By Hendrix Oliomogbe
Asaba — With the abandonment of the cassava bread development programme, the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCN) has called on the Federal Government to immediately halt the collection of the 15% levy on wheat importation.
Speaking in Asaba on Tuesday during a peaceful protest against the government policies which have seriously affected the fortunes of the members, the National Secretary of the association, Jude Okafor recalled that the levy which was introduced in 2012 was domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the purpose of development of cassava bread.
Okafor lamented that six years on, the initiative has clearly failed as all the components of the laudable programme have been abandoned but the bakers were still made to pay the N1,000 levy.
He said: “The fund was to be used to for the development of cassava bread which includes training, equipping of 5,000 bakers, and six in each of the 774 local councils in the country. The terminal date for the first period is 2016.
“As we speak, only 1,584 bakers have been trained, only 151 bakers have been partially equipped in a very unacceptable circumstances which even grossly violated the disadvantageous MoU entered between the Ministry of Agriculture and Bank of Industry.”
The angry bakers who marched through some major streets in the Delta state capital were armed with placards with different inscriptions such as “Notice of Imminent Bakers Services Withdrawn is Hereby Served”, FG Save Our Industry From Total Collapse, We Are The Second Largest Employers of Labour After FG”, 50 kg Flour in Tanzania is N4,500, But in Nigeria, it is N11,000″.
The scribe deplored the high cost of sugar and flour in Nigeria in comparison to other African countries.He therefore called on the federal government to put measures in place to ensure the reduction in the prices of the commodities in consonance with the present exchange rate of naira to the dollar and high cost of diesel which were the factors that influenced the increase then.
Also, the association demanded arrangements towards the empowerment of 20,000 master bakers from the accumulated fund with the apex bank.While also calling on the federal and state governments to stop multiple vexatious taxations, the bakers threatened that they will consider embarking on strike at the next National Executive Council meeting which comes up shortly, should the government refused to address their grievances.