THE federal government on Thursday, February 9, blamed the rising prices of food items on officers and men of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police and Nigeria Customs Service at road blocks in the country.
The allegations were based on reports from farmers, who have continuously complained about being extorted while moving farm products to various locations, by officers who mount several roadblocks.
Audu Ogbeh, the minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, made the disclosure while speaking before the National Assembly to defend the 2017 budget of his ministry.
Ogbeh said farmers across the country had kicked against the move by the federal government to effect reduction in the prices of food items, blaming high extortions they experienced at road blocks for the hike in prices of food items.
Addressing a joint committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the Senate and House of Representatives, the minister pointed out that one of the factors responsible for high cost of food prices in the country “is the daily unbearable extortions by men of the Nigeria Police, their counterpart in the Army and Customs Service of truck drivers conveying farm produce from the hinterlands to urban centres under the guise of carrying out security checks.”
He added: “These truck drivers, based on raw lamentations made to the ministry in recent time, alleged that at every checkpoint they are always forced to part with reasonable amount of money by any group of the security agencies, which they said, made farmers to have no option than to factor cost of extortion into prices of food items.”
Ogbeh further said, based on the complaints by the truck drivers, the ministry wrote Ibrahim Idris, inspector general of Police, and heads of the other security agencies to dissuade their operatives from the act “but daily reports available to the ministry still show that extortion continues unabated.”
The minister also cited high cost of automobile general oil, also known as diesel, which now sells for N300 per litre, as another factor responsible for the skyrocketing prices of food items in the country.
He stated that diesel consumption was inevitable since the trucks conveying farm produce were powered by diesel.
— Feb 20, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT