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Senate urges FG to tackle impending food crisis

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Iyojo Ameh

The Senate has urged the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency initiate measures to tackle the impending food insecurity in the country.

It also urged government to outline the measures put in place to combat the situation and address Nigerians on the situation.

Senate resolution followed adoption of a motion on
urgent need to address food insecurity and market exploitation of consumables In Nigeria at plenary on Tuesday.

The motion was sonsored by Sen. Sunday Karimi (APC- Kogi) and Sen. Ndume, Ali (APC-Borno)

Karimi said in the last few months, the price of goods and household consumables in Nigeria has been on an abysmal rise.

This, he said was leading to a high rate of inflation, weakening purchasing power and affecting living conditions of vast majority of Nigerians.

He said latest data by National Bureau of Statistics(NBS) showed that food inflation in the country skyrocketed to 40.66 per cent on a year-on-year basis, representing a significant increase from the 24.82 per cent recorded in May 2023.

Karimi said current market price of food items such as beans, maize, rice paddy, yam, tomatoes, and onions which initially rose by about 40 per cent after removal of petroleum subsidy has now increased to over 100 per cent to 300 per cent with no attributable reason for the increase in prices.

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He said insecurity in food-producing regions, bad roads, increase in cost of transportation, depreciation of the value of Naira had been seen as possible factors contributing to increase in price of food items and other consumables.

He, however ,said that greater percentage of the increase in prices of food items and consumables was not only due to the factors, but to the zest of merchants, traders, and retailers to make supernormal profits.

“Note that there is a general attitude of get rich quickly or get rich by all means.

“This is leading many Nigerians to jettison being their brother’s keeper” and exploiting one another to make abnormal profits.

“This attitude has been justified on the basis that many members of the political class, technocrats, and corporate elites have helped themselves with public funds without any repercussions in Law.

” Nigerian ,traders have thus resorted to price overcharging to maximise profits.”

He said there were reports that the farming communities in the border regions with other countries, prefer to sell their food items abroad to the neighboring countries thereby increasing local food insecurity.

He expressed worry that efforts made by the government to arrest consistent increase in food inflation was yet to yield the desired results.

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Karimi said there was need to be more pragmatic about addressing food insecurity, curb herder farmer crises, kidnapping for ransom, and terrorism.

This, he said would ensure development of a viable national commodity board to regulate price of grains.

He said efforts should be made to ensure elimination of artificial contributions to food and commodity inflation in Nigeria.

Sen.Ali Ndume(APC–Borno),who seconded the motion said reports had indicated that Nigeria may face food insecurity , adding that people were hungry and many farmers no longer have access to their farms because of insecurity.

He said the lawmakers need to take urgent steps as representatives of the people as prices of food was on the high side.

Sen.Ahmed lawan(APC-Yobe) said Nigerians were struggling to have food at least once a day.

According to him, the Silos were empty, saying that Federal Government would have to make frantic efforts to import food.

He said the national assembly must engage the executive to take immediate steps to avert the looming food insecurity.

Sen.Ahmed Wadada (SDP-Nasarawa) commended the federal government for the recent decision to exempt duties,tax on food items to be imported the country.

He said the issue of prices of food was a serious matter, adding that Nigerians were patient people.

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He urged lawmakers to do whatever was required at their various levels to add value to food production in the country.

President of Senate, Godswill Akpabio said the food issues increased when farmers were denied access to their farm lands due to activities of bandits.

He said people abandoned agricultural production, saying that the issue had been on since nine years.

According to him, the government must worked toward encourage farming especially this period.

Akpabio said he was informed by Committee Chairman on Agriculture that Federal Government had provided 60 trucks of fertilizer to each states,
while Senators and House of Representatives members would receive two and one trucks for onward distribution to their constituencies.

This, he said was to ensure farming for improved production of food by Nigerians involved in agriculture

He said efforts must be made to improve farming activities, while also commending the federal government for looking in the direction of tax, duty exemption for imported food items into Nigeria.

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Business and Economy

Insecurity, primary healthcare, Education, rural development, others our priority — ALGON

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By David Odama

The Association of Local Government of Nigeria has insisted, boasted that it has the capacity to address insecurity, hunger health facilities, near collapse of education and other critical infrastructure in the grassroots level.

It has also vowed to collaborate with the various state governments, security agencies and other stakeholders to reinvigorate unity and peace co-esistence respect for rule of law and prudent management of resources.

ALGON in a communique issued at the end of its 48th National Executive Meeting in Lafia, Sunday said the local councils across the country would jealously tackle health care services, collaborate with security agencies and other relevant stakeholders to address insecurity, hunder restore the lost glory at the grassroots

The communique which was jointly signed by the ALGON chairmen of Gombe and Ogun States, Barr. Sani Haruna and Hon. Emiola Gazal respectively, also expressed their readiness to embark on meaningful projects in their respective LGAs that would have positive impacts on the lives of their people.

According to the communique, all the local government councils in the 774 in Nigeria would be guided jealously and judiciously in the management and use of the resources available to the local councils to provide adequate development, improve on the lives of the people at the grassroots.

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“All Local council chairmen across the country will be well-guided in the area of information to promote peace, harmonious existence between the third tiers of governments and other relevant stakeholders in line with global best practices as obtainable in other advanced countries of the world.”

The communique read in part, “It is important to state equivocally that the Local Government Councils can and will address issues of insecurity in collaboration with State Governments, address all its responsibilities in the of Primary Health Care, Basic Education, Water, Rural Development and other critical Infrastructures, as enshrined in the 4th Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended).

“The NEC appreciates all the private concerns, institutions, and corporate bodies that made valid presentations at the Council meeting on the development of Local Governments; and pledges to collaborate in the interest of the larger populace of the grassroots.

“The communique expresses gratitude to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, members of the Nigeria Governors Forum, the judiciary, the National Assembly, the Attorney General of the Federation, critical stakeholders, the media, civil society organisations and the entire leadership of our local communities for the historic Supreme Court judgment, which granted autonomy to the local governments.”

ALGON further expressed gratitude to President Bola Tinubu and the judiciary for the respective roles they played in ensuring that Local Government Councils function properly as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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For Dangote, it is no longer business as usual

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By Ilyasu Awada

In March, the US Justice Department, in a suit joined by 16 state district attorneys general, announced a historic anti-trust lawsuit against Apple, alleging the tech company “relies on exclusionary anti-competitive conduct” to unlawfully maintain its smartphone market dominance.

The move has not spooked the markets because at the heart of the markets is consumer protection, which can only be engendered by competitiveness.

However, the case has been different in Nigeria until recently. Though there is the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA), 2018 whose core function is to regulate competition and protection of consumers in Nigeria, the role of the regulator was surrendered to powerful entities who ride roughshod over Nigerians.

One such company that has dominated the consumer segment of the Nigerian market is Dangote Industries. Its ubiquitous presence is hardly missing in any home. From salt, sugar, noodles, seasonings, cement, car manufacturing and now petrol chemicals the Dangote Group looms large.

For those who have keenly followed the evolution of the company, it is no secret that it is predatory and brokers less or no competition, hence, its dominance.
If in doubt, ask Ibeto Industries and Bua in the fight to monopolise the lucrative cement market.

For years, the Dangote Group was locked in a battle of attrition with Ibeto Cement even when the federal government said the former had no business as a competitor dragging Ibeto Cement to court over its import licence of cement.

Incensed by the federal government’s approval to Ibeto by the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and being close friends then, Dangote was able to get the government of the day to halt Ibeto’s importation of cement, while Dangote continued to import, leading to his near-sole ownership of the cement market for years until when late President Umaru Yar’ Adua reversed his predecessor’s moratorium on Ibeto in July 2007.

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Pricked by this, Dangote Cement PLC quickly filed a suit alleging that Ibeto Cement Company is gaining undue advantage by the federal government. However, the Federal Government and six of its agencies, argued that Dangote Cement PLC filed the suit with only one intention, to wipe out competition in cement business and become a monopoly.

The Federal Government also contended that Dangote cement has no locus in filing the suit as the matter didn’t concern them. It averred that the suit instituted by Ibeto Cement against the Federal Government was not fraudulent.

Furthermore, it argued that Dangote Cement was not a nominee or agent of government agencies, which are defendants in the suit, and is not acting on their behalf. It argued that that Dangote Cement Plc is not an agency of Federal Government with the statutory mandate of administering, managing or enforcing tax compliance, therefore lacking the locus standi to commence or maintain the legal action and seek the reliefs in the case.

This is just one of several instances that the company seeks to gain undue advantage, restrict competition and stifle the anti-trust provisions of the law.

Also, it emerged in 2022 that between 2019 and 2021, the Federal Government lost N16.76tn in revenue to tax reliefs, duty waivers, and concessions given to 46 large companies of which the Dangote Group featured prominently. While tax waivers in themselves are not bad as fiscal tools are used to stimulate economic activities or discourage certain harmful or inappropriate economic activities, the discriminatory practice has a telling effect on economic growth and inclusion.

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Without a doubt, having enjoyed prebendal perks for long, the owners of Dangote Refinery had hoped it will be the same anti-people’s waivers they will get in operating their refinery as it has emerged.

What the company and its owners started with was to vilify regulators such as the NNPC, NUPRC and international oil companies as to its inability to get crude at less competitive price and to shutdown other operators in the oil and gas sector.

Posturing as a proletariat at the Afreximbank Annual Meetings and AfriCaribbean Trade & Investment Forum in the Bahamas, Aliko Dangote, who is intent on his 650,000bl/d Dangote refinery being the sole provider of petrol chemicals in the country alleged that substandard fuel is rampant in Nigeria and across Africa, containing high levels of Sulphur and dirty.

Dangote has the opportunity to voice his concerns, if any, to the Nigerian authorities, no, he will rather posture as the untainted businessman who desires the best for his countrymen and women. If that were to be the case, the EFCC won’t have raided the headquarters of the company over opaque forex transactions in January this year. It is whispered in several quarters that a deal was made with the authorities owing to the adverse impact on foreign direct investment for the matter to be resolved back stage.

Now that it has emerged that the refinery is at the pre-commissioning stage and has not been licensed, one wonders why the shrill cries and sentiment whipping by the company.
For the avoidance of any ambiguity, it was Farouk Ahmed, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) that made the startling revelation, which was yet to be debunked, almost 72 hours after.

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Ahmed said, “Well, just like you rightly asked, there are lots of concerns about the supply of petroleum products nationwide and the claims by some media houses that we were trying to scuttle Dangote refinery; that is not so.
“Dangote refinery is still in the pre-commissioning stage. It has not been licensed yet. We have not licensed them yet.

“I think they are at about 45 percent completion. So we cannot rely heavily on one refinery to feed the nation because Dangote is requesting that we should suspend or stop all importation of petroleum products, especially automotive gas oil (AGO) or jet kero and direct all marketers to the refinery.”

For a fact, it will be foolhardy for the country to rely on a single source for its petrol and allied matter needs with dire implications for national security and economic growth as was the case with cement at a time. Even now, the House of Reps is probing the two dominant companies over highly priced cement in the country.

For too long has Dangote taken more from the Nigerian government and this cannot be the norm. While his commitment to the Nigerian economy is worthy of note, it must not come at a steep price for other investors and businesses. In this wise, the Nigerian government should stick to the letters of the law and offer a level playing field to all and sundry.

Awada, a public commentator, writes from Lafia, Nasarawa State.

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Business and Economy

Nigerian Minister laments low investment in Infrastructure

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By Iyojo Ameh

Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Atiku Bagudu on Friday said the country has not invested enough in infrastructural development.

According to him, several problems been encountered recently by Nigerian are as direct results of under- investment in several multi- dimension infrastructure.

The minister spoke at the National Assembly during an interactive session with the Senate committee on Appropriation under the chairmanship of Senator Olamilekan Adeola.

The minister was invited to provide insight into the N6.2 trillion supplementary appropriation approval for the 2024 budget by the National Assembly as requested by President Bola Tinubu.

Bagudu commended President Tinubu for the political will yo confront the infrastructure deficit by seeking the N3.2 trillion to fund the projects which include the Lagos – Calabar coastal highway, the Sokoto – Badagry highway and the Trans- Sahara highway.

He commended the President for his confidence that the projects when completed will increase economic activities and shore up the nation’s revenue base.

He added that the projects will encourage massive transformation apart from strengthening economic realities.

The minister while trying to douse the agitation of members of the committee on the fate of other deplorable roads and uncompleted roads projects in their various constituents said the federal government has not abandoned any of the ongoing projects.

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Bagudu categorically stated that the government is not giving priority attention to the innovative projects at the expense of other road projects.

He assured that the Federal Executive Council will continue to consider and give financial approval to other roads as funds are available.

The minister though did not give a detailed statement of the supplementary approval, gave a sectoral overview of both the N3.2 trillion of the Renewed Hope Infrastructure Projects and the N3 trillion increase in the recurrent component of the budget.

Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Senator Adeola the government has full capacity to finance the 2024 budget.

He , however implore the minister to make available to the committee a full detail and breakdown of the N6.2 trillion approval as soon as possible.

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