· Says National Commodity Board coming, to review food prices
· Declares security agencies will protect farmers, farmlands
· Senate approves Tinubu’s N500bn request to provide palliatives to vulnerable Nigerians
· Okays $800m loan request to fund N819bn 2022 supplementary budget
· Approves N70bn to support senators, reps’ working conditions
· Atiku’s aide: Tinubu’s palliative of N53 per day is an avenue to divert public funds
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Sunday Aborisade and Juliet in Abuja
President Bola Tinubu has declared a state of emergency on food security in the country. This comes as the Senate, yesterday, approved the president’s request to amend the 2022 Supplementary Act totalling N819 billion.
The red chamber also gave the president the go-ahead to remove N500 billion from the N819 billion to fund a social safety net in the wake of the recent petrol subsidy removal. The House of Representatives equally approved the request.
But Special Assistant on Public Communications to Atiku Abubakar, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, described Tinubu’s plan to hand out N8,000 to 12 million households for six months as a brazen attempt to divert public funds.
The declaration of a state of emergency by the president was sequel to observed food inflation across the 36 states of the federation and Abuja.
Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake, disclosed these to newsmen yesterday, after a meeting of stakeholders on agriculture and food production value-chain at the State House, Abuja.
Alake was accompanied to the briefing by Special Adviser to the President on Revenue, Zacch Adedeji; Special Adviser on Industry, Trade and Investment, John Uwajumogu; Acting Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Wale Adeniyi, among others.
Giving details of the presidential intervention on food security, food pricing and sustainability, Alake disclosed that measures in the action plan would include an immediate release of fertilisers and grains to farmers and households to mitigate the effects of the fuel subsidy removal.
He also said the president approved that all matters pertaining to food and water availability and affordability, as essential livelihood items, be included within the purview of the National Security Council.
According to Alake, “As a hands-on- leader who follows developments across the country every day, Mr. President is not unmindful of the rising cost of food and how it affects the citizens.
“While availability is not a problem, affordability has been a major issue to many Nigerians in all parts of the country. This has led a significant drop in demand thereby undermining the viability of the entire agriculture and food value chain.
“Accordingly, in line with this administration’s position on ensuring that the most vulnerable are supported, Mr. President has declared, with immediate effect the following actions:
“That a state of emergency on food security be announced immediately, and
“That all matters pertaining to food and water availability and affordability, as essential livelihood items, be included within the purview of the National Security Council.”
On steps to be taken to give effect to the president’s order, Alake said a number of initiatives would be deployed in the immediate, medium and long terms, adding that goals to be achieved have been marked.
According to him, some of the steps to be taken would include all-year round farming, creation of special purpose vehicles, like the commodity board, to liberalise the food production value chain, the immediate activation of land-banks across the country, as well as putting an end to the age-long and problematic nomadic animal husbandry, which would be replaced with government-managed ranching.
Alake said, “We will immediately release fertilisers and grains to farmers and households to mitigate the effects of the subsidy removal.
“There must be an urgent synergy between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Water Resources to ensure adequate irrigation of farmlands and to guarantee that food is produced all-year round.
“As a country, Mr. President has made it clear that we cannot be comfortable with seasonal farming. We can no longer afford to have farming down times.
“We shall create and support a National Commodity Board that will review and continuously assess food prices as well as maintain a strategic food reserve that will be used as a price stabilisation mechanism for critical grains and other food items. Through this board, government will moderate spikes and dips in food prices.”
He added, “To achieve this, we have the following stakeholders on board to support the intervention effort of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu: The National Commodity Exchange (NCX); Seed Companies; National Seed Council and Research institutes; NIRSAL Microfinance Bank; Food Processing/Agric Processing associations; private sector holders and Prime Anchors; small holder farmers; crop associations; and fertiliser producers, blenders and suppliers’ associations, to mention a few.”
Alake further said, “We will engage our security architecture to protect the farms and the farmers so that farmers can return to the farmlands without fear of attacks.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria will continue to play a major role of funding the agricultural value chain. Activation of land banks. There is currently 500,000 hectares of already mapped land that will be used to increase availability of arable land for farming, which will immediately impact food output.
“Mechanisation and land clearing- The government will also collaborate with mechanisation companies to clear more forests and make them available for farming
“River basins- there are currently 11 rivers basins that will ensure planting of crops during the dry season with irrigation schemes that will guarantee continuous farming production all year round, to stem the seasonal glut and scarcity that we usually experience.
“We will deploy concessionary capital/funding to the sector especially towards fertiliser, processing, mechanisation, seeds, chemicals, equipment, feed, labour, etc.
“The concessionary funds will ensure food is always available and affordable thereby having a direct impact on Nigeria’s Human Capital Index (HCI). This administration is focused on ensuring the HCI numbers, which currently ranks as the third lowest in the world, are improved for increased productivity.
“Transportation and storage: The cost of transporting agricultural products has been a major challenge (due to permits, toll gates, and other associated costs). When the costs of moving farm produce is significantly impacted, it will immediately be passed to the consumers, which will affect the price of food- the government will explore other means of transportation, including rail and water transport, to reduce freight costs and in turn impact the food prices.
“The government will change the way we have been doing livestock business, away from the archaic method to the modern way acceptable worldwide.
“We will establish ranches in collaboration with state governments and the federal government will pay for the land.”
Alake also disclosed that the targeted gains of the president’s emergency declaration on food production and distribution included increased job creation and food abundance and security.
According to him, “Principally, one of the major positive outcomes of these interventions will be a massive boost in employment and job creation.
“Indeed, agriculture already accounts for about 35.21 percent of employment in Nigeria (as at 2021), the target is to double this percentage to about 70 per cent in the long term.
“President Bola Tinubu’s mandate to create jobs for our teeming youth population will be achieved with between five and 10 million more jobs created within the value chain, working with the current 500,000 hectares of arable land and the several hundreds of thousands more farmlands to be developed in the medium term.
“In closing, this administration understands that food and water are the bedrock of survival and, therefore, is calling on all Nigerians to partner us in ensuring the success of this strategic intervention. This administration is working assiduously to ensure that Nigerians do not struggle with their essential needs.
“President Bola Tinubu wishes to use this medium to continue to assure Nigerians that this administration will not relent in its efforts until all strategic interventions are deployed efficiently and effectively and until every household is positively impacted.
“Our president is the president of all Nigerians and the father of the nation. The renewed hope mandate remains alive and no one, absolutely no one, will be left behind.”
Senate Approves Tinubu’s N500bn Request to Provide Palliatives
Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, approved the request by President Bola Tinubu to amend the 2022 Supplementary Act totalling N819 billion.
The red chamber also gave the president the go-ahead to remove N500 billion from the N819 billion to provide palliatives for vulnerable Nigerians in the wake of the fuel subsidy removal.
Tinubu said the fund would enable the federal government to cushion the effect of the recent removal of subsidy on petroleum products.
The proposed legislation is titled, “A bill for an act to amend the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act to provide the extraction of funds from the Supplementary Appropriation Act for the provision of palliatives to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy.”
Tinubu, in another official communication, urged the Senate to approve a borrowing request of $800 million. He said the approval would enable the federal government to fund the 2023 Supplementary Budget, when approved by the legislature.
The same request had earlier been sent to the upper chamber by the former President Muhammadu Buhari administration in the ninth National Assembly, but it was not treated by the former Senate President Ahmad Lawan-led red chamber.
Buhari had at the twilight of his administration forwarded the official communication to the ninth Senate in May.
The ninth Assembly could not consider the request, which was approved by the Federal Executive Council before its tenure ended in June 11.
Tinubu, in a fresh letter read by Senate President Godswill Akpabio during plenary, asked the 10th Senate to approve the borrowing request.
The president, in the letter, explained that the loan would be used to scale up the National Social Safety Net Programme.
He said the new borrowing would be sourced from the World Bank.
Part of the president’s letter read, “Please note that the Federal Executive Council led by President Muhammadu Buhari approved an additional loan facility to the tune of $800m to be secured from the World Bank for the National Social Safety Net programme. Copy of Federal Executive Council’s extract attached.
“You may also wish to note that the purpose of the facility is to expand coverage of shock responsive safety net support among the poor and vulnerable Nigerians. This will assist them in coping with basic needs.
“You may further wish to note that under the conditional cash transfer window of the programme, the federal government of Nigeria will transfer the sum of N8, 000 per month to 12 million poor and low income households for a period of six months, with a multiplier effect on about 60 million individuals.
“In order to guarantee the credibility of the process, digital transfers will be made directly to beneficiaries’ accounts and mobile wallets.
“It is expected that the programme will stimulate economic activities in the informal sector, and improve nutrition, health, education, and human capital development of beneficiaries’ households.
“Given the above, I wish to invite the Senate to kindly grant approval for the additional loan facility of $800 million to be secured from World Bank for the National Social Safety Net Programme.
“While hoping that this submission will receive expeditious consideration by the Senate, please, accept the assurances of my highest regards.”
Giving further clarifications on the official communications from the president, Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Solomon Adeola, said the N819 billion Supplementary Budget was passed during the consideration of the controversial Central Bank of Nigeria’s N22.7 trillion ways and means advances.
Adeola said, “I want my colleagues to understand what we are doing here. In 2023, there were two budgets that were passed, the main budget and the supplementary budget.
“As per the main budget, that is currently on going. The supplementary budget was passed when there was consideration for ways and means by the Senate and that amounted to N819 billion.
“It was signed into law by former President Muhammadu Buhari, while the 2023 budget was ongoing. The Supplementary budget had yet to be implemented.
“Now, we are all aware of the current happenings and reforms being introduced by this new administration, which include subsidy removal and some other economic reforms put in place.
“There is no doubt that these are challenging times for Nigerians, which this present administration must attend to urgently.
“The supplementary budget of 819billion will be amended to take care of some of this palliatives.
“As such, the president went to the documents and reordered and that was where this said 500 billion is coming from.”
The senate president called for a closed session, which lasted about 30 minutes.
After the executive session, Akpabio gave a breakdown of the supplementary budget. He said N500 billion was for palliatives and other capital expenditure to cushion the effect of the recent subsidy removal. He also said N185, 236,937,815 had been approved for the Ministry of Works and Housing to alleviate the effect of the severe flooding experienced in the country in 2022 on road infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones.
Akpabio said N19,200,000,000 had been approved for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to ameliorate the massive destruction to farmlands across the country during the severe flooding experienced last year.
The sum of N35 billion was allocated to National Judicial Council, while N10 billion was allocated to the Federal Capital Territory Administration for critical projects
The National Assembly also got N70 billion to support the working conditions of new members.
Atiku’s Aide Alleges Tinubu’s Palliative of N53 per day is Avenue to Divert Public Funds
However, Shaibu described Tinubu’s plan to hand out N8,000 to 12 million households for six months as a brazen attempt to divert public funds.
Shaibu said, in a statement, that Tinubu’s plan to spend $800 million on palliatives under an opaque arrangement was reminiscent of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s conditional cash transfer and COVID-19 intervention initiative, which saw politicians keeping food items and provisions in their homes while the poor went hungry.
He said Buhari’s interventionist programmes only ended up making Nigerians poorer, as shown in reports released by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Atiku’s aide stated, “After announcing the removal of petrol subsidy without proper planning, Tinubu has asked for the approval of $800m loan, which he claims will be disbursed to 12 million households for six months at N8,000 for each household per month. This is a continuation of the scam of the All Progressives Congress.
“According to statistics, a Nigerian household as at 2019 counted on an average of 5.06 members. So, with Tinubu’s uninspiring plan, each individual in a household will get N1,600 per month or N53 per day. What should they do with it? Use the money to buy sachet (pure) water or a cup of boiled groundnut on a daily basis?
“And this is the man they claim transformed the economy of Lagos State? This must be a joke or a more sinister attempt to divert public funds.”
Shaibu argued that Tinubu lacked a clear economic policy apart from taxing Nigerians. He said having deceptively attained presidential power, Tinubu had been exposed as an economic illiterate.
Shaibu added, “Tinubu boasted that he would ‘develop Nigeria’s economy’ like that of Lagos, but this was all a scam. Statistics show that over 70 per cent of Lagos revenue comes from income tax paid by private companies, which had been in Lagos for decades due to its status as Nigeria’s former capital.
“His only plan is to tax Nigerians to death, as he did in Lagos, and that is why the people of Lagos rejected him in the last election. Tinubu promised to turn Nigeria’s economy into a $1 trillion economy, but it is all a scam and can never be achieved with his brand of ‘agberonomics’.”
Shaibu said Tinubu ought to have focused on putting money into the agricultural sector, subsidising production, and working at attaining energy security to spur desired economic growth from SMEs if he was really serious about reviving the economy.
He added, “Agriculture makes up about 30 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP. He should have invested funds in the production aspect of agriculture and other issues affecting crop yields.
“The rural areas, which are mostly agrarian, are in the throes of insecurity. On Tinubu’s watch, over 200 people have so far been killed. However, he seems clueless on how to tackle this menace.
“The so-called palliatives that Tinubu seeks to share to the poor are just another avenue to divert public funds. For years, the Nigerian government has rejected calls to publish the list of the beneficiaries of the so-called palliatives but this has never been done because it is all a scam.
“Tinubu should stop trying to deceive Nigerians who are still suffering from the effect of his lacklustre economic policies.”
Atiku’s aide added, “There are also concerns that this plan is a reinvention of old tricks through which the APC uses public funds as subterfuge for vote buying.
“Let no one make any mistakes about it, the planned palliative is Trader Moni 2.0.
“The scheme is nothing but a means to use public funds to prosecute political campaigns and objectives. It is even more telling that the current imposter government is contemplating the initiative when there is high expectation that the presidential election tribunal is set to give judgement in the controversial election that brought Tinubu into government.
“The APC is a political party that has lost favour with a vast majority of Nigeria, and it is no coincidence that since 2019, when the party invented the charade of Trader Moni, it also incontrovertibly introduced the menace of vote buying into Nigeria’s body politic.”