Flooding: Agric Minister Dispels Fears of Imminent Food Shortage

•FG unfair to Bayelsa, Diri insists 

•Says state only got mosquito nets, clothes from NEMA

•Warns youth hijacking food from IDP camps

•Lokpobiri urges federal govt, IOCs to assist victims

•NAOC distributes relief materials in 260 communities

Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Sunday Aborisade in Abuja, Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa and Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammed Abubakar has dismissed fears that Nigeria could experience food shortage in the coming months following the massive flooding which swept away many farmlands across the country recently.

This was Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri has once more tasked the federal government to support the state to cushion the effects of the devastating floods.

Diri said considering Bayelsa’s contribution to the nation’s economy, the response of the federal government to the flood situation in the state was not commensurate and fair.

Abubakar spoke while responding to questions from lawmakers yesterday, at the budget defence session of the ministry.

The budget defence was jointly organised by the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Agriculture.

Some of the lawmakers in their separate submissions lamented the effect of flooding in the country especially on farm products.

They said projections had been made that Africa may experience food shortage given the stoppage of grains importations occasioned by Russian Ukrainian wars.

But in his response, the Minister said, “The main concern about food scarcity, in the coming months, we will not allow that to happen, I can guarantee you by the grace of God, because we have measures in place.

“One of the measures is dry season farming, which we have in place and the money, we are working with Ministry of Finance, we have gotten money from financing agencies, one of them is AFDB, and we will intensify dry season farming,” he said.

Mohammed nevertheless admitted that the flood being a natural phenomenon, could not be stopped.

He added that flooding could in some situation, be used to benefit agriculture production.

He said the ministry was already assessing the flood situation on extent of damage done to farm lands and crops like, rice, maize and the number of farmers affected.

He said the immediate intervention was that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management has been distributing grains provided by the agriculture ministry.

He added that the ministry has programmes lined up to address issues of flooding of farm produce.

On support for farmers, he said the ministry was distributing inputs every year in every geo- political zones, adding that records of the distribution including farm implements to farmers was available.

He said, “We have insurance scheme for farmers who are flood victims, for those under insurance coverage, we process and pay them, and for those who don’t have we do intervention from the government from time to time.

“In line with the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari for the provision of a master plan to mitigate flood, the ministry is collaborating with Ministries of Water Resources and Environment.

“We are improving production of agriculture products in areas where security is okay to make up for areas that is challenge security wise and security agencies are helping to provide some measures of security.”

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Abdullahi Yahaya(APC-Kebbi) said the agric ministry must ensure that its budget was specific and focused on programmes to be executed.

He said there was also need to ensure that preparation of budget entailed collaboration with representatives of the people so as to benefit the people.

He added that it was appalling that a country of over 200 million people would have a low budget on agriculture, saying that it was nothing to write home about, given the importance of agriculture to growth and development of the economy.

Abdullahi, however, said the Federal Government in the last four years had done creditably well on release of budgetary funding for the execution of projects in the agriculture sector and other MDAs, saying that the MDAs had gotten not less than up to 70 to 80 per cent of their capital release.

Flood Relief: FG Unfair to Bayelsa, Diri Insists

Meanwhile, Diri has considering Bayelsa’s contribution to the nation’s economy, the response of the federal government to the flood situation in the state was not commensurate and fair.

His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted the governor as having made the remark on Sunday, at the Chief DSP Memorial Banquet Hall in Yenagoa, while declaring open a three-day solemn assembly of fasting and prayers ahead of the state’s annual Thanksgiving Day on November 2.

While bemoaning the level of destruction caused by the natural disaster across communities in the state, he noted that it would cost the government hundreds of billions of naira to rehabilitate damaged road infrastructure in the state.

He also stated that people of the state have been rendered homeless and traumatised with their livelihoods gone.

“We are still calling on the federal government to come to our aid. What it will cost us to repair broken down roads amount to hundreds of billions of naira.

“This is a solemn period. As a government and people, we are suffocating. This is the state where the golden egg is laid. The federal government quickly intervenes in disasters that are not up to half of what we are experiencing now,” the governor said.

Diri maintained that the state was yet to receive relief materials from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and cautioned against playing politics with the lives of people that are in great distress.

“Let us not play politics with the lives of people that are already traumatised and dying. Houses are giving way. Our infrastructure is gone. As I speak, what the State Emergency Management Agency has received from NEMA are mosquito nets and some guinea brocade materials. Food items that are being distributed in the state were procured by the Bayelsa government.”

On the Thanksgiving Day, the state’s helmsman said there was no better time to offer thanksgiving to God as the flood disaster in the state could have been worse.

In his homily titled: “The Good Shepherd,” Catholic Bishop of the Bomadi Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Hyacinth Egbebo, described God as a care-giver that expresses utmost concern for his people.

In a related development, the Chairman of the Taskforce on Flood Mitigation and Management in Bayelsa State, Iselema Gbaranbiri, has warned some community youths who find joy in harassing and attacking IDP camps and carting away food provided by the government to alleviate the hardship occasioned by the flood to desist or face the full wrath of the law.

Some youths had formed the habit of attacking IDP camps, especially the private ones where government has given food items as palliatives

According to Gbaranbiri, the misguided youths carry out the criminal act in the pretence that the items were meant for their chiefs, Community Development Committee members, youth bodies, among others.

The taskforce in a statement issued in Yenagoa stated that, “in the best interest of peaceful coexistence, communities and their leadership are strongly advised to desist from such criminal mannered attitude.

“Otherwise the Prosperity Government will not contemplate one moment to descend on such identified community or leadership in any guide.”

The task force also said it had intensified more efforts to reach more private IDP camps and communities with relief materials with continue distribution of food items.

The committee which include some state Commissioners distributed bags of rice, garri, beans, noddles, tomatoes and other food items to private camps in Igbogene, Amarata, Okutukutu, Gwegwe, Tombia, all in Yenagoa metropolis.

Presenting the items to the displaced persons at the various camp, Gbaranbiri, admonished them to share the items equitably among the persons in the camp, adding that items were not meant for the communities but those at the camps

Lokpobiri Urges FG, IOCs to Assist Bayelsa Flood Victims

In the meantime, Former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has sought the intervention of the federal government and international oil companies (IOCs) operating in the state, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to help victims of the devastating flooding in Bayelsa state.

He commiserated with victims of Bayelsa State who were recently affected by the devastating flood which ravaged many parts of the state.

In a statement signed by his Media Adviser, George Oji, the former minister while lamenting the havoc and destruction caused by the rampaging flood, said the disaster cannot be handled alone by the state government and called on the federal government, IOCs operating in the state, NDDC, NGOs as well as other spirited individuals to come to the aid of the victims.

Lokpobiri also commended the timely efforts of Diri for providing the needed support to the people.

Lokpobiri said the federal government should take the lead role rather than leaving the state government to contend with the flood disaster alone.

He described the flood situation in Bayelsa as very deplorable, adding that the federal government needed to provide succour to the affected communities through NEMA, the NDDC as well as other intervention agencies and not encumber the state alone with the challenge.

“For most of us outside the state, we were shocked and saddened by the reports of the degree of damage to even hospitals and farmlands.

 “We also appeal to all the stakeholders and other spirited individuals to show support in spite of their various political inclinations.

“I commiserate with my people and the state Government. I also commend Governor Douye Diri for standing with the people during this critical moment,” he added.

Lokpobiri, who also lamented that his home and that of his people in Ekeremor Local Government area of the state were also submerged, regretted that the past few weeks have been a harrowing experience for the Bayelsa government and people of the state.

NAOC Distributes Relief Materials to Flood Victims in 260 Communities

Also, the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and Joint Venture (JV) has distributed food and essential goods to about 260 communities affected by flood in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Imo states.

A delegation of the JV led by the General Manager of the Port Harcourt District began distribution at the weekend at the host communities of Ob/Ob Gas Plant after meeting with their leaders.

NAOC expressed sympathy with the host communities, saying the gesture was to reinforce the existing collaborative relationship that had existed with the communities since 1962.

The company said the mutually beneficial partnership became more important at the time of the disaster.

The communities represented by His Royal Highness Louis Ajie Eze Iyasira (Prime Minister of Ogba Land) expressed appreciation to the JV for the timely support.

The NAOC JV shareholders are NNPC E&P Limited (NEPL), Eni’s subsidiary NAOC and Oando.

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