Buhari tells security agencies to deal with food items hoarders, middlemen

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to work with security agencies to find a lasting solution to the disruptive and unpatriotic activities of hoarders of food items.

President Muhammadu Buhari [Presidency]

The president gave the directive in a broadcast to mark Nigeria’s 61st Independence Anniversary on Friday in Abuja.

He said the ministry should also work with the Nigerian Commodity Exchange and the National Assembly to rehabilitate the National Food Reserve Agency to boost food production and address artificial food shortages created by middlemen.

The president expressed regrets that despite significant private sector investments in almost all areas of the agricultural value-chain, food prices had continued to increase.

“The agricultural sector remains key to our economic diversification efforts as the sector has been a consistent driver of the non-oil sector, contributing 22.35 per cent and 23.78 per cent to overall GDP in the first and second quarter of 2021.

“We have seen significant private sector investments in almost all areas of the agricultural value-chain and these have continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unfortunately, as our food production capacity has increased, food prices have been going up, due to artificial shortages created by middlemen who have been buying and hoarding these essential commodities for profiteering.

“To address this, I am hereby directing the ministry of agriculture and rural development to rehabilitate the National Food Reserve Agency and also work with security agencies, the Nigerian Commodity Exchange and the National Assembly to find a lasting solution to these disruptive and unpatriotic hoarding activities."

According to Buhari, to further boost food production, the Federal Government has completed new dams and are in the process of rehabilitating some river basin development authorities to boost ground water supply for rain fed agriculture as well as surface water for irrigation agriculture.

He revealed that the water projects, completed between 2015 to 2020 had improved Nigerians’ access to potable water to 71 per cent between 2015 and 2020.

“This means 12.5 million additional Nigerians now have direct access to potable water,’’ he said.

On transportation, the president expressed the Federal Government’s concern on the nation’s significant transportation infrastructure deficit.

“Addressing the challenges our commuters and lorry drivers face on the motorways is still a high priority to us.

“To complement our budgetary allocations, the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund and the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, we recently established a N15 trillion Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria Limited (INFRACO).

“It is expected to begin operation by the fourth quarter of this year,’’ he said.

According to him, INFRACO will also focus on leveraging resources on a public-private sector basis for infrastructural development in Nigeria.

The president expressed his optimism that through the innovative programmes, the additional cost burden on individuals and businesses due to inefficient logistics operations would be reduced and ultimately eliminated.

He also disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Works currently had over 13,000 kilometres of roads and bridges under construction nationwide and a considerable percentage of the projects had been completed.

That president said that his administration would continue to extend and upgrade Nigeria’s railway network with the notable opening of the Warri- Itakpe standard gauge rail line.

“To increase capacity, we have introduced more locomotives, coaches and wagons, including the establishment of a Wagon Assembly in Kajola in Ogun State.

“The sea ports, however, still remain problematic. The effect of our interventions to reduce the gridlocks and inefficiencies have been slower than expected.

“However, the implementation of the Electronic Call-Up System as well as the conversion of the Lilypond Container Terminal to a Vehicle Transit Area will further enhance the ease of cargo evacuation.’’

The president announced that the administration’s prioritisation of developing Nigeria’s digital economy had positively impacted the contribution of the ICT sector to the country’s GDP.

“We hope our present efforts to ensure that all Nigerians use a National Identification Number as well as our planned roll-out of the fifth generation (5G) network technology will ensure we stay in line with the global innovation curve as a nation.

“As we embrace the digital economy in Nigeria, we are fully aware of the prospects and the perils.

“Our policies have been developed to enable Nigerians to take advantage of the prospects and avoid the perils of digital technologies,’’ Buhari added.

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