By; Bala B. Bitrus, Minna.
Some miscreants and jobbers masquerading as prodigies of government have been molesting traders mostly from south south and south east who come to markets in parts of Niger state to buy foodstuff in large quantities.
But Niger state government on Thursday exonerated itself from such busybody people and warned that it has not commissioned anybody to monitor sales of foodstuff in markets nor asked anyone to stop bulk purchases of any food or cash crops at any market.
Reacting to the development, the state government denied allegations that it had commissioned some thugs to harass and stop traders who come from other parts of the country to buy foodstuff in bulk and transport them to their states for resale.
The clarification by the state government is coming on the heels of claims by some traders who said they were molested by persons who claimed they were acting on the orders from some authorities to confiscate trailer loaded with grains, yams and other foodstuff on transit to other parts of the country.Though no such individuals has been nabbed, the government said such faceless individuals who constituted themselves into such illegal taskforce, were on their own and risk arrest if apprehended.
Reports emerged during the week that some misguided elements masquerading as appointed government agents have been visiting major markets especially within Minna, the state capital and were extorting monies from traders buying foodstuff in bulk for their homestates in other parts of Nigeria.Some concerned sellers and buyers alleged that one of the groups which claims to have been engaged by the leadership of the Chanchaga Local Government council, is reported to have been using coersive means to extort money from hapless traders and harassed traders at the popular old and new Gwadabe markets by forcing them to part with their monies.
The development led to outcries by mostly Igbo traders and buyers who sought the intervention of the Eze Igbo of Minna and subsequently the Emir of Minna who waded in and saved the latest victims from losing their monies to the hoodlums.
The state’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Kabiru Abbas along with his counterpart for Information, Tourism and Culture, Mr. Jonathan Vatsa insisted that nobody was commissioned by the state government to control sales of foodstuff to traders from the southern or eastern parts of the country.Speaking during a media briefing at the Government House, the duo said the state government had no hand in the matter. They however hinted that the Government has obtained a credit facility worth 2.5 Billion naira to buy excess foodstuff from farmers to stock them for resale at off-season.
“But at no time was anybody or group mandated to stop or confiscate goods from traders coming from the south or anywhere else to buy foodstuff from our people” the Commissioner said.The Commissioners warned that anybody apprehended for molesting, intimidating or extorting monies from traders would be dealt with accordingly.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development said the state government was leveraging on federal government’s intervention on fertilizer sales to procure about 30,000 metric tonnes of the farm inputs which would be resold to genuine farmers at subsidized price of N5,000 per bag.