By Vincent Ujumadu
MEMBERS of Foodstuff Dealers Association of Nigeria have protested “multiple checkpoints erected on the country’s highways by officials of Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, NAQS,” saying such posts were serving as extortion points.
Specifically, the group said the posts were situated at Orokam and Katsina-Ala, both in Benue State, which they described as illegal avenues aimed at extorting money from its members.
In a petition addressed to the Inspector General of Police and copied to Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and other security agencies and made available to reporters in Onitsha, they asked Nigerians to get ready for food scarcity in the coming months as they would shut down foodstuff markets across the country if the posts were not dismantled immediately.
The group’s President-General, Chief Christian Afiaonwu, and Secretary, Udoka Ahukanna, alleged that their threat to shut down foodstuff markets followed non-response to previous petitions addressed to the immediate past Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, against the multiple posts on roads in Benue State, where extortion of money, ranging from N2000 to N7000, was rampant.
The petition read: “We are aware of the importance of quarantine posts, which are primarily to checkmate animal diseases and unwholesome foodstuff from one location to another.
“We are aware of the stipulations of Sections 12 and 20 of Animal Diseases (Control) Decree 10 of 1988, vis-a-vis the establishment of control posts in Nigeria and it is mostly located at border areas and not more than one in a state.
“We recognise the quarantine control posts at Jebba, Lokoja, Makurdi and Gada Biu, as we were part of the process that established them.
“But we can no longer bear the burden of paying at three posts in Benue State, hence our decision to once more draw the attention of government through your revered office.”