southern parts of the state to the north, but intelligence frustrated the effort.

Bago, however, said hoodlums hijacked the protests, resulting in the blockade of the main road leading to the southern part of the state.

But for the quick intervention of the security agencies, who diverted the trucks loaded with food items to another route, the situation would have been disastrous, the governor said. He added that similar incidents had occurred in Mokwa and Lapai towns.

The governor disclosed that mass purchase of food items, including goats, sheep and cows, had been on the increase in the state. He said a “cartel” was behind the illegal act, which was intended to further increase hunger among the people.

He said, “We don’t have any reason to be hungry, Niger State is an agrarian state. We produce all that we eat, but this cartel wants to create disaffection among the people.”

Bago also said the government had in the past tried to purchase food items for sale at subsidised rates to cushion the effect of the removal of subsidy on petrol, but “these cartels frustrated the plan”.

He said the federal government became interested in the issue after he reported the incident to the vice president, Alhaji Kashim Shettima.

Bago disclosed that some arrests had been made in connection with the protests and those arrested would be charged to court soon.

He did not say how many protesters were apprehended, but stated that the situation had been brought under control with people now going about their lawful businesses.

Bago responded to the situation by issuing an Executive Order stopping the mass purchase of food items from all markets in the state. He said violators of the order would be dealt with.

He said only the quantities of food items enough for family consumption was permitted for purchase from the markets, pointing out that traditional rulers, town unions, and members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) have been asked to join in the implementation of the executive order.

The governor appealed to residents to key into his agricultural revolution policy, which was not “dollarised”, as a sure way to stop hunger among the people.

Police: We Used Minimum Force to Disperse Protesters

The police, yesterday, said they used “minimum force” to disperse protesters, who blocked the Minna-Bida Road, in protest against high cost of living, and obstructed vehicular and human traffic.

Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Wasiu Abiodun, told THISDAY, “We had to use minimum force to disperse the protesters when all efforts to convince them to stop their action failed.

“Even the deputy governor (Comrade Yakubu Garba) spoke to the protesters, but they did not listen to him. Therefore, we had to use minimum force to disperse them.”

Abiodun, who described the action of the protesters as “abnormal”, declined to say if any permit was issued to the protesters before they embarked on the action.

The PPRO disclosed that a number of protesters had been arrested, but he did not say the exact number. He added that police operatives were still on the ground to make more arrests.

According to the police spokesman, “As soon as they bring them (the protesters) to the office, we will know how many were arrested.”

He said normalcy had returned to the areas. 

Abiodun also said police operatives had been deployed to the areas, where the protests took place, to patrol and ensure that peace was maintained.

THISDAY observed that some of the protesters were injured in the stampede that followed the intervention of the police to disperse the crowds.

LP to Tinubu: Seek Help Before It Becomes Unmanageable

Labour Party (LP) expressed concern over the rising cost of living in the country, saying the president should seek help before the situation becomes unmanageable.

LP said it was deeply concerned about the increasing cost of living in Nigeria and how millions of Nigerians were battling with the crisis of food shortage.

The party recalled that earlier yesterday, residents of Minna, Niger State, blocked main roads in the city to protest the high cost of living. It said women and young people among the demonstrators were heard shouting protest songs while accusing the government of insensibility and inadequate response.

In a statement by LP’s National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, the party said, “As at today, essential commodities, such as rice, garri, flour, protein have witnessed exponential increase in prices since January.

“For instance, a carton of Indomie noodles now sells for N10, 000, a 50kg bag of sugar is now selling at N73, 000 as against N62, 000 sold in early January.

“A bag of cement now sells upward of N7, 000 against N5500, a bag of rice rising above N70, 000, while a kg of meat now sells for N4, 000, amongst others.

“We are aware that the organised labour union and the government have been in a long protracted dialogue on a possible salary increase for civil servants. There is an air of despondency across the nation.

“The immediate fallout of this situation are increasing crime, particularly among the youth, who are desperate to remain alive; incidences of suicide are in upswing.

“It has now become a familiar scene for people to jump into the lagoon, hang themselves or take lethal substances.”

LP added, “Mr. President and his team should just admit they’ve run out of ideas.

“They should ask for help because it is now apparent that no amount of propaganda can change the fact that more and more Nigerians are falling below the poverty line.”

The party said the federal government needed to take action to reduce the hardship faced by poor Nigerians, and seek help because things were becoming unbearable for the average Nigerian.

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