By Salisu Sani-Idris
The National Economic Council (NEC) has directed the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to immediately distribute grains to states within one or two weeks to bring down the price of food items across the country.
Gov. Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State made the disclosure while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the NEC meeting, chaired by the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday.
The governor said that Shettima directed NEMA to release the grains immediately, adding that states would be involved in the mechanism.
Mohammed, who expressed concern over the high prices of food items, noted that food was a key component of what was considered by the council.
“The National Economic Council (NEC) discussed giving broader interventions to all the sectors and all the segments of the society.
“Food is a key component of what is on the table in terms of food security. On the escalation of prices of food stuff, we are happy because NEC has seriously engaged with NEMA, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and indeed with the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We have some buffer stock that is already there with NEMA, so council directed that the states will immediately be allocated substantial portions of food items, grains and so on for distribution so that the prices of food stuff will come down.
“These grains will be given at subsidized rates or at the rates they were acquired. The CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme and its Agric. programme have ensured a large stock of rice and other grains. These will be made available within one week so that they will be distributed to the states.”
He explained that states are at liberty to give out the grains at subsidized rates, or free of charge or sell it in such a way that it would crash the prices of food items and make them affordable for the common people.
“Across the sectors of the economy, public and civil servants and even farmers will benefit maximally. Again as I said, NEMA has lots of stock which it will also bring out so that this particular aspect of food security can cushion the effect of the subsidy removal on all Nigerians.
“This will be done within one or two weeks. In terms of the quantity of the grains that will be distributed, I just learnt from the acting CBN Governor that they have more than 2,52,00 metric tonnes of grains and almost equivalent number of bags of fertilizer that will be distributed within the time frame.
“As for Agriculture, everybody knows that they have the buffer stock programme where they have silos and they are all stocked with grains. They have not given out the quantity and I don’t want to be presumptuous. The same thing with NEMA because all their stores are there.”
The governor revealed that NEC had established a robust agreement that states and Local Governments would be involved in the distribution of the grains.
He also said that NEMA would collaborate with the corresponding institutions in the states and Local Governments so that the grains would be distributed with ease.
He said that the council had recognised the need for transparency in the distribution of the grains, assuring that all members of the society would be involved in the exercise.
“The Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Community-Based Organisations and everybody will be involved because the states are involved and of course at the end of the day you will see that these things will reach the target.” (NAN)