Nigerians from the South-West zone have decried the rising cost of food items and cooking gas, calling on the Federal Government to swiftly intervene and address the situation.
Bearing their minds in Kwara, Osun, Oyo and Ogun, they complained that the cost of food items and cooking gas had soared beyond the reach of the masses.
In their contributions, they, however, offered the likely solutions to the situation, which they described as disturbing.
Dr Olufemi Oladunni, the Executive Director, Agriculture and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), urged Nigerians to embark on farming as a way of checkmating the high cost of food items.
Oladunni advised the government to encourage more Nigerians to go into farming by subsidising agricultural inputs and ensure that only qualitative and standard inputs were available in the markets for farmers to buy.
He said that ARMTI had been engaging in the training of youths in various areas of agribusiness to make them, not only self-employed, but employers of labour.
According to him, beneficiaries also enjoyed starter packs, valued at N200,000, to enable them to start their own businesses.
Oladunni, calling for improved security situation, said that many farmers had been displaced and unable to go to their farms due to the challenge of insecurity in the country.
Also, Prof. Olubunmi Omotesho of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Farm Management, University of Ilorin, urged government to put in place machinery to ensure that small scale farmers have access to agricultural resources, markets, land, finance, infrastructure and technologies.
Explaining that approach to economic development must be modern, focussed and in tune with global trends, he called for social security schemes for farmers and agricultural product protection policies.
“There should also be provision of credit facilities to small scale farmers and incentives for agricultural financial institutions among others,” Omotesho said.
Commenting, Mrs Bolanle Bamidele, decried the rising cost of foodstuffs and cooking gas, saying that it had kept reducing their profit margin.
Bamidele, who sells beans and noodles, told NAN that a cooking gas of 3kg, formerly sold at N1,000, is now N1,950 at 650 per kg.
According to her, both beans and noodles, in addition to the ingredients used in preparing them, have become too expensive.
”Since I was born, I have never bought beans at the price we are buying now. The prices of noodles, groundnut oil and pepper are nothing to write home about, either.
”I just pray that everything gets better, because we are just selling now to keep body and soul together, not that it is profitable again,” Bamidele said.
Another food seller, who simply identified herself as Mummy Semilanu, said that her customers had reduced greatly.
“They have been complaining of not getting enough food served with their hard-earned money,” she said.
Also, an Ilorin-based legal practitioner, Mr Abdul Gegele, advised the three tiers of government to check the inflation by venturing more into agricultural produce.
According to him, insecurity is an hindrance to the national economic development, which had contributed to high prices of foodstuffs.
A house wife, Hajia Khadijat Jimoh, said she learnt that increment in Value Added Tax (VAT) and government tariffs had contributed to the increase in prices of foodstuffs, gas, building materials and other items.
Jimoh also identified ritual killings, banditry, kidnapping and clashes between farmers and herders as other factors that contributed to the high cost of food items.
“Farmers no longer go to farm; they are scared of being killed,” she said.
In his reactions, Alhaji Sulaimon Araokanmi, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Osun, blamed the high cost of food prices to disrupted farming brought about by inadequate rainfall in 2020.
According to him, the little planting done by farmers in 2020 is what is providing the little foodstuffs in the market, except for crops planted early this year.
Araokanmi said that the 2020 draught, with the disruption of farming in the Northern region of the country, caused by insurgency and banditry, resulted in food shortage, as currently being experienced.
He said that naturally, food insufficiency always resulted in food scarcity, which would affect the prices of foodstuffs in the market.
Araokanmi, however, said that with constant rainfall being experienced in 2021, there should be food sufficiency and surplus next year, with the hope of reduction in price.
The chairman of the association implored the government to provide farmers with grants, funds, modified planting seeds, seedlings and chemicals to boost the nation’s food production.
Also, Mrs Muyibat Egbedele, a housewife, decried the outrageous prices of food items, saying that most of the food items had increased by 100 per cent.
Egbedele added that the annoying aspect was that the locally produced food items were also following the trend.
“It is even difficult to quote the prices of food items when going for shopping, as prices keep increasing everyday.
“Most increment in prices are artificial, because most food sellers keep attributing the increment to foreign exchange, even, when their commodity is locally produced,” she said.
Muyibat, then called on the Federal Government to address the rising prices of food items for the sake of the masses.
Similarly, consumers of cooking gas in Osogbo decried the increasing cost of the commodity in the state and the country at large.
One of the retailers, Mr Oladayo Oluwasegun, blamed the gas depots for the high cost of the commodity.
Oluwasegun said, “A 6kg cooking gas is now between N3,600 and N3,800, while 12kg sells for N7,600.”
A housewife, Mrs Iyabo Korede, said she had resorted to the use of charcoal due to the high price of cooking gas.
“It is out of the reach of my family to buy a 12kg gas, which was being sold for N3,800 before but now cost N7,500,” Korede said.
In Ibadan, Mr Akeem Emiola, a leader at Bodija Market, identified insecurity and bad road network as major reasons behind the continuous increase in prices of foodstuffs.
Emiola said that insecurity, with the fear of what would befall farmers in their farms, like kidnapping, banditry and herders/farmers clash, stopped many farmers from going to their farmlands.
“Government should first tackle the issue of security across the country, as this will enable farmers to intensify on the production of food and smooth movement of farm produce and foodstuffs from the rural areas to urban centres.
“Road maintenance and rehabilitation should follow. This is because heavy duty vehicles are used in transporting foodstuffs.
“Most roads are not in good condition, as articulated vehicles were spending days on the roads; some even broke down and get repaired on the road before foodstuffs can reach their destinations.
“These and more are parts of the reasons foodstuffs are too expensive,” Emiola said.
Confirming that a bag of yam flour has jumped from N100,000 to N140,000, Mrs Mojoyin Akinade, a yam flour trader, attributed this to the shortage of yam due to low harvest as part of the climate change and insecurity on farms.
Akinade said, “Farmers, after sowing seeds, left their farms, leaving herders with their cows to destroy everything on the farms.”
A gas retailer, Mrs Nkem Joseph, urged the Federal Government to regulate the price of cooking gas or subsidise it to alleviate the sufferings of the masses.
Joseph said the price hike was becoming unbearable for the masses, as sales had dropped with low profit margin.
“Almost every home in the urban areas use gas for both home and industrial purposes. With the hike, the money to refill a 6kg cylinder is now N3,500 instead of N2,000.
“By this, the consumer is left to fill his or her cylinder halfway,” Joseph said.
Commenting, a housewife, Mrs Juliana Adewale, said that government should intervene in the matter.
“This is how those in charge of Kerosene pushed the masses to the wall, before we eventually embraced the use of gas.
“If gas is now untouchable like Kerosene, we will be left to use charcoal and firewood, which has negative effects on the climate, occasioned by indiscriminate trees felling,” Adewale said.
Meanwhile, some housewives in Ibadan have expressed their grouse over the sudden change of their husbands’ attitude toward them as a result of the rising cost of foodstuffs in the market.
Prices of foodstuffs in the markets have skyrocketed in the last few months in Oyo State and Nigeria in general.
For instance, a bag of foreign rice now cost between N27,000 and N28,000, while that of local rice cost N23,000.
Narrating her experience, Mrs Alimat Abdulkadir, said her husband, nowadays, quarrelled at home anytime she demanded money for foodstuffs.
Abdulkadir, who said her husband had been adequately performing his responsibilities before now, said that high cost of foodstuffs in the markets was responsible for his change of attitude.
“He would shout and quarrel with me anytime I ask for money for foodstuffs.
“He always complain of spending all his earnings in buying foodstuffs and because of that, he is not always happy whenever I request for money for foodstuffs,” she said.
Abdulkadir, therefore, called on the government to address the situation in order to save her marriage.
Another housewife, Mrs Janet Odeyale, said her husband now skip morning or night meal so that the little food in the house could be enough for the children.
“As a result of the hike in price, he has warned me to always cook little food in the house. If I go contrary to this, he will quarrel with me,” Odeyale said.
Complaining that her husband’s salary was no longer sufficient for them, she called on the government to urgently find a lasting solution to increase in prices of foodstuffs in Nigeria.
“Every kobo now goes into buying foodstuffs,” she said.
An Economist, Dr John Filani, also the Managing Director, Jalis Associates, said the rising cost of foodstuffs and cooking gas, if not addressed, would eventually compound the economic hardship facing many Nigerians.
Filani said some youths that ventured into gas businesses had started parking up due to the rising cost of cooking gas.
The economist said it would be disastrous, if such huge number of youths returned to the unemployment market.
Also, Mr Seyi Olakanmi, the Chairman, Gas Retailers Vendors Association in Egbeda Local Government area of Oyo State, decried the indiscriminate hike in the price of cooking gas.
Olakanmi said that with the situation daily becoming unbearable for most Nigerians, his members were currently experiencing low patronage.
Meanwhile, Mrs Abibat Lasisi, the Chairperson of Foodstuffs Association, Adegbayi Market, expressed sadness over what she described as a pathetic situation.
Lasisi called on both the State and Federal Governments to urgently address the food crises, saying that some of her members had closed shops due to low sales.
Cross section of housewives in Ibadan said they had opted for charcoal as another means of cooking due to hike in the price of cooking gas.
Mrs Olayemi Adeoye said she could no longer afford cooking beans with gas.
“I have opted for charcoal and firewood as alternatives to gas, because it is presently cheaper than using gas, though, health wise, it is not the best,” she said.
Another housewife, Mrs Oladunni Stephen, said that due to the rising cost of foodstuffs and cooking gas, the standard of living of many had dropped.
Stephen, therefore, implored the government to subsidise the price of gas just as petroleum.
In his reactions, a crop farmer, Mr Tayo Ojekemi, said that government needed to identify and direct their assistance packages to the real farmers and not those he called, office farmers.
“The government prefers to give loans and grants to biro or office farmers.
“Most times, the funds meant for farming are diverted to other things that are irrelevant to farming.
“When farmers are not adequately supported financially to produce enough food, there is no way the price of the little ones produced will not increase, because of the high cost of production.
“We will continue to experience more increase unless the government intervenes by giving loan/grant to real farmers and providing large land for farmers to increase food production,” he said.
Another farmer, Mr David Ogundele, said COVID-19 outbreak that caused total lockdown in 2020, thereby, leading to limited food production by farmers, contributed to the high cost.
“Other causes include lack of funds or inadequate financial assistance from the government, land topography, especially in the Southern part where we have thick forest, which does not give room for farm expansion because of the monetary involvement.
“Inadequate supply of farm inputs such as fertilsers, improved seeds and farm equipment affected us.
“Also, some farm products get wasted on the farm during harvesting and even after, since there’s no where to keep them because of lack of storage facilities.
“Also, lack of social amenities, roads, electricity, drinkable water and bad network, all contributed,” he said.
According to him, the effect of the increase can cause hunger, sickness, deaths, folding of some companies, which will in turn increase the level of unemployment and poverty in the society.
“The causes can be addressed, if everyone does his own part perfectly and adequately; let the government play its part while farmers do theirs,” he said.
Similarly, a tomato farmer, Mr Adetunji Ajani, said disturbances caused by Boko Haram, COVID-19 and banditry negatively affected farming, farmers and food production.
A consumer, Mr Isaac Olusola, said the cost of every commodity in Nigeria was on the rise.
“The inflation rate is beyond 100 per cent. Imagine how the cost of rice, beans garri, gas, electricity and bread had risen, this calls for concerns.
“The government should take drastic and impactful measures to arrest this situation. 12kg cooking gas that we used to buy around N3, 500 is now sold for N6, 200,” he said.
Also, Alhaji Ibilola Kushimo, Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Ogun Chapter, attributed the situation to the challenge of insecurity in the country.
Kushimo said that many farmers had abandoned their farms as a result of the herders/farmers’ clashes in some parts of the country, thereby, bringing productivity to a low level.
“The few farmers that are trying to farm cannot produce enough for the nation, that is why the little they produced are becoming very expensive,” he said.
Kushimo also tied the development to the increased transportation cost, a cost farmers often factor into their cost of production.
Commenting, Alhaja Riskatu Subir, a market leader at Lafenwa market in Abeokuta, complained that the price increase was becoming frustrating for traders and customers.
“Almost all the prices of food commodities have increased. Traders cannot stock their shops anymore, because these items are increasing on a daily basis and they are not financially capable to buy and stock anymore.”
Subir, who noted that the situation started in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, said it had persisted without redress.
Mr Akeem Bello, a civil servant, complained that his salary could no longer feed him and his family, because of the rising cost of food items.
Bello added that the situation had continued to force many families into hunger, noting, “an average Nigerian, who could afford to feed three times in a day, is now struggling to feed twice or less because of the rising cost of food items.”
A consumer of the Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), otherwise known as cooking gas, Adenike Adeoti, said: “I want government to help us the masses.
“We are used to cooking with gas, but with the soaring price of the commodity, it is better we return to stove. We cannot spend all our income on purchasing gas.”
The Secretary, Liquified Petroleum Gas Retailers, Mr Samuel Obasanjo, ascribed the increasing price of cooking gas to the cost of transportation, its high demand and the unstable exchange rate.
Obasanjo appealed to the government to consider a review of the policy on LPG.
“People are now getting used to gas, because it is easy and quick to cook with.
“So, it is the duty of the government to do the needful in ensuring that it is made available in large quantity to force the price down,” he said.