Morning Diary: Growing Concerns Over Escalating Cost of Food Commodities In Borno

In light of the escalating concerns surrounding the increasing cost of food commodities in Borno state, Honourable Chiroma Usman, a Politician, Entrepreneur, Environmental Activist, Social Protection and DDR Specialist, Engages Social media influencers, Intellectuals and Scholars, live on a crucial discussion in the Morning Diary episode facilitated by Honourable Umar Sanda, Lead Discussant and presenter of the programm.

According to Chiroma, The aim is to delve into the pressing issue and explore potential solutions. To guide the discussion, he outlined some key talking points that he believe will contribute to a meaningful and productive dialogue:

1. Direct Market Participation: Borno Supply Company (BOSCO) should not only act as a regulator but also actively participate in the market. By offering essential goods at lower prices, BOSCOs direct involvement may stabilize prices.

2. Subsidization: The government can subsidize the cost of food and non-food commodities, making them more affordable for the general population, especially low-income families and civil servants.

3. Community Engagement: Reviving cooperatives encourages community involvement in economic activities, allowing consumers to access goods at reduced prices. Discuss the benefits and potential approaches to reviving cooperatives in Borno.

4. Payroll Deduction System: Introduce a model where civil servants can purchase essential commodities at subsidized prices, with the cost deducted directly from their salaries. This system can provide immediate relief to civil servants, ensuring their access to affordable goods despite inflation.

By implementing these measures, the government can help stabilize food prices, promote community engagement, and provide relief to civil servants. He added.

Insight Northeast reports that Invited guests/speakers also share their thoughts regarding the high cost of food commodities and economic hardship faced by the poor in Borno State.

Babagana Alkali Gazali explains that One among the problems is that people are unable to engage in farming due to the presence of Boko Haram members in the bush, and around farms that constituted a serious threat to the safety of their lives which affect supply of food stuffs and whenever there is shortage in supply, high in demand comes up, then there must be rise in the prices of goods and service base on the forces of demand and supply. Another factor is the wickedness of marketers for creating artificial scarcity to systematically skyrocket the prices to enable them accumulate profit by all means this brand of merciless capitalism caused untold hardship to millions of people.

“In my humble opinion government should rise up to its responsibility to provide security to the farmers to do their farming without fear of any molestation and if possible government should provide interest free loan to the genuine farmers so as to boost their morale”. Gazali Added.

Kashim Alkali insist that everybody in the food value chain is a culprit that contributed to the menace. From government to the farmers to the marketers. The hoarding of food commodities which hitherto was linked only to the marketers is now taking a new dimension as even the farmers actively engaged in. So he suggested that; Fear of Allah and remembering the transient nature of lives is the only panacea. Alkali added that issue of the devaluing of naira should be looked into.

According to Christopher Godwin Akaba, individuals who hoard food, as well as traders and marketers who unjustly raise prices, should be apprehended, prosecuted, and sentenced to the most severe punishment.

“Ideally, I had hoped that the national assembly would pass legislation to criminalize the hoarding of food in the country and impose penalties. It is completely unacceptable, criminal, inhumane, and barbaric to buy grains at a lower price, hoard them to create artificial scarcity, and then resell them at exorbitant rates. Unfortunately, this is the current situation in our country.” He said.

Recently, a report emerged on the Internet of a trader in Jos who bought 2,000 bags of Dangote Sugar last year at the rate of N31,000 per bag, hoarded the commodity and now planning to sell each bag at over N80,000 during the Ramadan period.

“We are responsible for our own problems, not the government, contrary to the belief of the impoverished masses. Therefore, Nigeria should follow the example of communist China and punish economic saboteurs with the most severe penalty possible. This is my firm stance if we must tackle this madness.” Akaba added.

Abba Yamani also believes that Some of the major factors contributing to food insecurity in Nigeria are; low budgetary allocation to agriculture, poor policy implementation, inefficient agricultural practices, post-harvest losses and increasing population, poverty, climate change, conflict and insecurity among others.

Just like Christopher Godwin Akaba puts up, Aisha Sanusi Mafindi is also of the opinion that concerning issue of hoarding food items should be properly addressed by the government.

“Our traders need discipline too, some intentionally fix high prices on food items they’ve stored for years.” She added.

Dawi Mangari explained that The issue of food scarcity or shortage as the case may is as a result of attitude of Nigerians generally, but specifically, the government has the lion share of the blame. This so because it is unfortunate that laws and policies are only made on paper and mere pronouncements, and appears to only favor the privileged members of the society. When for example one creates the impression that ‘we’ (masses) are responsible for our predicaments, exornerating the government is not a fair assessment because government has the responsibility to regulate economic and social activities of the people through it’s machineries put in place. Everyone knows that laws are there in place to regulate and punish offenders, but the question is ,who has the responsibility to arrest and punish offenders? Is it the same masses who have been made to languish in poverty, hunger and deprivation through deliberate government policies and reforms will be held responsible for not punishing alleged offenders? Corruption and impunity have become the order of the day where those who are saddled with the responsibility of making things work only do what pleases them without consideration to the yearnings of the masses. The earlier the government proactively intervenes with the view to bring succour to the masses the better. A stitch on time saves nine.

Mustapha Usman Bakawu believes that food scarcity issues are not natural; rather, it is government policies that influence inflation, with the state governors contributing to such hardships. We are in democracy where policy’s and rules of law where not followed, example in 2011 the previous government implemented new minimum wage as a law in the Constitution but unfortunately those in power refuse to implement it. Till date some worker’s received below 20k for their take up payment. He Called on government to do the needful from their side on issues of delays in implementation of policies and release of farming inputs to farmers.

Finally, the lead discussant and presenter of Morning Diary appreciates contributors and adds that the discussion may go a long way in helping the government understand the feelings of the people, primarily represented by the elites on this platform. And any serious government following this discussion would surely have proper understanding of the situation and perhaps would have a half way of knowing where to start in addressing the phenomenon of skyrocketing prices of goods and services in this country and Borno state as the case study for this discussion.

It could be recalled that the Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari, expressed apprehension about the scarcity of food in the nation. He also highlighted the subsequent rise in prices.

According to Kyari, the government is now contemplating two possible courses of action: either closing the borders or increasing production for both domestic consumption and export purposes.

Kyari made this statement while engaging with the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance, and other Financial Institutions, along with other members of the economic team, to discuss the current state of Nigeria’s economy. The key focus areas of concern were the increasing inflation, rising food prices, and the foreign exchange crisis.

He expressed regret that our country is presently confronted with an unquantified level of food being illegally exported to neighboring nations.

He clarified that due to the strengthening of the CFA currency in neighboring countries relative to the naira, Nigerian food products have become comparatively cheaper, consequently resulting in widespread unlawful transportation of goods through unguarded borders.

“One CFA is N2.20kobo, this means 1000 CFA is N2,200, this is something that was , N400-N500 few years ago. Because of the devaluation of naira, our food is the cheapest around the neighborhood, so you find a lot of undocumented exports which is smuggling across our porous borders”, Kyari said.

“We are trying to ramp up production, what we are faced with unfortunately, is to see how we can secure food for our 230 million people and at the same time, if this economics continues , we have to either seal our border, or produce for all other Africans”, he said.