The National Economic Council, NEC, yesterday expressed shock over the high cost of food and transportation in the country.
Consequently, it approved N5 billion grant to each of the 36 states of the federation for the procurement of grains as well as five trucks of rice to each state as palliatives to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal.
The NEC also approved the distribution of 40,000 bags of maize to be distributed to states, and directed the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to distribute food items to states sharing border with Niger Republic over the recent political instability in the country.
These were among the outcomes of the NEC meeting presided over by Vice President Kashim Shettima, at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State said the approval of N5 billion and trucks of rice and grains were part of measures to bring temporary solutions to the high cost of living caused by subsidy removal as government continued to work with more enduring programmes.
Zulum, who disclosed that states were mandated to purchase 100,000 bags of rice and beans, among other items, said: “NEC met today (yesterday) and expressed serious concerns as regards increasing cost of food items, increasing cost of transportation, among others, as a result of subsidy removal.
“In order to cushion the effect of subsidy removal, the federal government released five trucks of rice to each state last week.
“Furthermore, in order to cushion the effect of food shortages across the country, the federal government has approved the sum of N5 billion to be given to each state for the procurement of 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize and fertilizers.
“This funding has to be shared with a formula as follows: 52 per cent of this money is given to states as grants, while 48 per cent of the N5 billon is to be paid back on an instalmental basis within a period of 20 months to the CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) by the states and local governments areas in Nigeria.
“The Council commended the efforts of the federal government, under the leadership of President Tinubu, as well as the CBN. We have also commended the efforts of NEMA in cushioning the effects of the subsidy removal.
“Council has taken bold decisions to ensure speedy release of grains and other items in order to cushion the effects of subsidy removal on the less privileged in the society.
“Council has also taken note of the $800 million loan and insist that it be strictly used for intended purpose and based on accurate and acceptable register. The $800million announced by the president will go to Nigerians in accordance with an accurate social register.
“Furthermore, Council has also noted the package that was announced by the president in order to cushion the effect of subsidy removal, amounting to about N500billion.
“This fund has to be distributed to the following sectors, including MSMEs, industrial sector. About N125 billion will go for cash transfers, agricultural sector as well as gas expansion for buses.
“Because of the increasing cost of fossil fuel, the federal government intends to establish more gas stations in Nigeria, procure more gas-powered, CNG, buses, as well as electric buses in order to cushion the effect of subsidy removal.
“NEMA will also liaise with states to distribute foodstuffs to the people immediately, especially those affected in the frontline states that are bordering Niger Republic because of influx of refugees.
“The Council also tasked states to dialogue with the labour unions’ leadership. A committee made up of Anambra State governor, Charles Soludo, NGF Chairman, Governor Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman and others have been nominated to interface with labour.
“The most important thing the Council has taken note of is that all these palliatives that are being mentioned now are temporary solutions. Council has decided to invest in medium and longer term, sustainable solutions that will ensure availability of food and non-food solutions in Nigeria, especially investing in commercial agriculture and also irrigated agriculture.
“NEC is calling on Nigerians and labour to be calm, law abiding as the president is determined to address the issues at hand.”
On his part, the governor of Anambra State, Prof. Charles Soludo, said the review of social register was in progress.
He said Nigeria was already having refugees from Niger Republic which, according to him, is affecting the distribution of palliatives.
But the governor of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani, said only N2 billion had so far been given to states, instead of the N5 billion approved by the federal government.
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State stated that a sub-committee was constituted last year to propose modalities to address imminent food crisis due to the flooding and possible source of funding for palliatives to victims.
He said: “The sub-committee was to be chaired by the governor of Kebbi State and the following as members – Ministries of Agriculture, Humanitarian, Finance, NEMA and CBN.’’
On limitations, he said: “ The exercise would have been more successful and effective if all the affected states had responded as and when due and according to provisions made in the template. Some of the limitations include delay or non-submission of filled template by some states.
“Only 16 of the total number of affected states forwarded their submissions to NEC Secretariat to date as expected. About 15 others are yet to do so. The submission from defaulting states are awaited to update the database.
“Some of the states that submitted did not fully comply with requisitions of the template, thereby making some of their submissions difficult to process by the automated system. There is the need for compliance with laid down processes to allow for higher degree of uniformity, especially considering the huge volume of data involved.