Three Killed In DR Congo Over Fight For Food

DR Congo flag.

 

Three people have been killed in scuffles over food aid at a displaced persons’ camp in the troubled eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, sources said on Friday.

Local officials on Thursday brought food to Kanyarucyinya camp, a facility housing around 17,500 people near the city of Goma, but decided to distribute the aid the following morning, camp chief Theo Musekura said.

The decision angered some of the displaced people, provoking scuffles in which three people were killed, he told AFP.

Some of the displaced were shot and others trampled, Musekura added.

Two displaced people at Kanyarucyinya also confirmed that three people had been killed, explaining that police officers had opened fire in a bid to disperse the crowd.

A security official who requested anonymity said that two people had been shot dead and one trampled to death, and five wounded, he added.

Some witnesses said the scuffles broke out because people were trying to steal the food.

AFP was unable to independently confirm the death toll. Colonel Patrick Molengo, the local police administrator, did not respond to questions.

READ ALSO: Kenya Sending Troops To DR Congo To Fight Rebel Advance

Many of the camp’s residents have fled fighting between the M23 militia and the army, with rebels capturing swathes of new territory in recent weeks and displacing tens of thousands of people.

A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 first leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured Goma before being driven out.

After laying dormant for years, the group resumed fighting in late 2021, claiming that the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.

The rebels have won a string of victories against the Congolese army in North Kivu in recent weeks, dramatically increasing the territory under their control.

Their resurgence has destabilised regional relations in central Africa, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the militia.

An estimated 183,000 people have been displaced in North Kivu since October 20, according to the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA.

AFP

Food Banks Are A ‘Lifesaver’ As UK Feels Cost Of Living Crisis

A member of staff sorts through food items inside a foodbank in Hackney, north-east London on October 31, 2022. – There were dozens of people on Monday queuing outside the Foodbank in Hackney, an east London district, with a voucher allowing them to obtain a basket containing three days’ worth of food. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

 

 

“This absolutely has been a lifesaver to me,” says Michael Cox. The 51-year-old hasn’t eaten in two days and so finally resolved to visit one of Britain’s growing number of food banks providing basic items to those in need.

“I had no money. So I’ll give it a try,” said Cox who before the current cost of living crisis had never before needed to ask for help feeding himself.

Hundreds of people on Monday queued in front of the food bank in Hackney in east London armed with a coupon allowing them to collect a basket of three days’ worth of food.

Each receives a mix of goods tailored to their needs and family size, with many of the items donated by members of the public.

Rising food and energy prices in Britain have seen inflation soar.

The figure went over 10 percent in September, the highest of any G7 country, putting yet more pressure on already stretched household budgets .

“Now with the cost of living crisis, people… can’t pay their bills and buy food. They have to choose one. We are noticing more and more of that, unfortunately,” said food bank supervisor Johan Ekelund.

Sidoine Flore Feumba, a graduate nurse, who receives government benefit payments, says she could no longer afford to feed her three children and heat her home as well.

“Life now is quite difficult. I’m on a universal credit, which is not quite sufficient for my own living, because inflation is rising quite quickly.

“So I found that that the food bank was my last option to make my ends meet,” she said.

 

A member the public looks through food items inside a foodbank in Hackney, north-east London on October 31, 2022. – There were dozens of people on Monday queuing outside the Foodbank in Hackney, an east London district, with a voucher allowing them to obtain a basket containing three days’ worth of food. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

 

– Worried about winter –
Ekelund said he was worried about the arrival of the cold weather and the prospect of sky-high heating bills suddenly starting to land on people’s doormats.

“I’m really worried for this winter I think it’s going to be a horror show,” he said.

Last Saturday, the food bank in Hackney registered record numbers of people coming forward for help, with demand now roughly double that of the pre-Covid period.

A new food bank — which will open on Friday evenings and cater for those in full time work — will open in December.

The situation is something completely new, said Tanya Whitfield, Hackney food bank’s head of services.

A particular rise in the cost of basics was also making the situation even worse, she said.

“Everyone sees pasta as a cheap option, it’s no longer a cheap option,” she said.

The price of vegetable oil has gone up by 65 percent in a year while pasta is up 65 percent, two items the prices for which have risen the fastest according to experimental research published by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday.

Millions of Britons have been reduced to skipping meals, according to a recent poll by the consumer association Which?

It said half of UK households were cutting back on the number of meals they ate, citing a survey of 3,000 people.

 

A member of staff hands out food items inside a foodbank in Hackney, north-east London on October 31, 2022. – There were dozens of people on Monday queuing outside the Foodbank in Hackney, an east London district, with a voucher allowing them to obtain a basket containing three days’ worth of food. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

 

– Eating or heating –
The situation of those on benefits was precarious, with many saying they are having to choose between eating and heating.

“The number of people coming and asking for food that they don’t have to cook is ‘shocking’,” said Whitfield.

“And it’s frightening that those requests are going up every single week.”

Another consequence of the cost of living crisis is that people have less money to give to others.

“At this time of the year we’re normally quite busy with school and church harvest collections and donations,” said Whitfield.

But this year schools were preferring to skip the harvest festival collections “because so many parents are struggling and they don’t want to put that added pressure on families”, she said.

 

A member of staff sorts through food items inside a foodbank in Hackney, north-east London on October 31, 2022. – There were dozens of people on Monday queuing outside the Foodbank in Hackney, an east London district, with a voucher allowing them to obtain a basket containing three days’ worth of food. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

 

With many families who would normally donate to food banks now forced to focus on their own needs, food bank worker Andrew Wildridge said they were just hoping for the best ahead of Christmas.

“Hopefully we could get an increase in the donations,” he said, adding however that the pattern since before the pandemic was for demand to double and donations to halve.

We Need To Use Technology, Science To Mitigate Impact Of Flooding – Prof Oyelaran-Oyeyinka

A photo shows a church and other buildings submerged along the East-West highway severed by flooding, bringing to a halt the movement of vehicles and economic activities, in the Niger Delta region of Ahoada, Rivers State, southern Nigeria, on October 21, 2022. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

 

Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka says Nigeria needs to use technology to mitigate the impact of the flood on the people and to ensure they are not left to their sufferings.

“Nobody wants any of these natural disasters all over the world but we need to use technology to mitigate the impact on our people and to ensure that we don’t leave people to their sufferings,” Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, who is the Special Adviser on Industrialization to the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina said on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Monday.

He said in 2012, a similar flood was checked through the use of science and technology.

“I believe that as it happened in 2012 when Dr Adesina was Minister of Agriculture, remember we had a very severe flood in 2012 and many people were predicting apocalyptic scenarios that there is going to be a food shortage, crisis, and all of that but using technology and science at that time, the country was able to turn things around and that was when the dry season farming was started using exactly the receding flood and also to use science.

“Now as we speak, most of the time when things like this happen, there is a tendency for people to panic which is understandable, especially those who are affected but what we need to do now is to establish exactly how much of our farmlands are affected, how much of the communities are affected, how much of the crops planted that are destroyed.”

READ ALSOProduce Flood-Prevention Plan Within 90 Days, Buhari Directs Water Minister

The AfDB representative also spoke about the launch of the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ), a programme initiated by the bank.

The African Development Bank is providing funding of $210 million, with the Islamic Development Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) jointly providing $310 million, with the Nigerian government contributing $18.05 million.

The launch ceremony on Monday in the capital, Abuja kick-starts the implementation of phase one of the SAPZ program in eight states across the country.

Oyelaran-Oyeyinka acknowledged that the way state governments have responded to the flood situation may be a source of concern to investors in the agriculture sector, but he charged the leaders to do better than they are doing.

“The way society is designed is such that you have to mitigate risks, you have to put in place risk measures that will also anticipate these kinds of things. For the Special Industrial Processing loan for example, as you said if I read between the lines you are talking about the capacity of the states.

“You and I know that most developing countries like ours do not have so much capacity. As you can see in terms of the global hunger index, we are ranking extremely low. So, it speaks to the capacity of the states for service delivery, but I don’t want us to focus too much on that negativity, it’s actually very depressing that a country like ours will be featuring so low on nutritional food security. We shouldn’t have been where we are, that’s clear to me but it shouldn’t stop us also from action,” he said.

Gates Foundation Announces $100m Fund To Alleviate Food Crisis In Africa, Asia

A file photo taken at a food market. A large percentage of poor Nigerians live in the rural areas where the predominant occupation is farming.
A file photo showing traders at a food market.

 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $100m fund to help in tackling the food crisis in Africa and South Asia. 

According to a press statement by the Foundation, the organisation made the commitment at the United Nations General Assembly during the week.

It said the $100 million is “to help alleviate the food crisis disproportionately impacting communities in Africa and South Asia and address its underlying causes”.

READ ALSO: DR Congo Fuel Truck Blast Kills At Least 7

The funding, it added, will to go “the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) to support national governments in rebuilding resilient, sustainable local food systems

“The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) to make fertilizers
affordable and accessible for smallholder farmers

“The CGIAR’s Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture research center to accelerate work that is already supplying farmers with improved and new varieties of crops, such as beans high in iron; sweet potatoes naturally rich in vitamin A; and naturally hardy cassava, millet, and sorghum

Furthermore, the Gates Foundation said it will help in “working with partners to supply sustainable feed and fodder to African families that depend on livestock as a critical source of income and nutrient-dense food

“Working with partners to strengthen local food systems by empowering women
farmers with the tools and resources they need to succeed and support their
communities

“In addition, the foundation will double its previous commitment to the Child Nutrition Fund—from $10 million to $20 million. Our investment will support the fund’s expansion beyond ready-to-use therapeutic food to include preventative nutrition products for both women and children.”

Hit By Ukraine Conflict, Africa Faces ‘Unprecedented’ Crisis -UN

A file photo of a woman at a market.

 

 

Africa faces an “unprecedented” crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, particularly with soaring food and fuel prices, United Nations officials said on Friday.

The conflict and Western sanctions on Moscow are disrupting supplies of wheat, fertilizer and other goods, compounding difficulties facing Africa from climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is an unprecedented crisis for the continent”, UNDP Africa chief economist Raymond Gilpin told a press conference in Geneva.

Gilpin, who spoke by video-conference from New York, said there were risks from a widespread surge in inflation, particularly in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

“We are seeing a reduction of GDP growth on the continent, supposed to rise slightly this year after Covid,” he said.

That puts millions of households at risk across the continent — which includes a majority of the poorest countries in the world.

Economic difficulties could also exacerbate social tensions in crisis-hit parts of the continent, such as the Sahel, parts of central Africa and Horn of Africa.

“Tensions, particularly in urban area, low-income communities, could spill over and lead to violent protests and violent riots,” he said.

Countries holding elections this year and next year were particularly vulnerable.

Many African countries depend heavily on food imports and fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine, two major exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower oil. Rising oil prices from the war have also increased fuel and diesel costs.

In some African countries, up to 80 percent of wheat came from Russia and Ukraine.

“With the disruptions that now happen, you see an urgent situation materialise because where do these countries turn overnight for commodities?” said UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Africa regional director Ahunna Eziakonwa.

She said the crisis could also impact debt for many African countries with high borrow rates such as Ghana.

“There needs to be an effort by multilateral, bilateral institutions to really think about” restructuring debt, she said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said this week he was seeking talks to bring back Ukrainian and Russian agriculture and fertilizer products into world markets to help end a “three-dimensional” crisis in developing nations.

The International Monetary Fund said last month the war in Ukraine had already significantly impacted the Middle East and North Africa, warning high prices may lead to social unrest in Africa.

Prepare For Global Food Crisis, Akinwumi Adesina Tells African Govts

A file photo taken at a food market. A large percentage of poor Nigerians live in the rural areas where the predominant occupation is farming.
A file photo showing traders at a food market.

 

The President of the African Development Bank Group Akinwumi Adesina has called on African governments to prepare for a global food crisis. 

A statement from the AfDB said Adesina made the comment while speaking about Africa’s priorities as a guest at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre on Friday.

“The African Development Bank is already active in mitigating the effects of a food crisis through the African Food Crisis Response and Emergency Facility – a dedicated facility being considered by the Bank to provide African countries with the resources needed to raise local food production and procure fertilizer,” the statement quoted him as saying.

“My basic principle is that Africa should not be begging. We must solve our own challenges ourselves without depending on others…”

According to him, the Ukraine-Russia war has impacts spreading to other parts of the world.

“He said the war’s ramifications spread far beyond Ukraine to other parts of the world, including Africa. He explained that Russia and Ukraine supply 30% of global wheat exports, the price of which has surged by almost 50% globally, reaching identical levels as during the 2008 global food crisis,” the AfDB statement added.

“He added that fertilizer prices had tripled, and energy prices had increased, all fueling inflation.”

Nigeria’s Inflation Rate Hits 15.92% As Food, Gas Prices Rise

A file photo of a food trader at a market in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television
A file photo of a food trader at a market in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television

 

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measures inflation increased to 15.92 per cent on a year-on-year basis in March 2022.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) disclosed this on Friday in its latest report titled ‘Consumer Price Index March 2022’.

It explained that the percentage reported was 2.25 per cent points lower compared to the 18.17 per cent rate recorded in March last year.

This means that the headline inflation rate slowed down in March 2022 when compared to the same month in the previous year, while increases were recorded in all Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose (COICOP) divisions that yielded the Headline index.

“On month-on-month basis, the Headline Index increased to 1.74 per cent in March 2022, this is 0.11 percent points higher than the rate recorded in February 2022 (1.63 per cent),” said the report. “The percentage change in the average composite CPI for the 12 months period ending March 2022 over the average previous 12 months period is 16.54 per cent – this shows 0.19 per cent points decrease compared to 16.73 per cent recorded in February 2022.

“The Urban Inflation rate increased to 16.44 per cent year-on-year in March 2022, showing a decline of 2.32 per cent points from the rate recorded in March 2021 (18.76 per cent). In the same vein, the Rural Inflation increased to 15.42 per cent in March 2022 with a decrease of 2.18 per cent points from 17.60 per cent recorded in March 2021.

“On a month-on-month basis, the Urban Index rose to 1.76 per cent in March 2022 – this was up by 0.11 per cent points from the rate recorded in February 2022 (1.65 per cent). The Rural Index rose to 1.73 per cent in March 2022, with 0.12 per cent point increase from 1.61 per cent recorded in February 2022.”

 

Surging Food, Gas Prices

According to the NBS, the corresponding 12-month year-on-year average percentage change for the urban index was 17.10 per cent in March 2022.

It said the figure was lower than the 17.29 per cent reported in February 2022, while the corresponding rural inflation rate in March 2022 stood at 16.00 per cent compared to 16.18 per cent recorded in February 2022.

Similarly, the composite food index rose to 17.20 per cent in March 2022 compared to 22.95 per cent recorded in March the previous year.

The agency blamed the rise in the food index on increases in prices of bread and cereals, food products, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, meat, oil and fat.

“On month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased to 1.99 per cent in March 2022 – this was up by 0.12 per cent points from 1.87 per cent points recorded in February 2022.

“The average annual rate of change of the Food sub-index for the 12-month period ending March 2022 over the previous 12-month average was 19.21 per cent, 0.48 per cent points decrease from the average annual rate of change recorded in February 2022 (19.69 per cent).”

On the ‘all items less farm produce’ or core inflation, which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce, NBS said 13.91 per cent was recorded in March 2022, up by 1.24 per cent points when compared to the 12.67 per cent recorded in March 2021.

The highest increases were recorded in prices of gas, garments, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing, shoes and other footwears, clothing materials, other articles of clothing and clothing accessories, liquid fuel, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment and other services in respect of personal transport equipment.

Ukraine War Pushes World Food Prices To Record High

A file photo taken at a food market. A large percentage of poor Nigerians live in the rural areas where the predominant occupation is farming.
A file photo showing traders at a food market.

 

World food prices hit an all-time high in March following Russia’s invasion of agricultural powerhouse Ukraine, a UN agency said on Friday, adding to concerns about the risk of hunger around the world.

The disruption in export flows resulting from the February 24 invasion and international sanctions against Russia has spurred fears of a global hunger crisis, especially across the Middle East and Africa, where the knock-on effects are already playing out.

Russia and Ukraine, whose vast grain-growing regions are among the world’s main breadbaskets, account for a huge share of the globe’s exports in several major commodities, including wheat, vegetable oil, and corn.

Ukrainian ports have been blocked by a Russian blockade and there is concern about this year’s harvest as the war rages on during the spring sowing season.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Abstains To Vote In Russia’s Suspension From UN Human Rights Council

“World food commodity prices made a significant leap in March to reach their highest levels ever, as war in the Black Sea region spread shocks through markets for staple grains and vegetable oils,” the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement.

The FAO’s food price index, which had already reported a record in February, surged by 12.6 percent last month, “making a giant leap to a new highest level since its inception in 1990”, the UN agency said.

The index, a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, averaged 159.3 points in March.

The jump includes new all-time highs for vegetable oils, cereals, and meats, the FAO said, adding that prices of sugar and dairy products “also rose significantly”.

– Famine fears –
Russia and Ukraine together accounted for around 30 percent and 20 percent of global wheat and maize exports respectively, over the past three years, the FAO said.

Wheat prices rose by almost 20 percent, with the problem exacerbated by concerns over crop conditions in the United States, the organization said.

The FAO’s vegetable oil price index surged by 23.2 percent, driven by higher quotations for sunflower seed oil, of which Ukraine is the world’s leading exporter.

Spanish supermarkets have rationed the sale of sunflower oil to stop customers stockpiling over shortage fears due to the war.

The United States has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of creating “this global food crisis”.

France has warned that the war has increased the risk of famine around the world.

The FAO estimates famine in West Africa and the Sahel regions, both highly dependent on Russian and Ukrainian grains, could worsen and affect over 38 million people by June if no measures are taken.

Ukraine on Thursday called on the European Union to provide aid to its farmers. The European Commission has been asked to coordinate the delivery of fuel, seeds, fertilisers and agricultural machines to the country.

For his part, Putin warned on Tuesday that, against the backdrop of global food shortages, Russia would “have to be prudent with supplies abroad and carefully monitor such exports to countries that are clearly hostile towards us”.

FAO chief Qu Dongyu called Friday on countries not to restrict food exports, which would only worsen the situation for countries dependent imports.

“Above all, we must not shut down our global trade system, and exports should not be restricted or taxed,” he said.

The FAO also called for aid to vulnerable nations to boost planting.

“One and a half billion dollars would be sufficient for immediate agricultural assistance that would save the lives of some 50 million people by allowing the growing of food where the need is most keen,” said Rein Paulsen, head of the agency’s emergencies office, in a letter to AFP.

The conflict has also sent oil and gas prices through the roof, causing inflation to rise further across the world and raising concerns that it could derail global economic growth.

AFP

19.4m Nigerians May Face Acute Food Shortage, FAO Warns

A file photo taken at a food market. A large percentage of poor Nigerians live in the rural areas where the predominant occupation is farming.
A file photo showing traders at a food market.

 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that 19.4 million Nigerians may face an acute food shortage between June and August 2022. 

It hinged this on rising inflation and insecurity. This is according to a report by the agency in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The report analyses acute food and nutrition insecurity in the Sahel and West African region and noted that the food crisis will affect Nigerians in 21 states and FCT.

According to the report, about 14.4 million people in 21 States and FCT are already in a food crisis till May 2022.

The FAO analysis for March covered  Abia, Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Cross-River, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Lagos, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Tarba, Yobe, and Zamfara, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Moroccans Protest Against High Prices For Basic Goods


Moroccans raise placards as they gather in front of parliament in the capital Rabat to protest against rising prices, on February 20, 2022. STR / AFP

 

Protests broke out in several Moroccan cities on Sunday as people rallied against rising prices and to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of demonstrations that called for reform. 

In the capital Rabat, dozens of protesters decried the high cost of basic goods and shouted slogans harking back to the “February 20 Movement”, an AFP correspondent said.

The pro-reform and anti-corruption movement was born out of the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked the Middle East in 2011.

READ ALSO: Int’l Community Pledges $600 Million As Relief For Haiti Earthquake

A Moroccan man raises a placard as he takes part in a protest against rising prices, in front of the parliament in the capital Rabat, on February 20, 2022. STR / AFP

 

Dozens also rallied in Casablanca and Tangiers, according to videos posted on social media.

Drought has hurt the country’s economy and Moroccans are also feeling the pinch from high fuel prices.

Some 3.8 billion dirhams (over $400 million) is needed for flour subsidies alone in 2022, according to an economy ministry official.

AFP

Buhari Rues Youth Migration, Seeks Europe’s Partnership To Halt Trend

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented the mass migration of youths and is seeking partnership with European countries to halt the trend.

Buhari, who is Brussels, Belgium for the 6th EU-AFRICA, made the comment in an article published about the meeting.

“By 2050, Africa’s population of 1.3 billion is set to double, making up a quarter of the world’s total. My country, Nigeria, is set to double its population to 400 million by then, surpassing the United States to become the third-largest nation in the world.

“This means a huge youthful market right on Europe’s doorstep and — with increased trade — a growing middle class with money to spend,” Buhari said in the article published on the Politico, an online/offline magazine on Thursday.

“However, despite burgeoning possibility, irregular northward migration from my continent drains Africa’s talent pool, while provoking political crises in the EU. Despite its best efforts, Europe will not find a sustainable remedy to this problem by further reinforcing its Fortress Europe approach.

“Instead, more opportunities must be created for Africans at home, providing alternatives to the decision to take a life-threatening boat journey in order to seek them elsewhere. The relationship between the EU and Africa must be rebalanced to power job creation. Unfortunately, today’s arrangements do just the opposite.”

READ ALSO: PDP Governors Ask Buhari To Resign As Petroleum Minister

While explaining why Nigeria did not sign the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with Europe, he noted that agricultural subsidies in Europe are major blows to farmers on the continent. According to him, Africa is flooded with “artificially depreciated produce”, thus affecting competition.

“For instance, subsidy-driven surpluses of European milk are powdered and sent to Africa, decimating its dairy industry,” he said.

“It is a similar story when it comes to wheat and poultry production. Despite having the most underutilised arable land in the world, Africa remains a net food importer.”

The Nigerian leader noted that over €50 billion is pushed into markets in Europe to help them produce cheaper food. This, he explained, keeps Africa at the losing end.

“With its main export market distorted against them, African countries are deprived of foreign exchange, and investment in agriculture is stifled,” Buhari said.

PENGASSAN Raises Alarm Over High Cost Of Food, Cooking Gas

A file photo of a woman at a market.

 

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has raised an alarm over the increasing cost of food and cooking gas in the country.

In a statement jointly signed by its President – Festus Osifo, and General Secretary – Lumumba Okugbawa, the union lamented that the nation was degenerating into a land plagued with hunger.

The people’s purchasing power, according to its, has seriously worsened as the prices of food in the market have continued to rise in the last three years.

It blamed the situation on the devaluation of the naira against major currencies, displacement of farmers by bandits and terrorists, and inconsistent policies of the government, among others.

READ ALSO: NCDC Confirms Three Cases Of Omicron Variant In Nigeria

According to PENGASSAN, farmers in Benue, Plateau, Katsina, Nasarawa, and Taraba States cannot readily access their farmlands due to security threats.

On the cost of Liquified Natural Gas (LPG), commonly referred to as cooking gas, it lamented that the price of refilling a 12.5kg-cylinder has risen by almost 100 per cent.

The union believes poor families are going through harrowing experiences in their struggle to cope, even as the price of kerosene has since surged despite the unavailability of the product

It also asked the government to encourage its workers rather than making it mandatory to take the COVID-19 vaccine, adding the deregulation of the downstream oil sector must be based on domestic refining and not import-dependent.

Read the statement dated November 30, 2021, below:

PENGASSAN ON THE STATE OF NATION

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) wishes to bring to the attention of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other critical stakeholders to some of the burning issues in our national polity and the existential need for Government to put the interest of the citizens first in all its dealings.

We strongly advocate that Government must develop a strong mechanism in tracking how its macroeconomic policies, be it fiscal or monetary, affect the disposable income of individuals and households in the country.

The Association has noted and sadly so, that most of the recent macro-economic policies of the Government have further exacerbated the economic hardship faced by our members and Nigerians in general.

If this poverty induced policies are not urgently checked and correctional measures put in place, we could assure you that the little shred of hope that the citizens have in the country will fast erode and this could degenerate the already challenging security situation and grossly affect the level of governance.

Some of the prevailing issues that are affecting the general populace and require urgent attention are as follows:

  1. FORCED VACCINATION ON NIGERIANS

PENGASSAN have observed with dismay the recent directive accompanied with threats by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) that Civil Servants, specifically Federal Government Employees, would from December 1 st 2021, shall be required to present proof of vaccination or negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests, conducted within 72 hours to gain access to their offices in all locations in Nigeria and the Missions.

We consider this directive and threats as unbecoming, draconian and against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the Government pledged to always uphold. The Association has earlier admonished providers of labour to sensitise and advocate to its employees on the advantages of taking COVID-19 vaccines and not to issue threats to the workforce.

We wish to request that the undemocratic and anti-masses directives, that infringes on the right of the citizens be stopped and withdrawn with immediate effect.

  1. HIGH COST OF FOOD

The Nation is fast degenerating into a land plagued with hunger as if famine has descended on our beloved Nation. The purchasing power of the already pauperised disposable income of the citizens has greatly degenerated as the cost of food in the market has gone up astronomically in the last three years.

Whereas the astronomically increase in the cost of food, wages are at best stagnant and in some cases reduced unilaterally and drastically. This could be attributable to several factors that are not limited to the gross devaluation of the Naira against major currencies, displacement of farmers by bandits and terrorists, inconsistent policies of Government, etc.

To further exacerbate the looming dangers caused by food insecurity, farmers in states such as Benue, Plateau, Katsina, Nasarawa, and Taraba cannot readily access their farmlands due to myriads of security challenges occasioned by incompetence and lack of patriotism.

It is necessary to secure the farmers and their farmlands as aggregate food production by the local farmers is the bedrock on which the systems of our food security rest.

  1. HIGH COST OF LPG

The Association wishes to further bring to the attention of Government the hyperinflation that has greeted Liquified Natural Gas (LPG), commonly referred to as cooking gas. It is disheartening to note that the price of refilling a 12.5kg cylinder of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas) has risen by almost 100% percent over the past one year.

This is one singular product that is used by several households in the country. Currently, the cost of cooking gas has continued in steady climb from an average of 4,500 Naira at the beginning of 2021 to the current price of between 8,750 and 10,000 Naira for the popular 12.5kg cylinder.

We are worried that most middle to upper-class homes, especially in the urban areas, are feeling the pinch. The poorer families are going through harrowing experiences trying to cope, more so as the price of kerosene had long taken flight in addition to being scarce in many places. Despite Nigeria sitting on one of the largest gas reserves in the world, we still depend largely on imported gas. Up to 70 per cent of the gas we consume in the country is imported.

Some of the reasons attributable to this skyrocket increment is the devaluation of the Naira against major currencies and the introduction of a value-added tax of 7.5% on imported gas, an increase in the international price of gas, etc. We hereby call on the President to immediately abolish the VAT on gas importation, prevent further slide of the Naira, channel some of the exported gas to domestic use, and provide some form of verifiable palliatives for the lower-class citizens.

  1. DEREGULATION OF PMS

The history of deregulating the downstream oil sector through gradual or total subsidy removal has engendered intense debates between PENGASSAN, successive Governments, stakeholders, and experts in the oil and gas sector with each claiming that it will guarantee long term stability in product supply and price. And that it will lead to an advance and well-developed economic transformation in the country.

PENGASSAN as an Association and a major stakeholder in the industry do not have issues with all the advantages, they claim that deregulations will usher into the economy because we understand the workings within the industry and therefore stand in a pole position on issues that border it. While maintaining our support for the full deregulation of the sector, we however reiterate that we will only support a deregulation exercise based on domestic refining and not import-dependent.

Therefore, effort should be made to increase the pace of the current Refinery rehabilitation and support the continuous strengthening of the Naira. Conclusively, we wish to admonish the Government at all levels to quickly come together and find urgent solutions in the short and long term to the myriad of issues plaguing the Nation to reduce the difficulties faced by the citizens.

A stitch in time saves nine.

For: PETROLEUM AND NATURAL GAS SENIOR STAFF ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (PENGASSAN).

Comrade Lumumba .I. Okugbawa, MINM                              Comrade Festus Osifo

General Secretary, PENGASSAN                                                 President, PENGASSAN