Members of the joint committee on Agriculture were stunned when the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh made the allegation yesterday during a budget defence session at the National Assembly.
Ogbeh lamented that despite having written formally to the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali and other heads of security agencies over their officials’ fraudulent practices, the practice had not stopped.
He enumerated other factors negatively affecting government’s agricultural policies.According to him, the high cost of diesel, which now sells for N300 per litre is another factor responsible for the skyrocketing prices of food items, explaining that trucks and vehicles transporting farm produce are powered by diesel.
Ogheh further stated that other factors responsible for high prices of food items include the treaty on free movement of goods and services put in place by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) among member states, which he said gives room for movement of not less than 300,000 trucks of grains outside Nigeria on a daily basis, which the ministry cannot check.
The minister however, assured the committee that the Federal Government would soon ensure a reduction in prices of the food items via the committee set up to that effect, but expressed surprise that farmers were already kicking against the move.
According to him, farmers were angry with him over the move because they see the situation on ground as very favourable economically to them.
The minister said one of such farmers tackled him in Katsina recently, urging him not to tamper with the present price of food items by claiming that he made N4 million from the sales of sorghum, which had catapulted him from the realm of poverty to that of affluence.
Another farmer in Anambra state also claimed to have reaped N1 million profit from the sale of rice as a result of the current market price.