By Bala Ibrahim.
Few weeks ago, an old classmate of mine in secondary school, whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in a long time, who had retired from the state civil service after reaching the peak position of service, in a state that is adjoining Kano, sent a text to me via the messenger, viz:
“Ya Nigeria? FGN saying no intention to increase prices of petroleum products but diesel is now #360 per litre. It appears as if they have now lost connection with what is true in our mkts. Govts at various levels banned felling of trees, a measure which is good with the promise in providing alternatives, such as cooking gas and efficient stoves. Kerosene is now #1800 per gallon if u see it. I ‘ve not seen any write up from you on this. People are concerned with prices of food items, though important, but diesel is also important, because it is a means of transporting the food items, pls”.
Almost a week later, came a WhatsApp message from another course mate of mine, but a non Nigerian resident in Lagos, and it reads:
“Hello Mr.Ibrahim. Where are you? Kano, Abuja or London? Have you gone to collect your certificate? I trust you have. As for me, I haven’t and I doubt if I can be able to travel out in the near future. My choice of coming to work in Nigeria is fast turning into a big mistake. The cost of living in your country is daily becoming a nightmare. Inflation is not only eating up savings, but gradually making some of us loose confidence in Jesus, who says He saves. At least He is not doing so on my salary in Nigeria. This is the only country in the world that I know, where the price of a plate of food changes actually while you are eating it. My friends and I went to a bukka yesterday to eat my favorite Nigerian delicacy, rice, plantain and stew. As usual, I finished the plantain before the rice and quickly ordered another portion to go with the remaining rice. To my surprise, the waiter brought four pieces of plantain, as against the six pieces she gave me the first time. I called at her immediately and queried in bewilderment, about the shortfall. She said the portion has now changed from six to four, on the instruction of her mom, who has just returned from the market, where the price of plantain has shot up. If you want six pieces, you have to pay more, she said. My brother, this your country na wah”
Yesterday, another friend of mine from the East, also sent a WhatsApp message thus:
“Elder brother, I honestly don’t know how it is for you, and my brothers up North. Down here, people are desperately hungry and suffering. Prices for food and commodities, even those locally produced are astronomically high, getting far out of the reach to 98% of the population. Nigerians will soon embark on dangerous hunger security strikes all across the nation, just to stay alive.”
On the prompting of this friend, I decided to write this article, with the hope of drawing the attention of Mr. President, to the fraud called Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (ACGSF). Last year, in a widely publicized briefing, the Central Bank of Nigeria boasted that it had guaranteed a total of N122.6 billion loans under the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (ACGSF) as at the end of 2020.
N122.6 billion? Where is the effect of such intervention, if restaurants would be changing the price of locally produced plantain while the customer is on the table? This is more than inflation.
According to the CBN, the strategy was put in place with the aim of repackaging and repositioning the scheme for greater effectiveness and efficiency towards re-positioning Nigeria as a self-sufficient food producer, creating millions of jobs, supplying key markets across the country and damping the effects of exchange rate movements on local prices.
The above, as far as the public is concerned, seems to be achieved only in the reverse. The agric. or farming loans have not helped in encouraging local production, or reducing the cost of locally grown food items.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at least 9.2 million people in Nigeria faced a crisis or worse levels of food insecurity between March and May this year amid armed conflicts, COVID-19’s effects and climate change. And the situation is increasingly deteriorating by the day, perhaps due to what the FAO didn’t know, the fraud called agricultural loans.
The Government must call back these fraudulently acquired loans that were given with the good intention of helping genuine farmers for national food security, but which were turned into lavish and sumptuous ventures of the beneficiaries, to the detriment of Nigeria and Nigerians. Those who diverted or misused the loans must also be brought to book.
Yes, as observed by my friend, any plan to recall these loans would be greeted by hostility and negative campaign from the fraudsters, but if the Government announces a plan that would either bring back the marketing boards, with stringent conditions for the enforcement of price control, the ovation that would follow, is likely to change the entire narratives of the situation, and silence those making gest of the Government by propagating the bunkum called BUHARINOMICS.
Mischief makers have since started twisting the planned gesture of the Government, to give out N5,000 transport allowance to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians, after removing the fuel subsidy. The grant is expected to target about 30 to 40 million Nigerians, for a minimum of six months and a maximum of one year, subject to the availability of resources, which would determine the number of beneficiaries.
True to character, and in total disregard to the statement of the minister of finance, that the grant would be given only subject to the availability of funds, some Nigerians have since gone to town with some humongous calculations of how BUHARINOMICS would replace N1.8Tr fuel subsidy with N2.4Tr transport allowance. This is untrue, bunkum and the illogical imagination of those good at turning an amusement into a bemusement.