On necessity of declaring emergency on food security…

By Abdullahi M. Gulloma

The Global Food Security Index (GFSI) rating shows that Nigeria ranked 94th out of 113 nations in 2019 with a 48.4/100 score, which puts the country below Ethiopia, Niger and Cameroon. In addition, Nigeria has overtaken India as the world’s most impoverished country.

Around 25.3 million people, if no adequate measures are quickly taken, could face acute food insecurity in Nigeria during the June to August 2023 lean season, said the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which adds that widespread flooding recorded in 2022 has worsened the situation.

A quarterly report released by the global organisation shows that the figure projected is higher than the 19.45 million forecasts in 2022. The report, titled “Crop Prospect and Food Situation”, assessed 45 countries to provide insight into the food situation with particular attention on Low-Income Food Deficit Countries.
According to the report, the state of insecurity in northern Nigeria plays a major role in the projected rate of food insecurity in the country.
“Acute food insecurity is mostly driven by the deterioration of security conditions and conflicts in northern states, which as of March 2022 (latest data available) have led to the displacement of about 3.17 million people and are constraining farmers’ access to their lands,” the report said.
Over the years, Nigeria has been impacted by insecurity in the country. In some parts of the northern region, conflicts among farmers and herders have led to crises in which many Nigerians have been killed, displaced from their homes and their farmlands destroyed.
The situation has worsened the nation’s food inflation as farmers in these regions are unable to produce enough food.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, food inflation surged to 24.32 per cent in January 2023 from the 23.75 per cent recorded in December 2022, the highest in the last four years.
Thus, acting proactively, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has declared a state of emergency on food security in the country as disclosed by his Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy, Mr Dele Alake.
Alake said the decision to declare an emergency on food security was made by the President after meeting with stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
He said more funds would be injected into the agricultural sector from proceeds of the removal of fuel subsidies and security agencies will ensure that farmers are protected on their farms to boost food supply in the country.
According to him, the President would take steps to address the problems associated with the shortage of food in all parts of the country while the federal government would support Nigerian farmers with inputs to help them boost the food supply in the country.
He said savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol would be used to provide incentives to farmers and other vulnerable groups.
Of course, among the many problems associated with the lack of food security is the scarcity and or unavailability and, ultimately, soaring prices of foods. So, notably, Alake pointed out that “as a hands-on- leader who follows developments across the country every day, Mr President is not unmindful of the rising cost of food and how it affects the citizens.”Thankfully, he is!
Thus, while availability is not a problem, affordability has been a major issue for many Nigerians in all parts of the country. This development has led to a significant drop in demand thereby undermining the viability of the entire agriculture and food value chain.
On the other hand, it should be noted that food security is not ensured only by the availability and affordability of food. Other factors such as nutrition and choice are also important. Malnutrition is widespread in the entire country and rural areas are especially vulnerable to malnutrition, unbalanced nutrition, erratic food supply, poor quality foods, high food costs and even total lack of food.
This phenomenon cuts across all age groups and categories of individuals in rural areas. There is a high level of malnutrition among children in rural Nigeria; the figures differ with geopolitical zones.
The problem of food and nutrition security in Nigeria has not been adequately and critically understood, despite various approaches to addressing the challenge.
Therefore, the Tinubu-led administration should review the approaches and enormous amount of money used by previous governments to assure the food security of Nigerians without success.
This government should develop an approach that will ensure that better progress is made toward achieving development goals. Since the majority of Nigerians (said to be about 70 per cent) live in rural areas, an analysis of the food and nutrition security status of rural dwellers will provide a clear picture of what needs to be done to ensure food security in Nigeria with the attendant improvements in nutrition status when all the other necessary conditions, such as adequate health and care, are present.

As ECOWAS is set to combat terrorism…

Despite the holistic approach that was initially adopted in curbing terrorism in Nigeria and its neighbouring countries, the frequency of occurrence of the incidence of terrorism and insurgency becomes higher.
Sequel to this development, the call for international collaboration against all acts of terrorism and insurgency becomes necessary.
Helpfully, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Chairman of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, said this week that the security challenges in the West Coast are being thoroughly reviewed and a properly-funded strategy would be instituted to tackle the menace of terrorism and other forms of illegal armed activities.
The President said the new approach adopted by the ECOWAS leaders to tackle security after a meeting he held with the President of the Republic of Benin, Patrice Talon; President of Guinea-Bissau, Umaru Sissoco Embalo; and the President of Niger Republic, Mohamed Bazoum, at the State House.
“We have no problems raising funds. We believe we have the instruments to do that,” he said. “We believe we are capable of raising necessary funds to combat terrorism in the sub-region.”
The President said the West African leaders had extensive deliberations on sustaining democracy on the West Coast and fashioning out the framework for confronting security.
Also speaking, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, reaffirmed the commitment of the leaders to fast-tracking the transition to democracy in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
He said ECOWAS would ensure that the transition in the three countries would be robust, credible and inclusive, while more consideration would be given to specific models of peace and security, troops fighting terrorism, and adequate funding.
He said the commission would also welcome support from other partners in combating the insurgents.
However, while the leaders may have the resources to combat illegal armed activities, it should be noted by the leaders, too, that terrorism and insurgency are caused by corruption, unemployment, poverty, weak institutional structure, ethnicity and social frustration all of which are, largely, prevalent in the ECOWAS.
The prevalence, of terrorism and insurgency, sadly, leads to a dwindling economy and loss of lives and property. it also discourages foreign investment and threatens the country’s and ECOWAS’ unity, among many other ills.
Thus, the Nigerian government and other West African countries need to cut off the sources of criminals. The popular support of Boko Haram, in the case of Nigeria, in the form of manpower, material, fund, intelligence, arms and ammunition at the domestic and international levels, must be cut off.
In the same vein, an empowerment programme that aims at reducing unemployment among young school leavers and university graduates must be effectively implemented.
This will further improve the standard of living and well-being of Nigerian youths. There is the need for government to ensure that the dividend of democracy is enjoyed by all and sundry, this can be achieved through popular participation of the people in the process of conception and implementation of policies and programmes of governments.
Governments should also be working proactively to create avenues to resolve conflicts among conflicting parties before it degenerates into crisis. Also, the government should ensure effective use of resources like power, military, land reforms, finance, external alliances and hierarchical structure of the organisation to counter-insurgents.
Importantly, there must be strict enforcement of laws against any act of terrorism and insurgency to forestall future occurrences.