Our land soaked in blood, gloom, South-East Bishops wail

By Dele Sobowale

“Love and business and family and religion and art and patriotism are nothing but shadows of words when a man is starving.” — O’ Henry, 1862-1910, VANGARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ  p 232.

Report: “We’ve closed four million MT maize supply gap” – FG

If Nigerians think the Federal Government, FG, only releases fake news on #EndSARS genocide at  Lekki in which nine people have now been confirmed dead, then they really don’t know this government. Several thousands fellow Nigerians are set to perish from starvation and malnutrition in the months ahead according to reports from several sources and research institutes – as well as Nigerian eye-witnesses.

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Invariably, the FG has been serving falsehood to the vulnerable groups instead of real food. Only a few of the fairy tales they tell us will be entertained here; there is more in the archive where these come from.

Three cereals stand between mankind and global starvation: wheat, rice and maize (or corn). It is because of its important contribution to human survival that some of us pay a great deal of attention to the situation with maize. Nigeria has tried, ill-advisedly one might add, to cultivate wheat in large quantities since the Babangida administration embarked on the Wheat Programme in 1990. It was a colossal failure. The only beneficiaries were the “experts” who convinced IBB that Nigeria could save billions spent on wheat imports by growing the commodity at home. We have now adjusted ourselves to the hard fact that no nation can grow all the food it consumes. Even food-surplus nations like the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina, and India still import some food items.

Sustainable self-sufficiency in rice and maize are, however,  within our reach. But, the truth is we are not yet there. Of the three cereals, maize is the most versatile. It goes into more end uses than just direct consumption than wheat and rice. Its scarcity is more keenly felt than the other two. For instance, maize forms the bulk of livestock feeds. Prices of chicken, eggs, turkey, cultured fish and pigs are directly determined by the prevailing price of maize. The price of maize is also a function of demand and supply of the commodity.

Rising price of a commodity can only occur from three sources: demand increase, supply shortage and inflation in the general economy. Currency devaluation drives up prices — even if the demand and supply quantities remain the same. The increase in other prices will push cost of farming up. That is why the FG cannot be allowed to spread lies about maize availability.

 The former Minister of Agriculture, who was sacked for undisclosed reasons, staggered onto the stage of Nigerian history by announcing that nobody is going hungry in Nigeria. Even the US, China, Japan Germany or Singapore cannot make that claim. But, that is the sort of people Buhari appoints into his cabinet and who are cleared by the Senate. His successor is a clone of the departed, and not missed, Minister. A good Minister must tell the people the true situation of things. On the day the former minister made that ridiculous statement, I could have assembled for him 100,000 people in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Kano, Minna etc who have not eaten any food that day and every day have to struggle to get anything to eat. That callous disregard for the extreme poor is this FG’s legacy.

When the Ministry of Agriculture gathered the leaders of maize farmers together, where it was declared that the four million metric tonnes supply gap had been closed, they forgot two facts which expose the lies behind the propaganda.

To begin with, supply gap is a moving and not a static figure. If a country like Nigeria experienced four million metric tonnes (MT) of supply gap in 2015, producing four million MT more in 2021 does not close the gap. With the population growing at three per cent per annum, there are at least 18 per cent or 27 million more mouths to feed than when the effort started. There is still a huge supply gap to be closed.

Furthermore, the same leaders of maize farmers, virtually all of who owe the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, huge sums of money, on account of the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP, have forgotten that early in the year, they raised alarm. They told the FG and Nigerians that their members were having difficulties going to farm on account of bandits, kidnappers and herdsmen. They pointed out that the food supply will be adversely affected, and consequently, they may not be able to repay loans taken. The questions Nigerians must ask the Ministry of Agriculture is this: Is it possible for farmers running for their lives and who are afraid to harvest maize to close the supply gap? Are farmers in Borno, Niger, Katsina, Kaduna and Zamfara among those performing this “heroic” feat? Later, I will present credible witnesses from Sokoto State to debunk the nonsense being peddled by the FG.

Just as efforts are being made to deceive Nigerians on maize supply, it was not surprising to me that a more pathetic defence of failure on rice supply was on offer a few weeks ago. Read the message.

News Report: Smugglers responsible for high price of rice – Minister. 

The report went on to summarise what the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed said this way. “According to the Minister, there were some unpatriotic Nigerians who import sub-standard rice into the country; some of which are not edible, adding that it was in the course of getting more profit that Nigerians smuggled such kind of rice.”

Nigeria probably has the only Minister of Finance in the whole world who is not conversant with the fundamental principles of economics. The drivel credited to her could not have been uttered by any other minister without provoking howls of anguish from the reporters present. It is the first time in history somebody will attribute rising commodity prices to increased supply of the commodity. It is doubtful if there is anybody in Buhari’s government who can take Madam aside and advise her to stop making such ridiculous utterances. It might help her keep her job, but it is not correct.

But, most people reading that explanation for why prices of local and imported rice are going up will have a different impression of the lady who is ill-equipped for her job. If one may ask Mrs Ahmed: Is it because of smuggling that the prices of yams, garri, tuwo maisara, peppers, tomatoes, palm oil, snails, rents, detergents, school fees and transport, to mention a few, are going up?

The attempt to present imported rice as “not edible” is simply puerile. She is not alone, however. Every member of the Buhari government has memorised that absurd statement; and they deliver it with a straight face. 

Nigerians, unfortunately know false propaganda when they hear it. My family and I have been eating imported rice before Mrs Ahmed was born. We have not found any of it “not edible”. Furthermore, Mrs Ahmed and her family also consumed tonnes of imported rice before she became Buhari’s minister. How many times had she returned the rice she bought to the seller because it was “not edible”?

Finally, the minister knows next to nothing about rice. I was engaged in rice production until 1990. The mill is still at Kalambina Road, Sokoto – though no longer operating. Few Nigerian rice millers can export their rice abroad; because they cannot pass global quantity standards. By contrast, any sub-standard rice producer in Thailand cannot last long. Their standards are much higher than our own. We should be learning from them; instead of bad-mouthing their rice.

Readers can now see the level of  intelligence we are being led with by the Buhari government.

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