… As NEMA distributes relief materials to 510 victims of windstorm in Imo***
Residents in the South-South have sought Federal Government’s intervention in the ever-increasing cost of food items and cooking gas in the region.
The analysts who made the call in separate interviews said the government should stem the rising cost of the items through proper economic recovery plan and implementation.
They added that Nigerians should assist the government in minimising the excesses of middlemen and market associations in hiking the prices of commodities.
The residents also identified the major factors contributing to cooking gas price hike in the nation to include lack of functional refinaries and off-takers for gas distribution.
On prices of food, they identified market forces, insecurity, farmer/headers clashes, insurgency, banditry, poor storage facilities and COVID-19 outbreak as causes of food price hike in the country.
Although the analysts appreciated current government’s efforts in solving the problem, they advised that the intervention should be urgent as food was one of the basic necessities of life.
A civil servant in Asaba, Mr Vincent Adeoye, said: ‘’Our challenge has become double in the sense that the cost of food items is high likewise that of cooking gas.
”How do we survive in this present situation when we buy a cup of beans for N150 and one kilogramme of cooking gas for N700?
”Our salaries cannot even feed our families, not to talk of paying school fees and rent. It is only God who helps us to survive.
”The present economy is making things too difficult for us and I will appeal to the government to come to our rescue.”
Also, Mrs Deborah Diai, a civil servant, said she had resorted to using charcoal for cooking since ‘’the price of domestic gas is now within the reach of the rich.”
”Three kilogrammes of gas does not last up to five days for me, because we are family of six,” she said.
The Chairman, Ika Liquified Petroleum Gas Dealers Association, Mr Onyeka Eze, said the increase in the price of domestic gas had affected the consumption of the product in the area.
According to him, before now, a kilogramme of gas sold for between N300 and N320, but in the last six months, the price had gone up to N650 a kilogramme.
”Before this increment, we dispense as much as 100 kilogrammes daily, but as at today, it takes us almost three days to sell 50 kilogrammes of it.
Eze urged the federal government to intervene in the continual increase of the price of domestic gas.
In Rivers, Mr Livingston Wechie, a civil rights crusader, urged the government to tackle the situation, saying, ‘’basically, there’s a tremendous hike in cost of living.
“While commodity prices are on the increase, wages and remunerations have remained static even when only a few percentage of the country’s population earn salaries.”
Wechie urged government to reconsider a proper economic recovery plan to ensure that basic commodities for daily survival took precedence over any other infrastructure.
He lamented that the price of domestic cooking gas had gone up from N3,500 to almost N10,000 for 12.5 kilogrammes.
He also attributed the high cost of foodstuffs in the country to the challenge of insecurity, farmer/headers clashes, insurgence and banditory.
Similarly, the President, Etche Farmers Cooperative Union, Mr Godwin Akandu, urged government to reinvigorate the economy by ensuring direct funding of farmers and strengthening security.
Meanwhile, Mr Sunil Umar, an Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) mini tank farm operator, attributed the current hike in prices of cooking gas to lack of functional refineries.
Umar said the situation was compounded because of lack of off-takers, to effectively distribute the huge quantity of gas produced by the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG).
According to him, the NLNG has always allocated to the Nigerian market as much as 450,000MPTA quantity of gas from 2015 till date.
Also speaking on the high cost of cooking gas, Mr Victor Ohwodiasa, Operations Controller, Department Petroleum Resources (DPR), Uyo, attributed the increase to deregulation of the sector and market forces.
“The gas market is deregulated and is driven by market forces; so the issue of demand and supply comes into play.
‘’Another reason is that there are some tariffs that were imputed by government recently; so that is why the price has jumped up.
‘’If we talk of gas penetration, gas availability and gas reliability, then something should be done about the price,” he said.
Ohwodiasa however said that government was working hard to intervene and stabilise the price of cooking gas.
A housewife in Uyo, Mrs Glory Inyang, said that the high cost of cooking gas had affected the feeding allowance given to her by her husband.
“I used to buy 12.5kg of cooking gas for N3,750, but today I have just bought the same quantity for N10, 000; this is on the high side,” she said.
Another housewife, Mrs Margaret Joseph, lamented that both the cooking gas and food items had become exorbitant at the same time, causing lot a lot of hardship to Nigerians.
Similarly, the Edo Chairman of the Grassroots Farmers Association of Niger-Delta, Chief Emmanuel Odigie, has identified insecurity, activities of market associations and bad roads as reasons for high cost of foodstuffs.
Odigie claimed that the farmers/herders clashes had made it almost impossible for most farmers to access their farms for fear of being killed or kidnapped.
He also attributed the high cost of food and other commodities to the lack of interest in agriculture on the part the youths.
‘’The youths in our state are not interested in agriculture. All they do is travel abroad for greener pasture wh8those left behind hunt for white-collar jobs.
“The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is also a major factor and as long as market associations exist, prices of foodstuffs and other agrucultural commodities will continue to rise,” he said .
Contributing, Dr Samuel Agoda, Agricultural Extension Officer, Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Sapele, attributed the hike in prices of food to post harvest losses experienced by farmers.
“For the few farmers that are producing this period of insecurity, storage facilities is a major problem.
“Most of these crops go bad easily after harvest because of lack of storage facilities,” he said.
Agoda however noted that the federal government, through NSPRI, had developed series of post harvest technologies for farmers to store produce in the post harvest value chain.
In the meantime, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on Sunday commenced the distribution of relief materials to 510 victims of windstorm in Owerri West council areas of Imo.
Acting Head of Imo and Abia operations office of the Agency, Mr Ifeanyi Nnaji said at the inauguration of the exercise that the gesture was in fulfilment of its promise to the victims during an asseessment visit of the disaster.
He said the affected communities that benefited from the relief distribution were: Obinze, Oforola and Olaukwu.
He said the items distributed to the victims included: 53 bags of 10kg rice, 53 bags of 10kg beans, 53 bags of 10kg gari, as well as three bags of salt.
Nnaji said the other items were: 106 pieces of mattresses, 159 bags of cement, 25 bags of nail, as well as 101 bundles of roofing sheets.
“We are here today to distribute relief materials worth millions of naira to the victims of windstorm in the affected areas as directed by the Federal Government.
“While I commiserate with the victims, I thank the Director-General of NEMA, Mr Ahmed Habib for his timely intervention,” Nnaji, added.
The newsmen report that windstorms had wrecked havoc in Owerri West council area recently and rendered many households homeless.