The Federal Government on Friday inaugurated a seven-man Joint Technical Task Team on Emergency Response to COVID-19 to ensure unrestricted movement of agricultural produce across the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, while inaugurating the team in Abuja, said the move was part of efforts to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nanono urged the team and state governors to cooperate in the efforts to ensure food security.
He also called on the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to ensure that transporters involved in conveying agricultural products adhered strictly to the guidelines for movement of goods.
Nanono stressed that at no point should transporters conveying agricultural products also convey passengers, saying it was against the guidelines for movement.
He further warned the NURTW not to take advantage of the free movement to convey drugs or any form of banned products.
“There are growing concerns and threat to food security and agricultural production as a result of the emergence of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“Numerous reports have been received by the ministry on the problems faced by transporters of food, livestock and agriculture inputs in different parts of the country.
“Available information confirmed that the restrictions have resulted in food scarcity and impacted negatively on the nation’s agricultural production,’’ he said.
Nanono outlined some of the terms of reference for the team to include working with relevant agencies in states and local government areas to ensure unrestricted movement of agricultural products without compromising security.
He said the task team had the responsibility to ensure adequate information and clarified that controlled movement of such products was being disseminated through the media to food transporters and security personnel.
An Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Mr Austin Agbonlahor in Charge of Operations is the chairman of the task team.
Other members of the team are Assistant Commandant General (ACG) Bunu Modu from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Mr Ibikunle Baruwa, National President NURTW.
The team also has Mr Farouk Mudi, National President All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) and Mr Chris Isiguzo, National President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) as members.
Mr Zubairu Abdullahi, the Director, Planning and Policy Coordination, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, is also a member.
The representative of the Nigerian Army was however absent at the inauguration of the team but the minister assured that the army would send its representative to join the other members.
In his remarks, the chairman of the technical task team, Agbonlahor assured of the team’s commitment to discharging its duties effectively.
He said they would swing into action immediately to ensure unrestricted movement of agricultural products in all states.
“The members of this team are from different Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs) and we assure you that we will abide by the terms of reference.
“We will not fail in our responsibility and I want to assure you that we will commence work immediately to ensure that all that is required of us is carried out to the letter,’’ he said.