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Agency: food scarcity likely with massive flooding

• Buhari halts CBN forex for food, fertiliser import

The ongoing massive flooding sweeping through the country has put food security in jeopardy, the Nigeria Hydrological Service Agency (NIHSA) warned on Thursday.

It described the situation as dangerous because the flood is expected to extend beyond the 172 local government councils it earlier ravaged.

There are 774 constitutionally-recognised local government areas in the country.

Director-General of the NIHSA Clement Onyeaso Nze said on Thursday in Abuja: “The rains are finally here and the volume of flows on our rivers surge. River channels can no longer accommodate significant runoff as floodplains, which traditionally serve as the alluvial plains and are rich in agricultural productivity, lost their retention capacity to give way to flooding of adjacent lands.

“Lives are being lost, property destroyed and humans are scampering for safety. Farmlands and crop yields are being lost to the fury of floodwaters; livestock and ecosystem species are diminishing while hope for livelihood hangs in the balance due to monumental economic losses.

“The flood that ravaged Kebbi State, just about a week ago, left so much to be told. As we are aware, Kebbi State which is the highest rice producing state in the country was overrun by river flooding from the Middle Niger. The flood disaster in Kebbi State poses a serious threat to the food security of our dear nation. Indeed, it is a major setback to food security.

“Kebbi State is not alone in this. Flood has washed away several farmlands in many states in the northern part of the country. As a matter of fact, all the states of the federation have suffered several degrees of flooding since June 2020. The danger is not yet over.

“The current flood level sighted in Niamey poses a dangerous threat to our country, Nigeria, which is at the lower portion of Niger Basin, within this month of September and October.

”The effect of all these is that the communities in the states adjoining River Niger will continue to be highly inundated by river flooding as is being witnessed in recent times. The highly vulnerable states are Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Rivers, and Bayelsa.

But President Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday that but for the preventive action taken before and at the onset of COVID-19, there would have been food scarcity by now. He spoke during the National Food Security Council meeting at the State House.

The President also directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop release of forex to importers of food and fertilizers.

Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu, whose state is feeling the full weight of the flood, is the Vice Chairman of the Council, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Speaking on the “massive flood” in his state, Bagudu said they did only affect farmlands but caused loss of lives.

He added that reports from various places indicated that water levels were on a steady rise.

Governor Aminu Tambuwal called on the Federal Government to urgently desilt the Goronyo and Bakolori dams to halt perennial flooding in Sokoto State.

The villages and communities affected in Goronyo Local Government include: Balla, Kagara, Boye Kai, Giyawa, Tsohon Garin Dole among others while Gandi, Rara, Tsamiya and Yar Tsakuwa villages were also affected in Rabah Local Government Area.

Many houses, farmlands, livestock and other infrastructure were lost to the flood.

Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, however, said market operators told the Osinbajo-led Council that prices of some commodities, especially grains had dropped.

He said:” Yesterday (Wednesday), my office as the secretariat of the Council, met with agricultural commodity associations, to ascertain the causes of the recent spike in food prices so as to formulate strategies to curb the potential crisis.

“Although various concerns were raised as the causes of the increase in commodity cost, we have been informed that prices are actually on the decline as new grains have been introduced to the market.

“For example, new maize which was previously sold for N25,000 per bag is now being sold between N12,000 and N17,000.  It is expected to fall between N7,000 and N8,000 per bag by November 2020,   ”The price decline has also been experienced in millet, beans, and sorghum. The hike, therefore, is to be seen as a transient situation.”

The Food Security Council meeting was attended by six out of the seven governor-members. Some ministers and other senior government functionaries.

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