For some time now, Nigerians have been grappling with acute scarcity of rice and other food items since the closure of the nation’s international borders and the ban on importation of essential commodities by the Federal Government. The move, according to the Government, was aimed at forcing local farmers to go back to farms and grow foods that will sustain or augment the country’s efforts at without over depending on other nations for her food needs.
President Muhammadu Buhari who came up with the policy after his assumption of office in May 2015 decried that it was outrageous that in spite of the fertile land and adequate manpower God endowed Nigeria with, it was still unable to cultivate sufficient foods to feed its people let alone exporting them to generate reasonable incomes but has continued to depend mainly on importation.
DAILY ASSET checks revealed that although the President’s explanation sounds plausible, the citizens have viewed the ban on importation as ill-timed, saying it had caused hardship and the concomitant hike in prices of foodstuffs [both foreign and domestic] in markets all over the country amid economic recession.
The market survey conducted by our correspondent in Bauchi showed that one bag of foreign rice now sells at N18, 000 against the price of two years ago when it was sold at N9, 000 while the local rice now sells at N17, 000 per bag.
A foodstuffs seller at the Bauchi Central Market, Abdulrazak Sani told our reporter that one measure of local rice was sold at N180 to N200 just as the foreign one was being sold at N300 to N350 before the ban on rice importation. He said the new prices of domestic and foreign rice per measure at present are N450 and N600 respectively.
Peasant farmers said that the government’s ‘ go back to farm’ policy was not properly formulated because it [the government] failed to subsidize fertilizer and other farm inputs as a way of empowering local farmers as well as encouraging other non-farmers to develop passion for farming to boost food production.
Speaking with our correspondent, some residents of the Bauchi state capital opined that the federal government should have motivated farmers with loans and farm implements at subsidized rates before placing embargo on food importation to avert hunger and inflation of prices of the food items.
“When the government is very sure that we have produced adequate food that can satisfy all the citizens and we can reserve the excess in our silos, then it can go ahead and ban importation of food stuffs’’. One of them suggested.
The prominent Bauchi based Islamic Preacher, Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi and the Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III had appealed to President Buhari severally to open the nation’s borders and allow traders to import rice in order to mitigate hunger in the land.
Perhaps as part of efforts to encourage farmers and boost local food production, the founder of the Non-Governmental Organization [NGO] called SUN OF HOPE FOUNDATION and wife of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Mrs Gimbiya Yakubu Dogara recently donated hybrid rice seeds, fertilizer and herbicides to 3,300 women farmers drawn from Dass, Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro local government areas of the state where her husband represents at the National Assembly.
Our correspondent reports that 1, 300 women farmers were selected from Tafawa Balewa local government while 1, 000 beneficiaries each were chosen from Dass and Bogoro local government councils respectively to benefit from the gesture. Each of the 3, 300 women farmers were given 10 kilograms of rice seeds, fertilizer and herbicides free of charge by the foundation.
Speaking at a well-attended ceremony for the distribution in Tafawa Balewa LGA of Bauchi state, Mrs Dogara explained that this was the first time she was giving an intervention that focused on women alone, saying the choice of agricultural inputs was carefully considered especially looking at the agrarian nature of the women in the area.
She further said that the choice of women as beneficiaries was deliberate because according to her, “if you empower women, poverty will reduce drastically because we are very good managers of resources”.
While calling on the beneficiaries to utilize the inputs for the purpose for which they were given out, Gimbiya Dogara however cautioned them not use it for domestic consumption.
“This rice has chemicals and you should not eat it as food please” she pleaded.
Mrs Dogara, who sounded enthusiastic about the expected result ,after the planting season further informed that, “it is expected that 10 kg of the hybrid seeds could produce 10 50kg bags of rice at harvesting time. So, the 3, 300 bags of rice seeds given could produce 33, 000 bags of rice during harvest if well utilized’’. She pointed out.
Earlier in her welcome address the coordinator of the Foundation, Mrs. Sarah Kefas traced the history in the establishment of the Foundation describing it as “childhood dream of Gimbiya Dogara that has come to fruition with what we are witnessing today”.
Kefas informed the gathering that the Foundation’s main area of focus includes medical outreaches with special attention being given to maternal and child health and agriculture that targets women in the rural areas noting that some time last year, the Foundation extended its assistance to the Vaginal Vestibular Fistula [VVF] center in Ningi LGA of the state.
While commending the effort of Mrs Dogara in bringing succor to the women folks especially in the rural area across the country, the coordinator thanked all the guests that graced the occasion.
“We are very humbled by your presence here today and we wish you safe journey back to your respective destinations”.
Also speaking, the National Women Leader of the All Progressives Congress [APC] Mrs. Ramatu Tijani who was represented by the North East APC Women Leader Mrs. Fatima Danjuma said women constitute the largest portion of the electorate that come out to vote and in most cases being forgotten after elections.
She lauded the Founder of the Foundation for focusing on women who, according to her are homemakers even as she called on the beneficiaries to use the seeds for the purpose for which they were given.
There were goodwill messages from wives of house of representative members that were on the entourage of Mrs Dogara, Members of Bauchi State of Assembly from Dass, Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro constituencies.