FEC Gives Nod to Measures to Bring down Food Prices

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• Approves N21bn for roads, N589m for power projects

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The federal government yesterday said it  has adopted some measures to reduce the price of food items.
This was revealed by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, yesterday while addressing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The council had last week set up a task force to advise the government on how best to address the rising cost of food items across the country.

Ogbeh said the task force submitted an interim report to the council yesterday. He said the committee had identified that the hike in cost was “not due to shortage but high cost of transportation.”
He explained that food items are generally moved across Nigeria by heavy trucks, adding that the high price of diesel resulted in high prices.

Ogbeh said the government had therefore, decided to “start using railway wagons to transport food items.”
The minister said the use of wagons to transport cattle from the North to Lagos has already greatly helped in reducing cost and would be replicated in food distribution.

“We will also work with state governments to reduce delays experienced by trucks along the roads through all sort of taxes by local governments,” he said.
Ogbeh also stated that the government would adopt the “Ivory Coast model” in which trucks distributing food items would be given special labels.

To bring down the cost of transportation, Ogbeh said: “We considered the following alternatives: using railway wagons along the current railway network. As we did before when we moved cattle from North-west to Lagos, we brought down the cost and avoided the multiple taxation on transporters by local governments which delay movement.

“We have decided to work with the state governments and the police to reduce delays.
“We are going to adapt what they have in Ivory Coast. Trucks carrying foods are given labels. In fact, in Ivory Coast, they cannot be stopped for more than 10 minutes anywhere.
“Even if something serious has happened, the security agencies will follow them to their destinations and come back to investigate whatever happened.

“Finally, we shall be looking into our reserves if in the next few days, the situation persists to see what we can bring out to lower the prices because another bumper harvest will be coming up again at the end of March.
“There is really no starvation in the land. The other factor is what you know already. There is a lot of pressure on Nigerian food from West, North and Central Africa.

“Our food production is very robust and we are doing pretty well.”
Also yesterday, FEC approved a set of measures to boost production and attract investments into the nation’s tomato sub sector.
The Minister of Trade and Investments, Okechukwu Enelamah, said: “These measures will include things we are doing to make sure we plant tomato round the year. Things like green house equipment; making sure that they can come in without any barriers or duties.

“They also include the use of both tariff and non tariff measures to address the issues Nigerians are most concerned about, which is the issue of dumping, issues around quality and the standards of what we consume.

“We also approved a set of measures that will boost local production in terms of financing seeds and all the other things.
“Let me say that the most important thing about these set of policies is that in our approach we are going to be working with the stakeholders to actually implement the polices.

So, we are going to set up an inter-ministerial committee that will work with the private sector and with different stakeholders to make sure that the implementation of the policy itself it not only done transparently but also robustly to ensure that we achieve the desired objective which is to make sure that we become self sufficient in tomato within the next one or two years.”

Power, Works and Housing Minister, Babtunde Fashola, said the council approved the construction of Ilorin-Omu Aran-Kabba Road, Section I in order to complement ongoing works on the Kabba-Egbe Road to link Kwara and Kogi States at the cost of N21 billion.
“The justification for the memo and consequent approval is consistent with our promise to continue to reduce travel time, to ease the cost of doing business and the cost of goods and services,” he said.

The council, according to him, also approved “consultancy services for professionals to conduct line route studies, environmental/social impact assessment and resettlement action plan as well environmental/social management plan in order for us to access the Japanese International Corporation Agency’s loan to support TCN to continue its transmission grid expansion programme.

“Before we start the construction, we must do an assessment of the routes that some of the transmission lines will pas through.
“The projects for which approval has been obtained from council cover areas like Arigbajo, Abeokuta, Olorunshogo, Ikeja West, Oshogbo, Ogijo, Ikorodu, Shagamu and part of Benin towards Edo State contiguous to Ondo State around Omotosho as well as Agbara and Badagry.

“When completed and construction takes place, it will help us in the evacuation of power from the Olorunshogo Power Plant to supply industrial clusters in Ogun and part of Lagos State.
“The consultant service for the three is for about N589million.”