• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Governor Uzodinma should declare state of emergency on food to avert disaster in Imo – OCCIMA President


Anthony Amadi is the president of the Owerri Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (OCCIMA). In this interview with Saby Elemba, he and Chibuikem Adiele Ugory, the vice president (Agric, environment and sustainable development) in the presence of other executive members of OCCIMA, spoke on the need for the state governor, Hope Uzodinma to declare a state of emergency on the food sector of Imo State. He also touched on other important issues bordering on the economy of the state, Excerpts:

In the development of Imo State, which sector would you say could get first the priority attention for development or should the sectors be developed at the same time?

Let’s start the development of the South East and South-South by improving the railway transportation system because if there is improvement on the rail transportation system from Port Harcourt to Benue State to Aba in Abia State, it will help to decongest the roads in the South East and South-South regions.

The President should also bring down the rising cost of food items and other things in the country but most especially, the rising cost of foods. He should as a matter of necessity bring down the cost of transportation automatically. Now, look at high cost of transporting food items from the point of manufacturing to the point of sale. For example, if I am producing garri in the village and wants to carry it to the town for sale, the cost of transporting it will be very humongous by road. But if the rail system is developed, I can use it and the cost may not be the same as when I am using the road transportation. The cost of transportation has a very big effect on goods.

Now, look at the cost of cement. If I am a landlord and I am not a farmer, or a trader and the only way I get money is from the rent paid to me, it means that I have to increase the rent paid to me.

If anybody is saying anything against the increase in the rent, I will say that I have no other source of livelihood and I have no other option. The high cost of building materials has a ripple effect on other things.

We challenge the Federal Government on intervention. The Federal Government should liaise with Lafarge, Dangote Cement Company and other cement companies to compel them to get the prices of cement down and is going to be sustainable.

What is the position of OCCIMA on the skyrocketing prices of foods as well as its position on agriculture as a critical sector in Imo State?

First, government should declare a state of emergence on the agricultural sector in Imo State. The state government should stop trucks loading with foods and agricultural produce to other countries for the next five to six months because of the adverse effects food exportations have on the country. There is a disaster waiting to happen which will be caused by hunger in the state and the country in general. That food insecurity is already a very big problem in the country. Food scarcity creates insecurity generally because a hungry man is an angry man.

What can the Imo State government do to avert this imminent disaster or danger?

We are calling on the Imo State government to declare with immediate effect a state of emergency on the food sector. It is a must as a matter of policy. In fact, it will encourage more youths, and more people to move into agriculture.

The government should find a way to subsidise farm inputs, seedlings, including yams, cassava cuttings, even fertilisers so that these people can produce at a lower cost. It may also help them to sell at a lower cost. In fact, in every simple economy, you have the public and private sector, the government cannot do it alone. That is why the Imo State government should enter into agreement with us, the members of the organised private sector. The government should partner with us to restructure, develop the economy, and attract new development to the state. But we will need to offer an alternative recommendation. To inform the state government to have a handshake extended to the organised private sector in the area of policy formulation, policy implementation, these are the critical issues to drive economic growth. The government can see things in a particular prism while we in the private sector will see it in a different prism. When we merge these two parties together, the private and the public sectors, we can have intellectual discourse on policy formulation that will positively impact on the economy of the state. We are calling on the state government to bring in the private sector and help it in sectoral reforms. Integrate the private sector in policy formulation and reforms.

Can that help to boost the agricultural sector?

We are here in Imo State, we can create a booster in Imo State. For instance, in 2009, when Yar’ Adua, the former president, discovered that the cost of rice was on the rise, he imported tonnes and tonnes of rice from China and that crashed the cost of rice but it was an interim measure. But this time, we know that the Federal Government is against importation but for now, there is hunger in the land. We need to feed the people while the government will focus on medium to long term interventionist efforts in respect of agriculture. When they declare a state of emergency on the food sector, we can tell them, go this way, because it is the proper way or go to the other way. There are policies we have and will submit to the government which can be implemented for the agricultural sector.

Is OCCIMA not worried by the state of the energy sector in Imo State?

On the area of energy, that’s power, we are all in the system. For instance, we have the tourism sector in Imo State and these are all hoteliers. How can a company that is always on diesel because public power supply is 100 percent not available and you need to run your generator, survive and make profit? How can you break even? More companies are shutting down and some relocating to other places. So, we are calling on the Imo State government to explore ways and means of how they can adopt renewable energy as a means of reducing the load of the national grid. If we have about 100 firms in the hotel sector or the manufacturing sector that are using solar technology, they are releasing the load to other critical sectors. This is a very simple arithmetic which we are suggesting to the state government. If they are ready to invite us, we can go to discuss other policy interventions.