The Federal Government of Nigeria has blamed men of the Nigeria Police Force, their counterparts in the Army and Nigeria Customs Service attached to series of road blocks in the country for the unending high cost of food prices through unbearable extortions from truck drivers conveying farm produce to various urban centers.
This was even as farmers across the country kicked against move by the Federal Government to effect reduction in the prices of food items.
Lamenting over the situation 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 said one of the factors responsible for high cost of food prices in the country is the daily unbearable extortions men of the Nigeria Police, their counterpart in the Army and Customs Service visited on truck drivers conveying farm produce from the hinterland 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 check points, 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 cost of the extortion into prices of the food items”, he added.
The Minister explained further to the committee members that based on the complaints by the truck drivers, his ministry wrote 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 high cost of diesel which now sells for N300 per litre as another factor responsible for the skyrocketing prices of food items in the country since according to him; trucks conveying farm produce are powered by diesel.
Ogheh added to the list of alleged factors responsible for high prices of food items in the country by submitting that the treaty on free movement of goods and services put in place by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) among member states, gives room for movement of not less than 300,000 trucks of grains outside Nigeria on daily basis which the ministry cannot check.
Though the minister assured the committee members that the Federal Government would soon see to reduction in prices of the food items going by the committee set up to that effect but said farmers are already kicking against the move.
According to him, farmers are angry with him over the move because they see the situation on ground as very favourable economically 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.
Specifically, the Minister said one of such farmers tackled him recently in Katsina not to tamper with the present price of food items by claiming that he made N4million from the sales of Sorghum which had catapulted him from the realm of poverty to that of affluence just as another farmer in Anambra state also claimed to have N1million profit from sales of rice as a result of the current market price.
The Minister however added in the Ministry’s 2017 budget defence before the joint committee submitted that the implementation of the budget would be driven by the need for food security in the country