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Thursday, 22 February 2024 07:02

2 Weeks After Tinubu’s Directive: FG Yet To Release Free Grains To Nigerians

Two weeks after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu directed the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to release 42,000 metric tons of maize, millet and other commodities from the national strategic reserve to Nigerians for free, the items are yet to be distributed.

This is amidst the biting cost of living crisis in the country which is believed to be largely caused by the present administration’s policies of petrol subsidy removal and currency floating.

 
 

The president’s directive to release grains to the citizens was aimed at addressing hunger which had triggered protests in some states.

 

Following the directive given on February 8, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari, last Wednesday at a press conference in Abuja, said grains would be distributed free to poor Nigerians.

Kyari said, “This 42,000MT is going to the needy free of charge. It will be directly to the needy at no cost.” 

 

 

The minister said the grains would be released to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for onward distribution to Nigerians because the agency has the poverty index of the country.

 

 

 

“They know exactly where it is needed and they have a policy on how they transport and store it before it is distributed to the needy free.

“We have started working on that. We have already instructed NEMA to give us their work plan so that we can quickly go ahead and take possession of those stocks,” the minister said.

 

However, Daily Trust’s checks in many states showed that the grains were yet to be made available for distribution as of yesterday.

In Kano, grains had not been released to the state when our correspondent checked yesterday.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Food Security, Hajiya Aisha Muhammad Idris, said the state was ready to distribute food items as soon as they were released.

 

Our correspondent in Kwara State reports that the grains promised by the federal government had not been released to the state.

NEMA’s head of operations for Kwara and Niger states, Zainab Saidu, told Daily Trust yesterday that “NEMA is not in possession of any grains yet. If there were, they would have contacted us at the zonal office and delivered straight to us. But there is nothing like that yet. I have not heard from my headquarters on the issue and I believe they (federal government) have not released anything yet.” 

Kwara SEMA chairman, Moshood Magaji, also said: “We have not received any message on the issue and my office is not handling anything like distribution. I do not know of any distribution from the federal government.”

Reports from Taraba also indicated that no grains had been released to the state as there were no grains at the NEMA office in the state when our reporter visited yesterday.

The situation was the same in Gombe and Ogun states, as NEMA officials there said they were yet to receive grains from the federal government.

Reports from Niger, Oyo, Cross River, Benue, Bauchi, Yobe, Kogi, and Nasarawa states also indicated that the federal government had not released food items to them yet.

 

We’re waiting – NEMA hqtrs

At its headquarters in Abuja, NEMA said it was yet to receive the grains from the agriculture ministry for distribution to Nigerians.

Its head of Press and Public Relations Unit, Manzo Ezekiel, however, told Daily Trust yesterday that they were in talks with the agriculture ministry on the development.

He said as soon as the grains were handed over to the agency, distribution would commence.

Why there’s delay – Agric ministry

The Director of Information, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Joel Oruche, neither answered phone calls nor replied to a text message sent to him by Daily Trust for explanation on why the grains had not been released as promised.

 

But an official in the ministry, who spoke to Daily Trust, on condition of anonymity, attributed the delay to data authentication.

He said this was to avoid the mistakes made during the previous distribution of palliatives.

“The ministry has been holding several inter-agency meetings at various levels to make sure the grains reach the intended impoverished people rather than falling into the wrong hands,” he said.

The official said the grains were in silos located in different parts of the country.

He added that the logistics and security modalities had to be properly worked out to have a hitch-free distribution exercise across the country.

However, credible sources told Daily Trust yesterday that despite claims by government officials, there is not enough grain reserve in the country.

One of the sources said it is better for the government to tell the citizens the truth instead of making promises that would not be fulfilled.

Findings revealed that Nigeria has 33 silos with a total capacity of 1.3 million metric tons for its Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) system.

However, about 19 of these silos were concessioned to the private sector for a number of years.

The ministry has not given details of what is available in the national strategic grains reserve silos, describing it as a national security issue.

Agric Minister Abubakar Kyari during a recent briefing at the Joint Senate Committee on the State of the Economy, insisted that Nigeria’s grain reserves were not empty.

“On the issue of food reserve, I think a question was asked: Are the grains available? I will say yes, the ones we are about to release are available,” he said.

Invest in agric to tackle hunger, US urges govt  

Meanwhile, the United States has urged the federal government to invest in agriculture to address the food security challenges in the country.

The US Charge d’Affaires in Nigeria, David Greene, made the call yesterday at Ipao Ekiti, in Ikole Council Area of Ekiti State during a visit by the US Embassy to the 15,000-hectare Agbeyewa Farms. 

He urged leaders in Nigeria to harness the abundant arable lands, fertile soil and favourable weather endowments to provide food for Nigerians and for export. 

He said: “We are aware of the food security challenge and the post-harvest losses in Nigeria. With investments and leadership like this, I think the lives of a lot of Nigerians can be changed for the better.”

[DailyTrust]

 

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