Last week, the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria embarked on a strike action that led to a blockade of foodstuffs from the north to the south.
Though the Department of State Security, DSS, summoned the President of the association for questioning, the decision to prevent food from coming to the south drew the ire of many southerners.
DSS invites President, Foodstuff, Cattle Dealers Union for Questioning
At a press conference held at the Labour House, General Secretary of the Union, Ahmed Alaramma, kicked against alleged suppression of their members and task force put in place to enforce the strike action on the major roads.
Alaramma said from the report received on the strike, their task force is being intimidated by the Army, adding that they were surprised by this development because they wrote to all the security agencies, including the Army and the Presidency before the commencement of the strike.
He stated that they were invited by the DSS on Monday morning, and "our president is with the DSS presently, and as we speak, he is being questioned at the DSS headquarters."
He said: "We rejected what the Nigerian Army has done to our task force. We assure our members across the country that our strike goes on. We will never give up."
He pointed out that before a truckload of cows from Adamawa gets to its destination in the South-West, South-East or South-South, he would have spent about N250, 000 on extortion.
We're already feeling the pains - Market women
But following the blockade, traders in the Bodija International Market expressed divergent views.
While the Babaloja (Chairman) of Bodija International Market, Alhaji Ismaila Jimoh said the decision did not have any implication on them, a yam seller called Iya Sidikat, in the market said, the move has almost paralysed commercial activities in the market.
Alhaji Jimoh, who spoke with Vanguard said: "We don't feel anything here because buying and selling are still going on without any hitch. I haven't been able to get to market since I left on Saturday."
But, the yam seller said: "Everything is adversely affected in the market now. As I speak with you, it has affected the supply of yams, peppers, onions and tomatoes.
"It has affected all of us. There is no single tuber of yam in the market now. There is no pepper, no tomatoes in Bodija now. Everywhere is empty."
When Vanguard visited the market, three tubers of yams brought in from the North were sold for N3, 000 meaning a tuber cost N1,000.
Similarly, a leader in Oja Oba Market, Alhaji Hakeem Igbalaye said since the blockade, prices of food items have increased tremendously.
According to him, a kilogram of beef sold for N1,400, now sells for N2,200; a bag of onions has risen from N11,000 to N24, 000; a bag of tomatoes has risen from N5,500 to N 24,000, a bowl of beans from N450 to N700, a bowl of Garri from N370 to N400 and 5 litres of palm oil from N2,400 to N3,000.
He said the implication of the blockade would be disastrous for the common man who cannot afford the exorbitant prices of food items.
It's a wakeup call for S-West - Ekiti farmers
When contacted, Secretary of the All Farmers Association in Ekiti State, Mr. Kolawole Rotimi, described the stoppage of trucks carrying food from the North to the South as a wake-up call for the South-West.
Rotimi who prayed that the blockade would be extended, said it will make the South-West buckle up.
He said: "It is a good one in the sense that it's going to be a wake-up call to Yoruba people and make them realise that where our certificate cannot take us, food will still take us there. It's not that we were wrong to have gone to school but this will make us business-inclined, this will make us embrace farming and the business, this will make us embrace entrepreneurship on a large scale.
"So, it is not that bad in the real sense of it. I wish that that stoppage of food will continue for months so that we buckle up and the graduates in the South-West will wake up and push this farming business.
"We have been sensitizing ourselves for long. So it's a wake-up call for us to go back to the basics.
"There is nothing we cannot grow in the South-West. Onion grows here, tomato also. By the grace of God, I did tomato last year, maize, rice and so on. So it's a wake-up call that we should go back and feed ourselves. So it's a blessing in disguise and with what we are going through as per banditry, kidnapping, eventually if war breaks out, God forbid, how do you feed yourself?
"Also, this will make us embrace cattle ranching. You know, breeding a cow is not rocket science. Yoruba have been doing this during the military era, we've been taking care of cows, and we've been breeding our cattle.
"We didn't know what happened and everything fizzled out, so, now is a wake-up call. We should grow our food.
"The major market is in Lagos State, it's not for free. Nigerians in Lagos are not Hausa alone, not Yoruba alone, not Igbo alone, they are Nigerians. Lagos is filled with every tribe in Nigeria. They pay for tomatoes when they buy, they pay for onions when they buy , they pay for meat at the market, so I think this is a good one so that we can go back to the drawing board and see how we can make use of this opportunity that is a form of grace in disguise.
"We too have our strengths in the South-West."
North wants to frustrate the South - OSACA
When contacted, Chairman of the Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association, OSACA, Mr. Gbenga Obaweya said the blockade is an attempt by the North to frustrate the South.
Obaweya said: "We see it as a further manifestation of what we are fast concluding to be a concerted effort by the North to make the South perpetually dependent on them food-wise.
"The incessant attacks on farmlands and farmers seem to be a deliberate ploy to ensure that others are frustrated and thus prevent them from attaining food security and subsequent additional economic power from exportation.
"We believe that the general public will, with this blockade, pay more attention to our clarion call to them to practice homestead farming. The practice of using flower pots, empty cement bags and other containers to grow tomatoes, pepper, yams, okro, onions and others, even if they do not have soil surfaces in their compounds, must be prevalent in our towns and cities.
"We can feed ourselves. After the initial inconveniences to the general public, we will weather the storm and call their bluff.
"However, the menace of cattle and herders must stop. They should act boldly and complete the punishment, let all cattle and herders of Northern origin return to their bases and stay on the other side of the blockade."
Faulting the move, Secretary, All Farmers Association of Nigeria in Ogun State, Mr. Abiodun Ogunjimi said it was not a good development.
Ogunjimi said: "This action should be a big challenge and wake-up call to all our state governors in the South-West as well as our youths.
"Most of our governors in this part of the country only pay lip service to agriculture and this must stop. They should match their words with action. They only practise agriculture on paper and not in reality. Thank God we are about to enter the rainy season and it is never too late to do the needful. Necessary incentives that will encourage farmers and youths to venture into agriculture should be provided. The government should make Anchor Borrowers' programme and other government interventions on agriculture accessible to all and sundry.
We need an irrigation facility so that our people can farm all year round.
"The government should provide necessary security for our farmers because, with series of challenges going on in the South-West region, nobody wants to go to the farm.
"They should venture into agriculture. During the time of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he established farm settlements across the region. Each state governor in the region should activate all these farm settlements, and upgrade them with necessary modern facilities to encourage the youth to embrace agriculture."
South could also block fuel supply to the North - Afenifere
Also speaking, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, which spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin threatened that the South could also block fuel supply to the North.
He said: "This is a thoughtless protest by those who don't think. If they think they can block tomatoes from coming to the South, what if the South decides to block fuel products from going to the North, what will you do? Will you meet your power needs with cow urine?
"People should rethink, they should be mindful of what other people too can do and if they should go the same way by blocking fuel supply to the North, nobody would have it easy. Unfortunately, there is no authority in the land that can put an end to all this nonsense that is going on."
Speaking with Vanguard, the Senior Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor on Agriculture and Agric Business, Mr. Akin Olotu said the blockade "is an eye-opener to utilise opportunities the South had in agriculture."
Olotu said: "If they want to bring it, let them bring it. If they don't want to bring it, let them take it away, but nobody will beg them. It is a welcome development, it would spur our people to embrace agriculture more, particularly at the family level.
"It would also encourage the promotion of food security at the family level. That is why the government has been advocating food security at the family level."
Northerners using a multi-edge weapon against us -YCE
In his remarks, the Senior Elders Forum of Yoruba Council of Elders has called their bluffs saying the threat will not have any lasting effects on the South West but will ginger their people to go into agriculture.
The spokesperson for the Senior Elders, Dansaaki Samuel Agbede, said the advantages of the threat far outweigh the adverse effect the Northerners think it will have on the zone.
Agbede, who is a retired Colonel in the army said: "We have been crying through the governors' forum since 2019 that the governors should fast track the issue of agriculture. We have been foreseeing this type of problem for a long time and we have been encouraging our people to intensify their efforts in agriculture.
"The problem that triggered this is the murderous nature of the herders thereby making it difficult if not impossible for our people to go into agriculture. So, the sanction they are imposing is a multi-edge weapon. One, they want to make sure we don't have access to our farmlands and two, withdrawal of supply of foodstuffs so that we can be starved. They have been sensitising us because everything has advantages and disadvantages.
"It will wake us from our slumber. The immediate disadvantage is that foodstuffs are going to be very expensive in the market. But, the advantage is multifarious because our people will now wake up from their slumber and go into agriculture.
"I don't see any reason for a Yoruba man to be buying little things like pepper and tomatoes when he needs land to plant these things. When we were young, we didn't buy tomatoes and pepper because we have them in the backyard to meet our domestic needs. We buy only when we have big parties.
"Our people will now realise they have to face farming. We don't need to import tomatoes, pepper, onions and other things. These are the things we can produce."