The National Economic Council, on Thursday, directed the National Emergency Management Agency to immediately distribute grains to states in the next one or two weeks to bring down the price of food items in the country.
NEC also proposed that state governments implement cash transfer programmes using state-generated social registers to mitigate the harsh economic realities since the withdrawal of petrol subsidy on May 29.
Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed disclosed this while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the NEC meeting, chaired by Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday.
Mohammed said Shettima directed NEMA to release the grains immediately, adding that states would be involved in the mechanism.
The Bauchi Governor, who expressed concern over the high prices of food items, noted that food was a key component of what was considered by the council.
He said, “The National Economic Council (NEC) discussed giving broader interventions to all the sectors and all the segments of the society.
“Food is a key component of what is on the table in terms of food security. On the escalation of prices of food stuff, we are happy because NEC has seriously engaged with NEMA, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and indeed with the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We have some buffer stock that is already there with NEMA, so council directed that the states will immediately be allocated substantial portions of food items, grains and so on for distribution so that the prices of food stuff will come down.
“These grains will be given at subsidized rates or at the rates they were acquired. The CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme and its Agric. programme have ensured a large stock of rice and other grains. These will be made available within one week so that they will be distributed to the states.”
Governor Mohammed explained that states are at liberty to give out the grains at subsidized rates, or free of charge or sell it in such a way that it would crash the prices of food items and make them affordable to the common people.
He added, “Across the sectors of the economy, public and civil servants and even farmers will benefit maximally. Again as I said, NEMA has lots of stock which it will also bring out so that this particular aspect of food security can cushion the effect of the subsidy removal on all Nigerians.
“This will be done within one or two weeks. In terms of the quantity of the grains that will be distributed, I just learnt from the acting CBN Governor that they have more than 2,52,00 metric tonnes of grains and almost equivalent number of bags of fertilizer that will be distributed within the time frame.
“As for Agriculture, everybody knows that they have the buffer stock programme where they have silos and they are all stocked with grains. They have not given out the quantity and I don’t want to be presumptuous. The same thing with NEMA because all their stores are there.”
He also disclosed that NEC had established a robust agreement that states and Local Governments would be involved in the distribution of the grains.
He added that NEMA would collaborate with the corresponding institutions in the states and Local Governments so that the grains would be distributed with ease.
He said that the council had recognised the need for transparency in the distribution of the grains, assuring that all members of the society would be involved in the exercise.
“The Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Community-Based Organisations and everybody will be involved because the states are involved and of course at the end of the day you will see that these things will reach the target,” he said.
On the implementation of the cash transfer programme, NEC said it would be based on the individual capacity and priority of various states.
This is, however, said to be different from the National Social Register, which has captured over 61million vulnerable Nigerians eligible for various government social programmes as of 2023.
Governors Charles Soludo (Anambra), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi) and acting CBN Governor, Folashodun Shonubi, disclosed this while addressing State House Correspondents after Thursday’s NEC meeting.
Governor Abiodun said states-generated register “is aimed at enhancing the integrity and reliability of the NSR and ensuring that resources go to the intended beneficiaries.”
He further explained, “We also proposed accordingly that each state should begin to plan towards implementing a cash transfer programme that will be based on their social register of the states because it is the states that are better positioned to do that enumeration to ensure the integrity of the social register.”
The NEC also proposed the implementation of a cash award policy for all public servants.
The six-month cash award policy, Abiodun said, would allow subnational entities to pay their public servants a prescribed amount of cash monthly.
“It was prescribed that it should be implemented for six months in the first instance. And you’ll be wondering why six months.
“The idea is that as much as we’re also particular about ameliorating the pains of our people immediately, a lot of sustainable measures are being put in place and it’s our hope that within now and the next six months, those sustainable measures would have begun to be visible. And then we can begin to taper down on these cash awards.
“These would be funds that will be placed in the hands of civil servants that will be tax exempt,” he explained.
On the amount to be doled out under the cash transfer programme, the Anambra State Governor, Soludo, said there would be no uniform figure as it would depend on the capacity of respective states.
He said state governments with outstanding salaries and allowances to pay must prioritise clearing the backlog instead of implementing cash transfers.
Soludo explained, “There is quite some fiscal surplus that will be coming to the states, local governments, and federal government.
“And we’ve suggested that it will be nice that you can implement cash transfers, subject to your financial capacity. Some might be able to do one; some might be able to do 10; some might be able to do 20, as the case may be. It depends on their capacity.
“There may be states that are not even able to do that now. For example, if you have a state where salary arrears workers have been owed for three years or four years, the priority now is to start paying down some of the salary arrears or where pensioners have been owed their pension and gratuity for several years.”
The council also stressed the need for all tiers of government to be responsive to the people’s sufferings and address the rising cost of governance.
They also stressed the importance of balancing investment and consumption, as well as making sustainable commitments.