Federated Foodstuff Dealers Association of Nigeria has warned of a looming food scarcity if the activities of ‘official and unofficial touts’ along Nigerian roads are not checked by appropriate authorities.
The National President of FFEDAN, Prince Christian Afiaunwu, told newsmen in Enugu on Sunday that the association would stop its members from evacuating food and farm produce nationwide.
Afiaunwu said that the move had become necessary in order to draw Federal Government’s attention to touts blocking its members and extorting monies from them; as well as threatening their lives on Federal Highways.
He noted that association had already announced its decision to cut the evacuation of all farm produce and other food items from Benue until issues of illegal levies and harassment of members by touts in the state were settled.
He said: “In Benue State, the kind of levies imposed on our members is so much that we cannot bear it any longer.
“In 2013, we had an understanding with the state government that the amount we have to pay as levy for a lorry load of goods is N17, 500.
“It was also agreed that this money should be paid at the point of loading the goods.
“Unfortunately since 2015, this agreement was flouted and now even if you buy the goods from another state, you must pay N62,500 once you get to the first boundary in the state.”
Afiaunwu recalled that series of complaints from the association caused the Federal Government to mandate all states to build a functional control post where veterinary and other checks are carried out.
He, however, regretted that in Benue, there were more than 40 official and unofficial points where levies are collected.
He said: “Every village has theirs and once they are on the road you have no option than to comply or they will rob and assault you and at the end you spend over N200, 000 in that state alone.
“Lots of our members have lost their lives to these hoodlums while others have been amputated.
“Chibuike Okafor, a FFEDAN member from Owerri, now has one leg because they drew him down from the lorry and his leg was crushed as he tried to get up.
The FFEDAN helms man also accused some Benue State Government officials of being the brains behind these ‘ungodly and illegal activities of touts in every inch of the roads in the state.
He said: “We discovered that most government officials are the people producing those fake receipts and send these boys to the road to make money for them illegally.
“Several times we have written to the governor, state assembly, Benue Board of Internal Revenue, the police but they have failed to take any action.
“At a point we got police from Force Headquarters but the boys attacked the policemen and destroyed their vehicles and until today nothing happened.
“We are calling on the Federal Government to intervene because it is not our wish that the people, especially innocent Nigerians, should suffer hunger and starvation.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Benue state, apart from being the food basket of the country, is also a major transit state between the north and south-East, South-South as well as South-West regions of the country.