The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, on Thursday inaugurated a seven-man Joint Technical Task Team on the Emergency Response to COVID-19 on challenges of movement of food and agricultural inputs in the country. Odumosu said during inauguration at the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters in Ikeja, that the team was initiated to facilitate free movement of agricultural products across the country by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Supreme learnt that Odumosu is a member, representing the Nigeria Police Force.
Odumosu said other members of the team include Dr Femi Oke, Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Lagos State as member; and Muhammad Waksha, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, member.
He said Dr Qasim Akinreti, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos State, member; and Mrs Olayinka Akeredolu, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Secretary, were also in the team.
The police commissioner named the remaining as Mr Jimoh Buhari, National Union of Road Transport Workers, member; and Mr Kayode Odunowo, Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), member.
He said that there had been some concerns by members of the agricultural sector that they had avoidable delays along the line, mostly from the security agencies. The CP listed the terms of reference to include: “Working with relevant agencies in the states and local government areas. “This is to develop a window that would facilitate free and unhindered movement of food, livestock and other agricultural inputs without compromising the security and health of the nation; “To issue out clear instructions to all the security personnel in the three internal security outfits of Police, Civil Defence and the Army on the need to allow the free and unhindered movement of foodstuff, livestock and agricultural inputs to all parts of Nigeria. “To work with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to adequately educate its members in ensuring that vehicles conveying foodstuffs, livestock and agricultural inputs, excluding passengers, are allowed to pass. “To ensure that adequate information clarifying the controlled movement of foodstuff, livestock and agricultural inputs is disseminated by the media to food transporters and security personnel.” Odumosu said agricultural products and produce are perishables that must not be allowed to waste in order to boost food security during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As you know, agricultural products have life span, and at the border of each state, we have health personnel checking the status of the produce before they would be allowed into any other state.
“At the federal level, the team was inaugurated by the Minister of Agriculture and directed that each state of the country should have its own committee.
“A committee similar to a task force team that will enhance the free movement of agricultural products within the state; both intra and inter state.
“The team comprises some stakeholders — the Police, NSCDC, NUJ, All farmers Association and NURTW, who are in charge of the drivers.
Others are Federal Ministry of Agriculture and NARTO, who are in charge of the trucks for transporting the food items.
“The essence of having the transport unions is to sensitise the drivers not to put half farm produce and half human beings in their truck, as we have it in most cases and usually cause problems,” he said.
Also speaking, Mrs Olayinka Akeredolu, State Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Oko-Oba, Lagos, said the joint team was the initiative of the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanunu.
Akeredolu said the minister directed that there should be a team that would oversee and ensure the free flow of agricultural product and produce.
“We are in the farming season now whereby there are a lot of activities going on in the farms.
“This is the time when farmers need inputs, agricultural chemicals and many other things on the farms and they need easy movement to the farms.
“Agriculture is time bound, there are some activities that should take place at a certain period of time and we don’t want a situation whereby farming activities will not be able to go on smoothly.
“Also, many agricultural products are perishable, within a few hours they can get spoilt and we don’t want a situation whereby agricultural produce that are coming from the farms will stay hours at the check points and will go rotten.
“When the farm produce go rotten, the farmers will not have value for efforts, they don’t have money and they will not be willing to do more in the next farming season,” she said.
Dr Femi Oke, a member of the task team, lauded the federal government for setting up the committee.
Oke said farmers were very happy with the team as it would facilitate free flow of farm produce and products during the COVID-19 pandemic.