Bread Scarcity Looms as Master Bakers Threaten Strike

  • Kick against FG’s 15% levy, multiple taxes

Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

The Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCN) has decried the arbitrary increase in levy paid on wheat importation as well as sundry collections, which the association complained amounts to multiple taxation.

THISDAY learnt that scarcity of bread is imminent as members of the group have threatened to withdraw their services unless the federal government looks into their grievances and takes urgent steps to address them.

Members of the AMBCN numbering over 1,000 yesterday in Asaba, protested the federal government’s 15 per cent levy collection on wheat importation from bakers, demanded immediate reduction of flour costs from millers.

Addressing journalists during the protest march, the National Secretary of the association, Mr. Jude Okafor, noted that the levy, which was introduced in 2012, was domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the purpose of development of cassava bread in the country.
The protesting bakers carried placards with inscriptions such as ‘Notice of Imminent Bakers Services Withdrawal is Hereby Served’; ‘FG
Save Our Industry From Total Collapse’; “We Are The Second Largest Employers of Labour After FG’; 50kg Flour in Tanzania is N4,500, But in Nigeria, it is N11,000.’

Okafor lamented that the federal government policy has impacted negatively on the bakers in Nigeria and put their jobs on the line.
He said six years on, the initiative has clearly failed as all the components of the laudable programme have been abandoned but the bakers are still made to pay the N1,000 levy.

According to him, “The fund was to be used for the development of cassava bread, which includes training, and equipping of 5,000 bakers, six in each of the 774 local government areas in the country.

“Although, the terminal date for the first period was 2016, as we speak, only 1,584 bakers have been trained, only 151 bakers have been partially equipped in very unacceptable circumstances, which even grossly violated the disadvantageous Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered between the Ministry of Agriculture and Bank of Industry.”

The national secretary further decried the high cost of sugar and flour in Nigeria in comparison to other African countries.
He however urged the federal government to urgently come to the aid of bakers in the country by significantly slashing the prices of the aforementioned commodities in consonance with the present exchange rate of naira to the dollar vis-à-vis the high cost of diesel, which were the factors that influenced the increase then.

Okafor also called on the government to use the accumulated money domiciled in CBN to train and empower 20,000 master bakers in the country in line with the original plan.

While calling on the federal and state governments to stop the vexatious multiple taxation in the country, the bakers warned that they would consider the strike option at the next National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Association taking place soon,