Some southern state governments and farmers have dismissed the blockade by northern food suppliers, saying it was an opportunity for the South to boost its food production capacity.
Officials of the states including Lagos, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Enugu and Ondo in separate interviews on Monday explained their actions to ensure self-sufficiency in food and animal production.
But Ondo and Cross Rivers states went further to take a swipe at the northern food suppliers, saying they would not beg the traders to end their blockade, which entered the fourth day on Monday.
Recall that cattle and foodstuff dealers under the aegis of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN) on Thursday stopped supplies to the South.
Their action followed the Federal Government’s failure to meet their demands, which include payment of N475m compensation for destruction of lives and property during the #EndSARS protest and last month’s crisis in Shasha, Oyo State.
To enforce the strike, the union’s task force prevented the members from transporting livestock and food from the north to the southern part of the country.
Many trucks, which disobeyed its directives, were stopped along the Jebba-Kaduna road last Friday, prompting the military to intervene.
But the union, at a press conference in Abuja on Monday accused the military of harassing its members.
It added that it had not called off the strike.
Commenting on the strike, Mr Akin Olotu, the Senior Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, on Agriculture and Agric Business, in an interview, described the blockade as a good development.
He said it was an eye-opener to utilise opportunities the South had in agriculture.
Olotu said the state government was not perturbed by the development as he said it would make the people of the South-West involve more in agriculture
He said, “We won’t appeal to them to bring the food to the South. If they want to bring it, let them bring it. If they don’t want to bring, let them take it away, but nobody will beg them. It is a welcome development, it would spur our people to embrace agriculture the more, particularly at the family level.
“It would also encourage promotion of food security at the family level. That is why the government has been advocating food security at the family level. You can plant in your compound. You can raise animals in your compound, so that you will reduce the money you spend on food.
“We are not relenting here. It is a matter of months, our tomatoes and pepper would start coming out for harvest. We are working on onions too . Very soon, we will begin to grow our own onions. The only appeal we can make to them is for them to leave our forests and stop destroying our farms.”
The Delta State Government argued that the blockade did not represent the unity of the Nigeria.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Julius Egbedi, who stated this on Monday in Asaba, said, “I don’t have the full details now, but as a state, we have been intensifying all we are doing in food production. We will continue to do that to encourage more production.
“We are one Nigeria for now. I believe that northern governors will not allow it because their people are here also.”
Also, the Cross River State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Asu Okang, stated that there was no use appealing to those blocking food coming from the north to the south as the blockade would not last long.
He stated, “They can’t block foodstuffs from coming to the South for too long because if you say you are protesting and you won’t go to the market with your food, who suffers?
“That is where tomato comes from. That is where perishable onions come from. That is where perishable carrot and lettuce come from. They are at a loss. I can tell you that it is not the local farmers that are in support of the decision. They won’t be in support because at the end of the day, there won’t be special incentives that will be given to them.
“Nigeria has come to stay as one country and we must understand that no ethnic group is superior to the other. If they decide to hoard what they produce, and the Niger Delta decides to go into that kind of boycott, what will happen? Will there be fuel in the North?”
The Akwa Ibom State Government said its agricultural revolution was aimed at ensuring that 80 per cent of what was consumed was produced in the state.
The state Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Ini Ememobong, who stated this, said, “The agricultural revolution of Akwa Ibom State Government is aimed at ensuring we produce 80 per cent of what we consume in the state.”
The Enugu State Government said it would ensure the state’s sufficient in food production in no distant future.
The Commissioner of Information, Chidi Aroh, said the state under the current administration had embarked on so many programmes that encouraged citizens to go into agriculture.
He said, “Our government is not reactionary government, that is why we are ensuring that efforts are being made to be sure that rice farm in Adani is working and our rice production is at its peak.
“That’s why we are doing a lot about Ose Nsukka (yellow pepper) and our cassava production. So we are not reactionary, we are confident that’s why we are doing the (Efi Igbo) Igbo cow project. “
But the state chapter of the All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN) said that food blockade by north would not last long, adding the northern farmers depended on the South for survival.
The state Chairman of AFAN, Mr Romanus Ezeh, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Enugu, said “AFAN in Enugu State is working with both federal and the state ministries of agriculture in various ways especially in the intervention funds to add value and boost food production in the state.”
He, however, said northern farmers could not survive without supplying their produce to the South.
He said, “The blockade will not last long because farmers in the North cannot survive without marketing their produce in the South.
“It will make farmers in the East to grow those items that we don’t have down here. With no cows in our bushes, farmers will go back in full force this farming season thereby increasing more production.”
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, on Monday said the state was not feeling any effect of food shortage.
He noted that the government had also not been officially informed of any decision to withdraw supplies to the state.
According to him, trailers of foodstuffs have been coming from other parts of the country into the state through the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Omotosho urged residents not to panic, adding that the state was also making efforts to attain self-sufficiency in food production.
He said, “We have not been told officially that some people in the North are withdrawing food supplies to the South-West or Lagos. And you know that Lagos is consuming no less than 50 per cent of what is being produced in other parts of the country.
“However, Lagos is preparing for the future. Very soon, we will be inaugurating the Imota Rice Mill, which will be the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa. All our agric programmes are tailored towards food self-sufficiency in the future.
“Farmers are being encouraged; we give them land to farm and we are also acquiring land in other states to farm so that our programmes in farming will not be starved of materials.
“Our fishing programme very soon will be on. Lagos has one of the best coastal beds in the world. In our waters, we have all kinds of fish that will be canned in the future. The future of agric in Lagos is great and the government is encouraging young people to go into it. So, there is no need for anybody to panic over what anybody may have seen as some people saying they will not supply food. I have not seen anything official on that. If there is anything like a shortage, I have not seen the effect and I hope we will not see it.” – Punch.