Some southern state governments and farmers have dismissed the blockade by northern food suppliers, saying it is an opportunity for the South to boost its food production capacity.
Officials of the states including Lagos, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Enugu and Ondo in separate interviews with The PUNCH, on Monday explained their actions to ensure self-sufficiency in food and animal production.
But Ondo and Cross Rivers states went further to take a swipe at the northern food suppliers, saying they would not beg the traders to end their blockade, which entered the fourth day on Monda
Recall that cattle and foodstuff dealers under the aegis of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria on Thursday stopped supplies to the South.
Their action followed the Federal Government’s failure to meet their demands, which include payment of N475m compensation for the destruction of lives and property during the #EndSARS protest and last month’s crisis in Shasha, Oyo State.
To enforce the strike, the union’s task force prevented the members from transporting livestock and food from the north to the southern part of the country.
Many trucks, which disobeyed its directives, were stopped along the Jebba-Kaduna road last Friday, prompting the military to intervene.But the union, at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, accused the military of harassing its members. It added that it had not called off the strike.
Commenting on the strike, Mr Akin Olotu, the Senior Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, on Agriculture and Agric Business, in an interview with one of our correspondents, described the blockade as a good development.
He said it was an eye-opener to utilise opportunities the South had in agriculture.
Olotu said the state government was not perturbed by the development as he said it would make the people of the South-West involve more in agriculture
He said, “We won’t appeal to them to bring the food to the South. If they want to bring it, let them bring it. If they don’t want to bring it, let them take it away, but nobody will beg them. It is a welcome development, it would spur our people to embrace agriculture more, particularly at the family level.
“It would also encourage the promotion of food security at the family level. That is why the government has been advocating food security at the family level. You can plant in your compound. You can raise animals in your compound so that you will reduce the money you spend on food.
“We are not relenting here. It is a matter of months, our tomatoes and pepper would start coming out for harvest. We are working on onions too. Very soon, we will begin to grow our own onions. The only appeal we can make to them is for them to leave our forests and stop destroying our farms.”
Not good for Nigeria’s unity – Delta
The Delta State Government argued that the blockade did not represent the unity of Nigeria.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Julius Egbedi, who stated this on Monday in Asaba, said, “I don’t have the full details now, but as a state, we have been intensifying all we are doing in food production. We will continue to do that to encourage more production.
“We are one Nigeria for now. I believe that northern governors will not allow it because their people are here also.”
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It won’t last long – C’River
Also, the Cross River State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Asu Okang, told The PUNCH that there was no use appealing to those blocking food coming from the north to the south as the blockade would not last long.
He stated, “They can’t block foodstuffs from coming to the South for too long because if you say you are protesting and you won’t go to the market with your food, who suffers?
“That is where a tomato comes from. That is where perishable onions come from. That is where perishable carrot and lettuce come from. They are at a loss. I can tell you that it is not the local farmers that are in support of the decision. They won’t be in support because at the end of the day, there won’t be special incentives that will be given to them.
“Nigeria has come to stay as one country and we must understand that no ethnic group is superior to the other. If they decide to hoard what they produce, and the Niger Delta decides to go into that kind of boycott, what will happen? Will there be fuel in the North?”
The Akwa Ibom State Government said its agricultural revolution was aimed at ensuring that 80 per cent of what was consumed was produced in the state.
The state Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Ini Ememobong, who stated this, said, “The agricultural revolution of Akwa Ibom State Government is aimed at ensuring we produce 80 per cent of what we consume in the state.”
The Enugu State Government said it would ensure the state’s sufficient food production in no distant future.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on the telephone, the Commissioner of Information, Chidi Aroh, said the state under the current administration had embarked on so many programmes that encouraged citizens to go into agriculture.
He said, “Our government is not the reactionary government, that is why we are ensuring that efforts are being made to be sure that rice farm in Adani is working and our rice production is at its peak.
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“That’s why we are doing a lot about Ose Nsukka (yellow pepper) and our cassava production. So we are not reactionary, we are confident that’s why we are doing the (Efi Igbo) Igbo cow project. “
With no cows in our bushes, we will produce more food, say Enugu farmers
But the state chapter of the All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria said that food blockade by the north would not last long, adding the northern farmers depended on the South for survival.
The state Chairman of AFAN, Mr Romanus Ezeh, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Enugu, said “AFAN in Enugu State is working with both federal and the state ministries of agriculture in various ways especially in the intervention funds to add value and boost food production in the state.”
He, however, said northern farmers could not survive without supplying their produce to the South.
He said, “The blockade will not last long because farmers in the North cannot survive without marketing their products in the South.
“It will make farmers in the East to grow those items that we don’t have down here. With no cows in our bushes, farmers will go back in full force this farming season thereby increasing more production.”
Lagos yet to feel food shortage effect, plans self-sufficiency – Commissioner
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, on Monday, said the state was not feeling any effect of food shortage.
He noted that the government had also not been officially informed of any decision to withdraw supplies to the state.
According to him, trailers of foodstuffs have been coming from other parts of the country into the state through the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Omotosho urged residents not to panic, adding that the state was also making efforts to attain self-sufficiency in food production.
He said, “We have not been told officially that some people in the North are withdrawing food supplies to the South-West or Lagos. And you know that Lagos is consuming no less than 50 per cent of what is being produced in other parts of the country.
“However, Lagos is preparing for the future. Very soon, we will be inaugurating the Imota Rice Mill, which will be the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa. All our agric programmes are tailored toward food self-sufficiency in the future.
“Farmers are being encouraged; we give them land to farm and we are also acquiring land in other states to farm so that our programmes in farming will not be starved of materials.
“Our fishing programme very soon will be on. Lagos has one of the best coastal beds in the world. In our waters, we have all kinds of fish that will be canned in the future. The future of agric in Lagos is great and the government is encouraging young people to go into it. So, there is no need for anybody to panic over what anybody may have seen as some people saying they will not supply food. I have not seen anything official on that. If there is anything like a shortage, I have not seen the effect and I hope we will not see it.”
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Traders allege extortion, harassment, say leaders summoned by DSS for questioning
In a related development, the Department of State Services has allegedly invited the President, Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria, Mohammed Tahir, over the nationwide strike declared by the union.
The General- Secretary of the AUFCDN, Ahmed Alaramma, who disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja, on Monday, said Tahir was with the DSS.
Alaramma alleged that the military personnel were intimidating members and a task force of the union, advising the government to avert looming chaos by stopping the intimidation of their members.
He stated that they were invited by the DSS on Monday morning, and “our president is with the DSS and as we speak, he is being questioned at the DSS headquarters.”
He stated, “Our members were being molested and intimidated. We reject what the Nigerian Army has done to our task force. We assure our members across the country that our strike goes on; we will never give up.”
He regretted that the Federal Government had not invited them for negotiation, but added that the Kogi State Government had reached out to the union leadership.
Alaramma complained about the multiple taxations of their members and extortion by security agencies, including the Army, police, and hoodlums on the highways.
He pointed out that before a truckload of cows from Adamawa got to its destination in the South-West, South-East or South-South, “he (driver)would have spent about N250,000 on settling security agencies.”
Meanwhile, normalcy on Monday returned to Jebba, as youths who blocked truckloads of food and cattle from going to the south, were dispersed by military personnel.
Confirming the reopening of the road, Prince Ibrahim Adebara, son of the traditional ruler of Jebba, said soldiers drafted to the area ensured free movement of vehicles.
Afenifere, Gani Adams, Igboho lead campaign against cows, beef consumption
Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Activist, Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho; the Are Ona Kankanfo, Gani Adams; and the Odua Peoples Congress under the leadership of Prince Segun Osinbote are set to launch a campaign against cows.
This is according to an advertorial published in The PUNCH on March 1, 2021.
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The campaign which is tagged, ‘Anything But Cow Day’, will launch on Friday, March 5, 2021, and is being held in response to the boycott of the South by northern traders. The boycott has entered its 4th day.
The campaign, which is themed, ‘A one-day symbolic beef boycott towards terminating the cow pandemic – End COWVID-21’ is expected to trend on Twitter with the #endcowpandemic.org’ and will be streamed live on Odua Peoples Communications Youtube channel.
Jukun group distances self from the blockade
Meanwhile, a socio-political organisation, Jukun Development Association of Nigeria, on Monday distanced its members from individuals who directed stoppage of food supply to the South.
The JDAN also called on security agencies to “move quickly and arrest, and prosecute those making such calls.”
While calling on farmers and other people in the Middle Belt to intensify the supply of foodstuffs to the south, the organisation faulted the group that was enforcing the blockade.
The President of the JDAN, Chief Benjamin Bako, told journalists that those individuals calling for the boycott of food supply to the South “speak for themselves and not the entire population of the North.”
Bako said it was the duty of the security agencies to give maximum security to all the foodstuff traders coming to the markets in southern Nigeria for legitimate businesses.
He said that although those calling for the boycott of southern Nigeria on food supply might have genuine grievances, “the method adopted through punitive and systematic starvation of the Southern part of the country is too extreme and dangerous for a united Nigeria.”
Bako said the security agencies should “identify the criminals that burnt trucks and destroyed properties in Shasha and prosecuted them accordingly.”
He said, “All Nigerians need to thank the Yoruba people for their hospitality and kindness for hosting all tribes in Nigeria. So, they should never be repaid with evil. The individuals calling for the boycott of foodstuffs to the southern part of Nigeria may be unaware that millions of northerners escaped hunger, poverty, starvation, banditry, Boko Haram and collapse of almost all the extreme northern states industries are now taking refuge in the South.”
By Eniola Akinkuotu, Friday Olokor, Adelani Adepegba, Samson Folarin ,Peter Dada, Matthew Ochei, Patrick Odey, Raphael Ede, Ada Wodu and Tunde Oyekola