Security agents have been blamed by the Federal Government for the high cost of food and other related items in the country.
The government on Thursday lamented the “endless extortion” of truck drivers conveying farm produce to various urban centres by men of the Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), attached to series of road blocks in various parts of the country.
Appearing before the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development at the National Assembly, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, maintained that one of the factors responsible for the high cost of food prices in the country “Is the daily unbearable extortions by men of the Nigeria Police, their counterparts in the Army and Customs Service, on truck drivers conveying farm produce from the hinterlands to urban centres under the guise of carrying out security checks.
“These truck drivers, based on raw lamentations made to the ministry in recent time, alleged that at every checkpoint, they are always forced to part with reasonable amount of money by any group of the security agencies, which they said, made farmers to have no option than to factor the cost of the extortions into the prices of the food items,” Ogbeh insisted.
The minister told the committee that based on the complaints by the truck drivers, his ministry wrote to the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and heads of the other security agencies to “dissuade their operatives from the act, but daily reports available to the ministry still show that such motorists are still being extorted.”
He also cited the high cost of diesel which sells for N300 per litre as another factor responsible for the skyrocketing prices of food items in the country.
Ogbeh said that trucks conveying farm produce are powered by diesel, adding that the treaty on free movement of goods and services by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) among member states, gives room for the movement of over 300,000 trucks of grains outside Nigeria daily, which the ministry cannot check.
Assuring the committee that the Federal Government would soon see to the reduction in prices of the food items, he pointed out that a committee to handle the task had been set up.
According to him, farmers are angry with him over the move because they see the situation on ground as economically favourable to them.
He said: “The situation on ground, as far as high prices of food items are concerned, is one of a dilemma to me because while the city dwellers are unhappy with us, farmers are very happy and seriously kicking against any move to tamper with their happiness by cutting down the high price of farm produce for now.”
The minister specifically noted that one of such farmers tackled him recently in Katsina not to tamper with the present prices of food items by claiming that he made N4 million from the sale of Sorghum, while another farmer in Anambra State, claimed that he made N1 million profit from the sale of rice.