Tinubu, please tackle food insecurity

Nigeria is endowed with very fertile soil. That is why several food and cash crops are cultivated in Africa’s most populous nation. Some decades ago, agriculture was the mainstay of the nation’s economy. That was before the discovery of crude oil. Unfortunately, agriculture become a shadow of itself. Lack of government attention and the activities of criminal elements have contributed in crippling Nigeria’s agriculture sector.

Many people, especially the youths, no longer take to farming or any kind of agro-business, which they consider time-wasting and a strenuous endeavour.

This has led to food insecurity in the country. Everyone knows the danger inadequate food supply poses to the Nigerian populace. According to report, the country’s food shortages require an emergency response.

The renewed onslaught by bandits and insurgents across the country has prompted the federal and state governments to take effective measures to prevent further food shortages.

But thank God, President Bola Tinubu has already declared a state of emergency on food insecurity to tackle an impending crisis that will affect the health of many citizens.

Presidential spokesperson, Dele Alake, in a statement, said that Tinubu is “not unmindful of the rising cost of food and how it affects the citizens.”

Alake said some of the government’s steps as part of the state of emergency would be in the short, medium and long term. “In the immediate term, we intend to deploy some savings from the fuel subsidy removal into the agriculture sector, focusing on revamping the agriculture sector,” he said.

The president also directed that, “All matters pertaining to food and water availability and affordability, as essential livelihood items, be included within the purview of the National Security Council”. This singular action by President Tinubu shows how worried he is about Nigeria’s food sector, which is the livewire of the citizens’ wellbeing.

In May, the United Nations World Food Programme, WFP, raised the alarm that 24.8 million Nigerians currently suffer from acute hunger, affecting 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory. It cited the prolonged armed conflict in the North-east as a major driver of mass hunger and malnutrition, with millions facing the risk of famine and in dire need of life-saving assistance.

It further projected Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states to witness “severe hunger” between June and August 2023, with 4.3 million people likely to be affected, and almost 600,000 “on the brink of catastrophe.” Also, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, disclosed that the number of Nigerians at risk of hunger rose by five million, last year.

Insecurity has been hampering Nigeria’s food production, in recent years. Across the country, farmers are being attacked by murderous bandits, insurgents, and kidnappers. It is public knowledge that daredevil terrorists, bandits, and criminal herdsmen are raiding farms, killing locals, and sacking settlements in several states.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network has already identified the conflicts in the North-east and North-west as a major driver of food insecurity. Last December, over 100 farmers were abducted within three weeks across 14 communities in Niger state. The Benue state government recently disclosed that more than 1.5 million residents of the state, mostly farmers, were displaced by killer herdsmen.

In Sokoto, Kaduna, Zamfara and Niger states, the situation is even grimmer, as terrorists extort millions of naira as taxes from farmers, before they can plant or harvest produce. Thus, forcing many farmers to abandon their farms.

If the ugly situation must be arrested, the Nigerian government must be alive to its responsibility of providing security to the people. It should put in place an efficient mechanism, which ensures that the state of emergency on food insecurity achieves its intended goal.

I agree with the recommendation of an expert on how to tackle Nigeria’s food crisis thus: “The federal and state governments should tackle infrastructure deficits and improve transportation networks. States need to partner with the private sector to radically improve rural infrastructure and attract investment in agriculture, SMEs, mining, and power.

“They should invest in food preservation facilities, equipment and farming support services and inputs. States should motivate, equip and arm local and regional security agencies to effectively combat insecurity. Tinubu should overhaul the federal security agencies, set performance targets, and insist on results to make Nigeria safe for farming, travel, and other productive activities”.

Now is the time to act. Everything must be done to end this national food scarcity dilemma. The fuel subsidy removal pangs are already dealing with Nigerians. Government must not allow food to become a luxury for its teeming citizens. It should do all within its capacity to guarantee abundant food supply in the country.

Gift Moses,
300-level student of Nasarawa State University, and an intern with PRNigeria, in Abuja.