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Citizens Groan As Rice Hits N77,000 Per Bag

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This is not the best of times for Nigerian families, who have had to adopt bizarre cost-cutting measures to cope with the recent hardship occasioned by the dramatic hike in the prices of goods and services.

Several of them lamented that their income could no longer take care of their daily needs, adding that the prices of staples had almost tripled in the market. Rice, which is arguably one of the commonest consumed staples in the country, has risen to N77,000 per bag.

In December, the National Bureau of Statistics stated that the country’s inflation rate hit a 27-year high as headline inflation rose to 28.9 per cent.

The December headline inflation rate showed an increase of 0.72 percent when compared to the previous month’s rate.

In recent years, food prices have been on the rise across Nigeria. The situation deteriorated due to the impact of government policies such as the removal of subsidy on petrol and the free fall of the naira in the foreign exchange market.

Foodstuffs sellers in major cities, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH, lamented that the cost of a bag of rice had risen almost 200 per cent.

Sunday PUNCH gathered that long grain rice, which used to sell for between N45,000 and N50,000 in November, now costs over N70,000, putting a huge pressure on the consumers.

The unprecedented increase in the prices of commodities has caused nationwide hardship, with residents of some major cities taking to the streets to register their displeasure.

From Kano to Niger, Rivers to and Osun, residents protested the hardship on the streets.

In Niger State, for instance, residents of Suleja took to the street last Wednesday to register their displeasure over the high cost of living in the country.

Wednesday’s protest came two days after a similar protest in Minna, the state capital.

The Organised Labour on Friday insisted on embarking on an industrial action to register its displeasure over the current economic hardship in the country.

Although the Federal Government has ordered the distribution of grains and other items to cushion the effects of the economic crisis across the country, citizens are still grappling with the hike in the prices of commodities.

Lagos residents lament

In Lagos, some residents, who spoke to one of our correspondents, lamented that the incessant increase in the prices of foodstuffs had strained their finances.

This is as they urged the government to intervene before things got out of hand.

A mother of two, Mrs Mede Orunmade, said this present situation had made life unbearable for her and her family.

Orunmade stated that it was as though the country was at war, adding that the hike in the prices of foodstuffs was continuous.

She said, “It has been a hard time for me and my family. The country hasn’t been in the right position for the past eight months. I have been struggling with my family to clear up our electricity bills. Coupled with the ever-rising price of foodstuffs, I don’t know if I am going to survive.

“I used to operate an online business but it has packed up. There’s no gain on any business in Nigeria like before anymore. I am just striving to survive.

“The surprising thing is that a small carton of noodles is now N7,000 to N7,800. We used to buy it for between N1,900 and N2,000 in the past. It is so shocking that the price of a bag of rice continues to change almost every minute.

“A bag of rice five months ago was around N49,000, but it increased to N68,000. As of yesterday (Thursday), my supplier said it had risen to N70,000. The cheapest thing we used to buy before, garri, is now N2,500 for a paint bucket. It was N800 before.”

Another Lagos resident and father of four, Mr Taiwo Babatunde, said he could no longer afford to feed his family like he used to.

He asked the government to come to her aid, as her suffering was becoming too much.

A housewife simply identified as Wunmi said, “The government needs to come to our aid now as everything is very hard. A bag of beans is now N65,000, which is three times the price it used to be. Also, groundnut oil is now N8,400 for four litres, and a bag of rice is now N70,000.

“This is getting too much. We hope the government will come to help us.”

Further findings by our correspondents revealed that a kilogramme of Semovita, which sold for N800 four months ago, now sells for N1,200.

The price of beans also increased from around N1,500 to N4,200 per tin.

Some women, who spoke to one of our correspondents at the Ibafo Market, Ogun State, lamented the difficulties they were facing in purchasing items from the market with little resources.

A trader, Mrs Bamise Olaiya, said, “The prices of the foodstuffs are just annoying. I came to the market with N8,000 to buy some food items but the prices have changed between last week and now. Just last week, I bought three portions of tomatoes for N1,200 and pepper for N1,000, but today I have spent N4,200 for the same items. Pepper grinding has also increased from N200 to N300.”

Businesses struggling – Traders

Entrepreneurs across various sectors are feeling the pinch as they struggle to navigate through the challenging times.

A skincare consultant, Mr Damilola Olasunkanmi, said the current economic situation had almost put her out of business.

“I don’t get customers like I used to. My customers are cutting down on skincare purchases to prioritise other essentials like food and transportation, and that is affecting sales significantly. Restocking has become a daunting task as costs continue to soar,” he said.

Similarly, a dental therapist managing a private clinic in Iwo, Osun State, Dr Oluwafemi Ogunsakin, noted that the surge in the cost of his services had deterred patients from seeking dental care.

A foodstuffs retailer, Mrs Ore Ilerioluwa, lamented that the increase in prices had continued to threaten the operation of her business.

She said, “I buy foodstuffs from the market wholesale and sell them in a little shop I run at home. But these daily changes in the prices of items are affecting me so much that I find it difficult to buy the items.

“Do you know that three days ago I bought a carton of spaghetti for N13,000, today I was told it was N14,000. Now, when you add to the cost of each one today, by the time you return, the prices will have gone up again.

“So, you will be forced to add more money. A bag of beans is now N120,000, whereas it was N70,000 before. People are going for anything cheap now. Many families are hungry.”

Another foodstuffs seller at the Magboro Market in the Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area, Ogun State, Sukurat Akanni, complained that prices of many items had doubled.

Another trader, Adeola Israel, noted that a bag of brown beans had increased to N62,000, while a paint rubber now costs N6,200.

She lamented that she no longer made as much sales as she used to in the past.

Govt concerned – A’Ibom

The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Umo Eno, said that his administration had concluded plans to establish a bulk purchase agency to regulate prices of foodstuffs and bring them within the reach of the citizens.

The governor announced this on Friday during the Nigerian Unity Conference 2024 tagged, ‘That We May be One’, organised by the 10th Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, at the Ibom Hall, Uyo.

The governor announced this on Friday during the Nigerian Unity Conference 2024 tagged, ‘That We May be One’, organised by the 10th Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, at the Ibom Hall, Uyo.

He said that a bill to establish the agency would soon be sent to the state House of Assembly for legal backing to enable the agency to intervene and stem skyrocketing food prices in the state.

Kwara gives palliatives

The Kwara State Government delivered 10,000 bags of 10kg rice to labour unions for onward distribution to their members.

This was disclosed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, on Friday, following an engagement with Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.

In their separate remarks, the state chairmen of the Trade Union Congress, Joseph Meshach, and the Nigerian Labour Congress, Saheed Olayinka, commended the governor for his continuous efforts to provide relief to the people in the state

Anambra residents groan

Residents of Anambra State are battling with the soaring costs of food items like rice, beans, garri, palm oil, tomatoes, onions, fruits, and others in the various markets across the state.

One of our correspondents, who spoke to residents and marketers in Awka, the state capital, and Onitsha on Saturday, gathered that the high cost of items was attributed to the rise in the value of the dollar, just as the situation dampened the mood of the people and forced them to ration food.

A visit to the Relief Market in Onitsha, and the Eke-Awka Market in Awka, showed that a 50kg bag of foreign rice was sold for N72,000 as against N51,000 a month ago. A full bag of iron beans was sold for N110,000 as against N89,000 a month ago

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Hunger: FG to begin nationwide distribution of grains soon

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Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Senator Abubakar Kyari disclosed this on Monday.

Recall that on Sunday many Nigerians stormed a government warehouse and emptied it of foodstuffs.

“Dear Fellow Nigerians,” he wrote on his official X handle. “In these trying times, I extend my sincere compassion to those affected by the hardships in the country. I understand the gravity of the situation, especially with the unfortunate event of foodstuff warehouse looting.

“Amidst these challenges, I want to assure you that our commitment to your well-being remains resolute. We shall commence the distribution of 42,000 metric tons of grains, as approved by Mr. President, across the 36 states of the federation as one of the programs to be rolled out this week.

“We are working hand in hand with NEMA and the DSS to ensure that the grains get to the right people in the right packages and quantities. Furthermore, 58,500 metric tons of milled rice from mega rice millers will also be released into the market for stabilization.”

The minister who hailed the resilience of the Nigerian people, urged them to back President Bola Tinubu’s government in its quest to address the challenges facing the country.

“I acknowledge the strength of the Nigerian people, and it is this resilience that will guide us through these difficult times. Let us stand together to support Mr. President in his strive for a better Nigeria,” Kyari said.

“Our government under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is committed to addressing these challenges and working towards a more secure and prosperous future for all.”

The development is part of moves by the government to curb the hardship in the country. Since the removal of fuel subsidy and the floating of the naira, the cost of living in Nigeria has reached new highs.

There have been protests in several parts of the country as Nigerians sought the government’s attention to address the economic hardship. Several warehouses and food trucks have also been looted in some places.

But the Federal Government is calling for patience, assuring that the reforms by the Tinubu-led administration are set to yield fruit.

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Financial Crimes: Reps To Issue Warrant Of Arrest On Binance Chief Executive For Refusal To appear

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…as legal adviser say two executives were arrested by NSA
By Gloria Ikibah
The House of Representatives had said it will evoke its constitutional powers against Binance Holdings Limited and issue a warrant of arrest for its failed to appear for public hearing to respond to series of allegations of terrorism,  money laundry,  tax invasion among other financial crimes.
This was the resolution of the House Committee on Financial Crimes Chaired by Rep. Obinna Ginger, at its resumed investigative hearing on Monday in Abuja.
Naijablitznews.com recalled that a coalition of civil society organisations led by the Niger Delta Youth Council Worldwide and Empowerment for Unemployed Youths has written a petition against Binance Holdings Limited in January to investigate the firm’s activities.
The Committee had summoned the Managing Director of Binance, Richard Teng in a letter dated 12th December, 2023 and signed by its chairman, Rep. Ginger Onwusibe requesting his appearance at the hearing.
However, instead of the Management team of the Company to appear before the House Committee as required by law, a team of lawyers was sent, but were told by the committee that their representations will not be accepted.
Rather than appear before the committee Binance wrote through it’s lawyer Senator Ihenyen.
Speaking during the public hearing, in Abuja on Monday, the committee chairman, decried that the Chief Executive of Binance Holding limited, Mr Richard Teng has refused to appear before the committee after series of invitations.
Lawmaker stated that there was need to report to the larger House to evoke its constituonal powers for the arrest of Binance Executive.
Rep. Dogongaro therefore moved a motion for the committee to report to the larger house to enable it use its powers to arrest Binance Executives and make them appear before the committee.
The Chairman put it to a vote and it was unanimously adopted by committee members.
Rep. Ginger Onwusibe, while restating the resolve of the Committee to fight financial crimes maintained that, “the committee will be forced to recommend to the House to arrest Binance executive since they have failed to appear before the committee.
“As long as the committee is concerned,  Binance is not at this meeting because we have said it severally that we do not want representation by lawyers but the chief executives should appear before the committee.
“Binance is not here. We have taken a position on it in our last sitting that we are not going to entertain legal representation from Binance and that position stands.
“Based on the fact that Binance is not here, we need to make a recommendation to the House of Representatives for the House to invoke its powers of subpoena to issue a warrant for the leadership of Binance to be arrested and be brought to this Committee to answer questions of the grave allegations leveled against them in the petitions brought to us by the Empowerment for Unemployed Youths and Niger Delta youths Council.
“This Committee has resolved to recommend to the House to invoke its constituonal powers by issuing a subpoena and a warrant for Binance executives to be arrested and brought to this Committee to answer these questions relationship financing of terrorism, money laundering and other financial crimes as stated in the petition including evasion of tax.
“We thanks the petitioners for unearthing this grievous financial crimes going on in this country for more than six years now. Binance has been operating in the financial space of this country for more than six year and they have not less than 20 million Nigerians that they are exploiting.”
Earlier in his response, the legal team of Binance led by Senator Ihenyen who’s representation was rejected said Binance executives did not appear before the committee because two other executives of the organisation were arrested upon their arrival to Nigeria by the office of the National Security Adviser and still in custody.
According to him, other executives of the company which is not based in the country, were apprehensive because of two of their executives that were arrested recently and are still in custody.
He said: “Indeed we acknowledge that our client Binance was clearly given the time within it must respond to the petition as well as appear today before this committee
“Binance has been able to response to send a written responds dated 28 February 2024.
“The response to the petition attaches two annexures for purpose of fully responding to the issues and allegations raiswd by the petitioners in their written petition dated 5th December 2023.
“The second resolution was that Binance representatives must be here. We would like to plead your indulgence that the situation that Binance has been faced with particularly in the last seven days have forced a very difficult situation on it. What has happened is that two Binance executives who came into the country were arrested by another Nigerian authority specifically the National Security Adviser. And since then till date this two Binance executives are still in custody. For this reason it has been extremely difficult for the global of Binance to mobilize other executive members of the company to Nigeria because there is genuine concern about their safety and security. So this is the situation that we have been forced to contend with. This is not a show of any disrespect to this House
“We believe the responses given by our clients would to a large extent address any outstanding issues or issues raised by the petitioners. If there are any outstanding areas that Binance has to respond to either by being in Nigeria physically or by making further written correspondence, we will do our best as legal counsel in Nigeria to advice Binance to proceed accordingly subject to the discretion of this House.
When asked by Rep. Ginger if those two arrested were coming to respond to the invitation of the committee or for another invitation.
He responded” As the legal counsel to Binance, we have information that Binance was planning to have Representatives on the ground but at time these two persons were arrested, it had not been expressly communicated to us that these two persons are the delegates for that purpose.
“We are aware there are quite a number of executives spaning the region of Europe, America and Asia in the Binqnce team. It is possible that one of these persons who was arrested or none of these persons were going to be delegates to this Honourable House today.
“Following the arrest of two executive,  other persons could could not come into Nigeria because if the first if been arrested too.
“Binance has responded appropriately to the demands of the committee and as our client we are pleading that this honorable committee consider taking the report”, he added.
Naijablitznews.com reports that Binance Holdings Limited, operators of Digital Assets Exchange in Nigeria has been operating in Nigeria over 6 years allegedly without any adherence to financial regulatory frameworks and has been accused of exploiting Nigerians and committing other financial crimes.
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Oyo health professionals embark on 7-day warning strike

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By Francesca Hangeior

Health professionals under the aegis of the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) working in various health facilities owned by the Oyo state government on Monday, March 4, embarked on a 7-day warning strike.

The strike will involve laboratory scientists, physiotherapists, dental technologists, dental therapists, medical social workers, radiographers, nutritionists, dietitians, and health records and information managers in all general, state, and specialist/teaching hospitals throughout the state.

The practitioners include the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN); the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapists (NSP); the Association of Dental Technologists of Nigeria (ADTN) and the Nigerian Dental Therapists Association (NDTA).

Others are the Association of Medical Social Workers of Nigeria (AMSWON); Association of Radiographers of Nigeria (ARN); Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians (AND); Association of Health Records and Information Management Practitioners of Nigeria (AHRIMPN) and the Oyo State Association of Hospitals and Administrative Pharmacists (CSAHAP).

The workers said they decided on the warning strike due to the failure of the state government to exceed the demands which have been tabled before various government committees in over two years.

The ten-point demand put forward by the group and seeking urgent government intervention include: “Implementation of the new national hazard allowance for health professionals; implementation of teaching allowance for NUAHP members who are deeply involved in the training of interns and students on clinical and research postings; adjustment of CONHESS table for our members in the service of Oyo state as already implemented for medical doctors since 2021.”

The demands also include: “Urgent revamping and adequate funding of the state health facilities; release of promotion letters for qualified members who participated in the last promotion exercise in the state; skipping of CONHESS 10 on CONHESS salary table as applicable to Grade Level 11 (on GL Scale) as awarded by National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN); restoration of call duty allowance for dental therapists, recruitment of more health workers and professionals to include members of NUAHP to replace those who are retiring and those who left the service of the state, among other demands.

Addressing a press conference before declaring the strike at a Congress held Monday, NUAHP unit chairman, Comrade Olanrewaju Ajani, flanked by other others said the Union will no longer allow her members to be sidelined and treated as inconsequential in the scheme of things in the health sector in the state.

He said: “The Union will no longer look and allow her members to be sidelined, treated as inconsequential in the scheme of things in the health sector in the state.

“We therefore urge the government under the able leadership of Governor Seyi Makinde to urgently look into NUAHP members’ grievances.

“Our members are already pushed to the wall to have resorted to taking this step after exhausting all mechanisms to avoid a trade dispute.

“The 7-day ultimatum as indicated in our letter expired early hours of Monday, 4th March. We hereby direct all our members across all the hospitals and health facilities across the state to proceed on a 7-day warning strike from Monday 4th of March, 2024 till 11th March 2025 and if after the expiration, there is no feasible outcome, the Union will declare an indefinite strike afterwards.”

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