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Food crisis looms as Quelea birds attack northern farms

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Locusts, grasshoppers and quelea birds from Niger Republic are finding their way into Nigeria and are attacking farmlands belonging to Nigerians in the North, a development that may cause food crisis in Nigeria.

To address this, the Federal Government on Monday night summoned state commissioners of agriculture from the 12 frontline northern states and other regions to an emergency meeting at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Aside commissioners from the 12 northern states, other representatives from the agricultural sector in states like Anambra, Delta, Benue and a few other southern states attended the meeting.

Some commissioners from the northern states confirmed that the pests were already in Nigeria and were attacking crops in farmlands in their local government areas, as they explained that in Sokoto State, some farmlands had been attacked by quelea birds.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, told the commissioners that if the locusts, grasshoppers and quelea birds from Niger Republic were not checked, Nigeria would face severe food crisis soon.

He said, “Locusts and quelea birds are gathering in large numbers in Niger Republic from where they attack crops in Nigeria. We must stop them, for if they arrive fully, within hours they can wipe out our food. And we know that already there is food scarcity and if we don’t check this, we may have severe food problem.

“So, the reason for this meeting is for us to design a strategy to attack the locusts and see what we can do immediately to make sure that these pests don’t arrive in large numbers. If they do, we may face severe food crisis in Nigeria, which we can’t stand as a nation.”

Ogbeh urged the states to see how they could collaborate with the Federal Government to get aircraft that would be used to attack the pests in the states that were already affected, as well as in Niger Republic.

He noted that the government would partner the government of Niger Republic on this matter, stressing that it was imperative to move quickly as President Muhammadu Buhari had been briefed on the development.

“We should move quickly to see how we can stop this menace. So, please I implore you to come up with ideas on how to check this development as I will forward our ideas to the President for fast action. We must stop this, for you can imagine the effect which this will have on our economy if locusts, grasshoppers and quelea birds wipe out our rice, beans and other crops,” he said.

Ogbeh also stated that the country was waging another war against army worms of maize, as the pest had destroyed maize cultivation in some parts of Nigeria.

He noted that avian flu was attacking birds in some parts of Nigeria, adding that this was why the meeting with state commissioners was important.

Commissioners from the 12 frontline states of Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi were at the meeting, as well as others from a few southern states.

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