Nigeria’s president, Mohammadu Buhari, is giving the nation’s citizens more ulcers and raising their blood pressures. No, this has nothing to do with the daily endorsed killing,banditry and kidnapping.( Those are still continuing)This time, he has gone for their stomachs. News came via one his media spin doctors that the Central Bank won’t be allowed to give foreign exchange to importers of food. Reason? Nigeria has enough food.
Last month, a cousin who travelled to the village wanted to buy snails but was surprised at the high price. The traders told him that people are afraid to hunt snails at night because of Fulani herdsmen. Other crop yields are affected. Even as the government said that Nigeria was self-sufficient in food production,it is difficult to imagine that even the spokesman believes him.
“President Muhammadu Buhari … disclosed that he has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food into the country,” the statement said on Teusday.
“Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country,” Buhari was quoted as saying.That the move was because of the “steady improvement in agricultural production, and attainment of full food security”.
“The foreign reserve will be conserved and utilised strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food import bills,” the statement added.
Al Jazeera wrote that :
“Tuesday’s statement prompted many observers to point to the central bank’s status as an independent body”
According to Kingsley Moghalu ,who served as a deputy governor of the bank ,2009-2014“The Central Bank Act of 2007 makes it clear that the bank is independent. It is not supposed to be taking direct instructions from politicians”.
Mr Buhari and the interests he serves like to govern by fiats as he gives orders without recourse to due process and the law.
“The trajectory in this administration is that we have seen a very clear tendency for the president to direct people. Increasingly Nigeria’s institutions have lost independence,” said Mr Moghalu who was also a candidate in February’s elections.
Of course Mr Buhari is lying about food security. Local farming in rice and beans, two essentials, for example, is hopelessly inadequate to cope with consumption levels.Beans come into the country from Togo, Niger and Benin republic.
As for rice, here is a report by Bloomberg on November 14,2018.
Nigeria’s rice imports will jump 13 percent next year to 3.4 million metric tons, making Africa’s most populous country the world’s biggest rice importer after China, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“China and Nigeria are projected to remain the largest rice importing countries in 2019, followed by the EU, Cote d’Ivoire, and Iran,” the USDA said in its latest Rice Outlook released Tuesday. “Nigeria and Egypt are projected to account for the bulk of the 2019 import increase.”
Last year, Audu Ogbe, who was minister for Agriculture at the time, said that his government had put Thailand out of business. “Because Nigeria no longer imports rice ( a lie of course) ,Thailand is suffering”. Mr Ogbe got the attention of the Thai government that forced him to change his statement.
What really happens is that the government build pyramids with wood and pad them with imported and re-branded bags of rice. Kogi state governor,Yahaya Bello, for instance, buys pepper and tomatoes each time he “commissions” Kogi Tomato paste factory which exists, like so many things Nigeria, only in name.
If all the rice grown in Nigeria is cooked in one weekend in Lagos (pop: 20 million) there won’t be a seed left for replanting.
And, pray, tell, how can Nigeria be food secure when Mr Buhari’s kinsmen try to take the farmlands for their cattle, killing and sacking those who resist. The food belt of Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states, to name just those, are under siege by herdsmen. Farmers are housed in IDPs in ghastly conditions. Their farms,wastelands devastated by cattle.
Beyond insecurity,there is the problem of storage. Electricity is a plague in Nigeria and what farmer produce must be consumed immediately. Fruit, vegetables and allied crops even go bad before they reach the market.
The story is that Mr Buhari intends to diversify the economy and agriculture is one of his targets. For 4 years, he has done the opposite. The nation has continued to waste vast sums of dollars looking for crude oil in the North. This has gone on for decades and most people know that it is just another financial drain-pipe for NNPC which is filled with Mr Buhari’s people.
Another truth though ,is that Nigeria is very broke. Mr Buhari’s government has borrowed too much money and spends as high as 70%of what it earns to service those debts. And with oil at $56-$60 per barrel minus a production cost of $29-$31 per barrel, it is easy to imagine why the nation’s economy is nearing life support.
To compound the problem, Nigeria must import almost all its refined oil needs. Petrol, for instance.
I hear that the latest mistake is to avoid a second recession but the reality is that Nigeria is in a situation far worse than a recession: income levels are woefully low and prices are high!
Because hunger is a basic instinct, Mr Buhari’s ban on food imports will only aggravate the pains of Nigerians. A ban on rice importation 4 years ago only led to smuggling and extortionate prices for the hundreds of variants that still flood Nigeria’s markets. Indians and Chinese will also find ways to bring into the country expired tomato pastes and related products.
Finally, one of the reasons that foreign investors don’t like this government is a notoriety for not honouring agreements. Nigeria has just signed on to the Africa Free Trade Agreement. Last year, Mr Buhari also signed some agreements with Donald Trump the bulk of which has to do with America’s export of agricultural goods to Nigeria. And in case Mr Buhari has forgotten, Trump is holding on to Nigeria’s $500 million. Remember those 12 Tuscano jets?
Those who watch Nigeria are not shocked. Mr Buhari told a delegation that paid him a visit after the election that his second term will be ” tougher”.Looks like the civilian dictator is keeping his words for the first time.