By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Federal Government, Sunday disclosed receiving 3.399 metric tonnes of cereal from the Economic Commission of West Africa States (ECOWAS) in conjunction with its donors and financial partners as humanitarian assistance to support vulnerable populations in mitigating the effect of Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
This was made known in a statement signed by the Director, Information, Theodore Ogaziechi, in which the donation was received by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, at the handing over ceremony at the Grain Depot in Hotoro, Kano State.
Shehuri who appreciated ECOWAS, developmental partners and Kano State Government for their contribution and support towards averting food crisis in Nigeria and West Africa in general assured that the donation would be distributed to vulnerable Nigerians in order to help reduce hardship COVID-19 pandemic has brought on the people, especially less privileged Nigerians.
He said: “Nigeria has taken notice of this kind gesture by ECOWAS. Be rest assured that the 3,999 MT of cereals will be distributed to vulnerable populations affected by the negative impact of COVID-19, terrorism, inter-community conflicts, and drought.”
“The Federal Government through the Ministry recently released 70,000 MT of assorted grains from its strategic grains reserves to cushion the effect of COVID- 19 Pandemic’’.
According to the Minister in order to address the incessant worrying food crisis in the West African Sub-region especially the Sahel, the Heads of Government of ECOWAS member states decided to set up Regional Food Security Reserve (RFSR) Programme.
“This necessitated the signing of Contract Agreement between ECOWAS and the Ministry’s Department of Food & Strategic Reserve on 7th July 2017.
“This includes keeping a substantial quantity of food in her Food Reserve that can be used for interventions in case of emergencies and to boost food security within the ECOWAS member States.
“The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria loaned 5,000MT of assorted grains from ECOWAS Stock which was agreed to be paid back on grain for grain basis.
“Modalities had been put in place to replace the ECOWAS Stock before the advent of COVID-19 pandemic. That notwithstanding, I can assure you that the stock will be replaced in due course.”
Also speaking was the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mrs Sadiya Umar Farouq, also promised that the food items will be distributed equitably to the beneficiaries.
“The food items provided by the ECOWAS Commission will reach the most vulnerable in our society, which will work towards mitigating the risk of food insecurity at this critical time”, Farouq said.
According to the statement, the Minister acknowledged the critical role played by the Minister and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in facilitating the delivery of the food items.
In a goodwill message, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubariu Dada, appreciated the ECOWAS Commission for its programme towards mitigating the impact of the pandemic in the sub-region pledged support of the Federal Government of Nigeria towards the programmes of the ECOWAS Commission.
Meanwhile, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Water Resources and Environment, Sangare Sekou, said, “In compliance with the management rules adopted by the Member States, food from the Regional Food Security Reserve alongside with national governments efforts, Countries with larger populations that are most stricken by food insecurity are ones chosen to receive food donation.”
Sekou also added that the donations were targeted at the most vulnerable populations living in Burkina Faso, the Republic of Niger, Mali, and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, mostly in the Northern Region. He lauded the European Union, French Development Agency, among others for technical and financial assistance provided currently to ECOWAS.