No Garri in Rivers

This morning, I woke up to a Twitter rant from Ngozi Ezeuduma, a football pundit based in Port Harcourt, Rivers state. She was lamenting the scarcity of staple food, Garri in Rivers state and the consequential surge in price.

Scarcity of food items, as seen in the case of Tomato, is often a result of poor harvest due to factors like unfavorable weather conditions or diseases/pests, and in some cases, inability to move the food produce from the point of supply to that of demand.

So, in most interventions (both government and private), the focus is always on the provision of infrastructure to enable easy movement, and provision of items that would engender healthier harvest either in form of fertilizer or pest control.

The situation in Rivers, according to Mrs Ngozi, is however different. The scarcity is caused by something very crucial to business but often ignored in government analysis: security. She painted a grim picture of how farmers have been unable to work on their farmlands over fear of being killed by the marauding herdsmen who feed their crops to cows. I couldn’t follow her story till the end due to work but she mentioned the ordeal of a man trapped on his farm for several hours by the killers, all because he went to ‘fry’ Garri. I am certain if the man manages to escape, he won’t return anytime soon. And he will tell his friends/colleagues. The refusal to work over lack of safety cuts supply, causes scarcity and the end result is a price hike.

In this instance, all elements the government often consider for agric to prosper seem in place. The land is fertile, there is seedling, they (the farmers) have no known problem in moving the harvest; everything is in place. But all of that have fallen short because the environment is unsafe and they cannot do business.

If we are going to be honest, the CBN and other government bodies have been doing a lot to support local, small-scale businesses through the provision of low interest loans and other support. But the success of these interventions from the government, as evident in Mrs Ngozi’s story, is tied to one thing: security.

Lagos state, in another instance, is funding viable businesses through the Employment Trust Fund it created and has placed in care of bright minds like Akin Oyebode. If I, a resident of Ikorodu, were to submit a brilliant proposal and get the required fund to do my business, I may fail in the long run — NOT because there are oversights in my plan, but because a cult war might break out in Ikorodu and I would be compelled to lock shop for months.

Insecurity is a big issue. If the government must get the most out of its business investments and perhaps attract investors as it claims at every given opportunity, then it must, in addition to the provision of infrastructure and funding, tackle the problem of insecurity in any guise.

Nyesom Wike is yet to do so and as a result, there is no Garri in Rivers.