FG Should Partners States, LGs In Creating Food Hubs To Address Rising Cost Of Food Items – Hassan Oluwakemi, Legislative Aide, NASS

Kunle Adelabu

-Calls for stoppage of dollar transactions

The Federal Government of Nigeria has been advised to create multiple food hubs for food items in various communities to address the rising high cost of food items at the grassroots levels.

Other policies that the FG is being advised to consider as emergency interventions are: establishment of free warehouse close to the hubs and large food markets and free transportation for food commodities producers, to bring down high cost in the country.

A grassroots mobiliser and senior legislative aide with the National Assembly, Mr Hassan Oluwakemi, popularly called ‘General Bashexy’, offered the advice in an interview at the weekend in Ikorodu.

This was in response to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s directive to The Special Presidential Committee On Emergency Food Intervention, to act immediately and address the rising cost of food items with certain interventions.

Hassan, who is a member of the Ikorodu Division Economic Council and one of the initiators of the First Ikorodu Division Economic Summit, said that the FG should partner the state and local governments in creating food hubs in localities across the country, which will cater for food items that local residents are consuming most.

He said that the initiative, which, according to him, is expected to sell food commodities at subsidized rates, will go a long way in assisting the concern of the FG, if effectively structured and not politicized.

“The situation is very alarming at the moment and we don’t have to play any politics with it. This is something that affects everybody irrespective of the political parties that they belong to, who they voted and whatever their choices are. Basically, it is a good step that President Bola Tinubu came up with such committee and looking at what the government has itemized, they are okay”, he said.

“I also think that it is time the government start considering diversification nature of the country which must reflect on their policies economically, developmentally and what have you. Some of our cultures differs. For instance, building storey building housing estate to accommodate more people, where you know that the people there prefer their privacy will be counterproductive. In such, building huts might be welcoming because that is their style and it would add value to them.

“The government needs to create food hubs in various council areas and through this, the government can subsidise basic commodities in various communities. This should be handle basically by the local government administrators, representatives from the state government and some structure leaders in the council and it must not be politicized. This must be well supervised and must not be politicized in any form.

Hassan, who emphasized that food items at the hubs must be largely discounted said that the initiative, if properly handled, would impact more on the generality of Nigerians than the food palliatives introduced.

According to him, this system will also save local residents cost of transportation to long distance to get cheap food items which are not really cheap, adding that it will also check the excesses of local traders who increase items at will.

“The food hub should be created in communities like, for instance, Ikorodu LG, Bayeku, Gberigbe, Odogunyan and others. In Epe, we have communities like that too. It must be a community – based initiative with focus on Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and regular food items like garri, rice and others. In this area, garri and other food items might be the real thing but up north, it’s definitely going to be other commodities. It must be the local foods of the area that must made available at the hub”, Hassan said.

“These food items being made available at the hub should be at the discounted rates and it will also reduce cost of transportation involved in going to a far place to get cheap food items. This will also force the local markets to adjust their prices since the commodities available in the hub will be at discounted rates. Some of these sellers are not sincere with their prices. They just hike at will even when what is adversely affecting the economy like the dollar rate has no bearing on their market.

“We are all aware that what the President and his team are trying to do will not work like a magic, rather, it would take time for the policy to be implemented and have desire effects on the economy, that’s is why the food hub is necessary.

“Although, the government at all levels are trying with the palliatives, especially the food palliatives, but it is actually not getting to many people in the grassroots, but the subsidized food rates at food hubs across various communities would go a long way in solving the issue of high cost of food items”, he added.

To further cut down cost of production especially for food items, the grassroots mobiliser also charged government on the need to make available warehouse free of charge, for farmers and other food producers to store their items close to the hub and large food markets where they are needed. In the same vein, he said that making trucks available for free to large producers to convey their produce to the warehouse and markets, would go a long way in addressing the challenges of the high cost of food items in the country.

“To assist the farmers in cutting down the cost of moving their produce from farm to the hub and other markets, the government also have to intervene and assist them in cutting down the cost of transportation which is adding to the cost of their commodities at the market. To address this, the government can create free warehouses for food items near the hubs for farmers to bring their produce for keep and for wholesalers and retailers to get them instead of journey to far places to get them”, he said.

“This is another way of cutting the price of warehousing food items by private warehouse owners.

“This will be a form of relief and create price control in the economy. These ideas will reduce the cost of production for food items.

“Another way is to provide transportation for people bringing in food items coming to the market hub and warehouse by making trucks available three times a week for producers and sellers. The transportation which will be free and can also be used in conveying food commodities to Mile 12 and other big commodity markets, to assist in bringing down prices for food items”, he said.

He, however, called for effective information dissemination by the FG to citizenry about the policies, to make sure that people in the grassroots are properly informed, and to ensure that the initiative is not hijacked or mismanaged by the local administrations.

“The FG needs to make its communication more effective. Once our people are informed, they will start asking questions. The government should, as a matter of importance, makes its communication and National Orientation Agency very effective. If any policy is being introduced, let the public know the in and out of such policy”, he said.

“FG must be releasing figures of food items deployed to the various council areas and ensure that they have supervisors at various council areas. Through this, they will be able to evaluate the implementation of the policy”, he added.

Speaking on high exchange rate and dollarization of the Nigerian economy, the senior legislative aide said that the FG must start correcting the situation by stopping those involved in selling dollars and other foreign currencies forthwith. While also calling for the review of the licenses issued to the registered bureau de change, Hassan also called for stiff regulations in the selling and buying of foreign currencies.

“It is high time the government start going out to make arrest and mop up foreign currencies with individuals. They need to stop that with immediate effect and for those who are registered among them, the FG should review their licenses and place control on local purchase of dollars and other foreign currencies”, Hassan strongly stated.

“Anybody purchasing dollars from them should be able to write the purpose why they want to exchange for the dollars. Also, anybody coming to sell dollars to them, must be able to state his/her sources for now. Ultimately, we are advocating the de – dollarisation of the economy. This is how to save the country.

“Dollars and other foreign currencies should not be accepted as local means of transaction. It should be stopped. A situation whereby carrying or transacting with dollars should be made illegal, the practice would stop. Through this, the government will also be able to regulate foreign currency use for the international trade”, he said.

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