Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, yesterday blamed officers and men of the Nigeria Police, Army and the Nigeria Customs Service at road blocks in the country for the skyrocketing prices of food items.

The Minister, who stated this while appearing before the National Assembly Joint Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, said unbearable extortion from truck drivers conveying farm produce to various urban centres in the country was responsible for the unending hike in food prices.

He, however, noted that farmers, who were beneficiaries of the scandalous price increases across the country, kicked against moves by the Federal Government to effect reduction in the prices of food items.

Ogbeh while lamenting the development in the food sector, said the unbearable daily extortions by men of the police, army and customs service, visited on truck drivers conveying farm produce from the hinterlands to urban centres under the guise of carrying out security checks, was one of the main factors fueling the high cost menace.

“These truck drivers, based on lamentations made to the Ministry in recent time, alleged that at every check points, they are always forced to part with reasonable amount of money by any group of the security agencies, which they said, made farmers to have no option than to factor cost of the extortion into prices of the food items,” he added.

The minister explained further that based on the complaints by the truck drivers, his ministry wrote the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and heads of the other security agencies to discourage their operatives from such act. He said this intervention by his ministry notwithstanding, daily reports available to him still showed that the unlawful practice had continued unhindered.

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