The Federal Government yesterday moved to stem rising food prices in the country by directing the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention to immediately wade in.
Assuring Nigerians that there was no food shortage, the government alleged that saboteurs were capitalising on Naira’s depreciation to escalate the cost of food items.
Femi Gbajabiamila, chief of staff to President Bola Tinubu and National Security Adviser Nuhu Ribadu convened the meeting at the behest of the President.
Placard-carrying women and youths had on Monday taken to a major road in Minna, Niger State protesting the high cost of foodstuffs.
The protesters called on the political officeholders to save them from hunger.
However, Governor Umar Bago, alleged sabotage by a cartel which he accused of mopping up foodstuffs in order to cause hike in prices.
Bago, who said the Federal Government was aware of the activities of the cartel, alleged that the aim of its members was to cause hunger and incite the people.
While the Minna protest lasted Kano State Governor Abba Yusuf said he would meet with the President over hunger in the state.
After the meeting, the Information and National Orientation minister Mohammed Idris said that food items would be released from the National Food Reserves to crash prices.
Idris explained that major millers and commodity traders would be engaged by the government in order to make the food items readily available.
He said: “We just rounded off a meeting. It is a special presidential committee to address the issue of food shortage or lack of enough food on the table of most Nigerians.
“What I will tell Nigerians is that the President has directed that government needs to step in to stem this tide. Government will not fold its arms and see the way Nigerians are suffering in terms of the availability of these food items.
“Now, some of these will involve unlocking the foods that are available in most of the storage facilities (National Food Reserve) around the country. You know that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has some food reserves. They are going to be made available to Nigerians.
“The government is also talking to major millers and major commodity traders, to also see what is available in their stores. To open it up, so the government will provide some intervention, discuss with them and provide some intervention to make this food available to Nigerians.
“What the government is noticing is that there is still food in this country. Some people are taking advantage of the situation, especially because of the high cost and the depreciation in the value of our currency that has led to the cost of these food items also going up.
“All these issues were discussed, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria(Yemi Cardoso) was at the meeting. The Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy (Wale Edun) was there and of course, the Chief of Staff and the National Security Adviser were there. The NSA was there because of some national security implications.
“All these have been discussed and like I said, this conversation or discussion is going to continue.”
The minister also assured that the government would continue to take steps to ameliorate the current situation.
He said: “This is just the beginning of that meeting. It is going to continue tomorrow(today) and the day after tomorrow. The government is very concerned about what Nigerians are going through, especially what happened in Minna yesterday (Monday). Government is taking some action to ensure that Nigerians have some relief in terms of the availability of food on their tables.
“Of course, this meeting is not by itself exhaustive. It’s just like I said, the beginning.
“ I want to plead with you to understand with the government. By the time these meetings are concluded, we’ll be able to issue a definite statement on what the position of government is in this regard. But all I can say is that discussions are ongoing, and very soon a solution will be in sight.
Asked if there were any immediate actions, Idris replied: “Some of them are dependent on the follow-up meeting on this hardship. The government is stepping in a big way to ensure that Nigerians have succour.”