After six days, northerners return to South for commerce

After six days, the Amalgamated Union of Food and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AFUCDN) and Northern Consensus Movement (NCM) have agreed to call off the food embargo it imposed on the South over alleged attacks on their members. 

Leadership of the unions took the decision following an extensive dialogue and deliberation with the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, at the state Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, on Wednesday. 

The groups were led by the AUFCDN president, Dr Mohammed Tahir, with former minister of aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was in attendance at the meeting. 

Dr Tahir and chairmen of the union across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other critical stakeholders had earlier met with Bello before another meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday. 

Bello confirmed this on Wednesday when, along with former aviation minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, he led the leadership of the union to the Presidential Villa to request for the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari on issues leading to the recent food blockade. 

Speaking to correspondents after a meeting with Professor Gambari, Governor Bello said the union had tabled a list of demands, which must be met to avert a recurrence. 

Bello said working with Fani-Kayode, he had been able to reach out to major stakeholders on both sides, as he insisted on the need for peace to reign. He said the union had agreed to end the food blockade but insisted that their members must be protected anywhere they are in the country. 

Bello affirmed that he had gotten the commitment from parties to sheath their swords, in order to end the hardship that has accompanied the food embargo.

The governor said: “I’ve gotten the commitment of the union to lift the ban on food and livestock transportation to the south, in order for us not to continue to have this hardship across the country.

“I’ve also gotten major commitment from people from the South not to attack people of Hausa/Fulani and the traders in the South and that the criminals among them, irrespective of tribe and religion, should be handed over to law enforcement agents.

“I’ve also gotten the commitment that their lives and properties will be protected. So, these are the messages we brought to the Chief of Staff to convey to the president.”

Bello also spoke on the demands which the traders want the president to meet, saying the “number one demand is to ensure that their goods and the lives of their members anywhere in the country are safe.

“The association demanded that its members be compensated for the loss of lives and livelihood in the South.

“All those who committed those crimes should be brought to justice, the harassment by law enforcement agencies on our federal highways be stopped, the extortion by all touts along federal highways, especially from north-east or from the north to South-south and South-east, particularly, be stopped.

Also speaking, Fani-Kayode said but for the timely intervention, the crisis which he described as a very complicated issue, would definitely have snowballed into a major crisis in the country.

He described the intervention of Governor Bello and his team as “more or less like a miracle,” as they acted within 72 hours leading to a positive resolution.

Addressing journalists after the meeting in Abuja, Tahir commended Governor Bello for wading into the crisis and for ensuring that it was amicably resolved.

He said with the development, union members will commence the movement of their produce, especially vegetables and other foodstuffs to the southern parts of the country.

Daily Trust had, on Wednesday, reported that tomatoes and onions had flooded markets in the North, such that they were being sold at giveaway prices. The strike by the union had resulted in a serious tomato glut in the harvest season for the produce and instead of the farmers counting gains, they are counting losses. To cut their losses, many tomato farmers prefer to allow the tomatoes to rot on their farms rather than expend resources to package and transport them to the southern part of the country.

Also, many tomato farmers had abandoned their farms and resorted to calling on government to intervene and save the farmers from incurring heavy losses. One of the onion marketers at Kano market was quoted as stating that 20 truckloads of onions used to depart the market to various parts of the country daily but with recent development, only three truckloads had left the market since Thursday.

A big sack of onions that was selling for N35,000 a few weeks ago and N10,000 just before the strike, now sells for N7,000. During the period, southerners too had to pay more for tomatoes, onions and beef, as the commodities became scarce.

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