The Muslim Rights Concern has called on Nigerian authorities to critically look into the unwholesome attitude of some people suspected to be members of the Christian Association of Nigeria over massive purchase and hoarding of paddy rice across the country.
It raised the alarm in a statement by the Chairman of its Kano State Chapter, Mallam Hassan Sani Indabawa, on Friday.
Indabawa said: “Series of investigations conducted by MURIC has revealed a disturbing trend of massive purchase of paddy rice across the rice producing belt, cutting across the three northern agricultural ecological zones of the country. Several reports from the field established that a huge number of strange people are massively buying the commodity in bulk in Kebbi, Niger, Benue, Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi and Yobe states.
“The eight northern states account for over 70% of the rice being produced in the country. Nigeria is currently the largest producer of rice in Africa with a production capacity of 5.0m metric tonnes per annum.
“With the onset of the current harvest season, the unusual high demand for the commodity has already spiked the price upwards, aiming for the roof. While farmers may be happy with a good price, however, the rush for the mass purchase of the commodity is enough to raise some genuine concerns.
“Farmers and other stakeholders noticed an organized and coordinated purchase of the commodity in large quantity. From Kebbi State, down to Gashua in Yobe State, the story of influx of people, mainly Christians, is the same. They came for massive purchase of tons of rice, both milled and paddy.
“Our investigations further point to a high likelihood of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) being involved in this orchestrated mass purchase of rice produced for all Nigerians particularly because the buyers in large quantities are all Christians. They come with their weighing scale and tons of money. It is very suspicious.
“Apart from the existing aggregating centers, new ones have emerged where the commodity is bought at a higher price. This has already made the price of the commodity to jump up at an alarming rate.
“While farmers and local dealers are happy with the new buyers, many are, alarmed by the disturbing trend. Many of the “new rice merchants” admitted to have been mobilized for the exercise. While it is obvious that the ordinary farmer is happy that he is getting ready buyers, the discerning mind must ask the question: Why are they all Christians?
“The questions begging for answers are: What is the game plan of CAN? Why is the Christian body desperate to make the bulk purchase and hoard the commodity? And why at this crucial time, a few months to the general elections? Their action has already created unnecessary fear and anxiety as no one is sure of CAN’s motive.
“Is CAN deliberately trying to create artificial scarcity or is the Christian umbrella body preparing for a worst case scenario? Or is it trying to discredit the Federal Government by making its efforts in the agriculture sector look like a failure? We all know how food is being weaponized in modern conflicts. Is CAN driving Nigerians to a stage when everyone will be forced to go to church for before they can get rice to buy?
“We call on the Nigerian authorities to look closely into this desperate move. Both the apex body of Nigerian farmers, the Apex Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) and the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) admitted to the unusual demand and the unprecedented hike in the price of the commodity at the peak of this year’s harvest season.
“The Federal Government should do the needful by preparing adequately and timely to forestall possible hunger due to mischievous hoarding of this essential commodity by some evil forces. FG can evolve a counter-purchase plan to save Nigerians from the Shylock merchants in CAN. We warn CAN to eschew any diabolical plan it may have with the massive purchase of the commodity.”