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OPS tasks members, government on palliatives to contain COVID-19

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Lagos State Officials hand out the food relief bags to people of the Agbado and Oke-Odo LCDA community in Lagos on April 1, 2020. More than 20 million Nigerians on March 30, 2020, went into lockdown in sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest city Lagos and the capital Abuja, as the continent struggles to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Ibeabuchi Benson Ugochukwu / AFP

With over N25 billion donation so far, the Organised Private Sector (OPS) has urged government to focus on quick wins to safeguard public health and ensure security of food, lives and property in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, it charged members to prioritise needs and de-emphasize donations owing to transparency deficit in the country.

The stakeholders maintained that palliatives had become necessary, as governments globally move to secure domestic food supplies during this period.

Already, Kazakhstan, one of the world’s biggest shippers of wheat flour, has banned exports of the product alongside carrots, sugar and potatoes. Vietnam, on its part, temporarily suspended new rice exports.

Serbia has equally stopped the flow of its sunflower oil and other goods, while Russia is leaving the door open to shipment bans, opening to a weekly appraisal.

Though local manufacturers have promised to sustain production, most of the raw materials needed are largely imported, with the exception of foods produced within.

According to NBS data, imported products accounted for N233.3 billion of the total agricultural trade in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The major item, Durum Wheat (not in seeds), imported mainly from Latvia (N11.58 billion) and Canada (N11.15 billion), was also imported from Singapore and Russia at N14.9 billion and N6.78 billion.

The document added: “Wheat flour is a major source of raw materials for bread, pastries and even widely consumed noodles.

“As it is, many governments have employed extreme measures, setting curfews and limits on crowds or even on people venturing out for anything but to acquire essentials.

“Although the country is estimated to need at least N120 billion to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) have raised no less than N25.06 billion within the last few days, with others unveiling several relief materials for the epidemic.”

The association further said: “Indeed, the crash in oil prices, which has fallen by nearly two-thirds this year due largely to a Coronavirus-induced demand collapse, has seriously battered the nation’s finances, even as the world enters into another recession.”

The Ministry of Finance stated that the Federal Government had received N25,060, 700 in cash and donation as at Saturday.

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had said: “So far, the Federal Government has made giant strides in the fight, but it is clear that the private sector needs to step in and support efforts already being made. To procure all needed equipment, material and infrastructure to fight this pandemic, over N120 billion has to be raised.”


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