September 21, 2023

Tormented by years of interminable Islamist terrorism, banditry, Fulani herdsmen rapine, militancy/industrial oil theft, kidnapping, and seasonal flooding, all conflating into economic downturn, Nigeria’s ability to feed its mammoth population of 216 million is becoming highly questionable. This has been reinforced by a new United Nations publication, which warned that nearly 25 million Nigerians are at risk of facing hunger between June and August if urgent action is not taken. This advisory resonates. The federal and state governments should not trivialise it.

Food has become very expensive, preventing millions of Nigerians from feeding well. With security deteriorating to extraordinary depths, forcing farmers to abandon their farmland, there is a real threat of hunger looming large over Africa’s most populous country.

According to the UN, the new data is a projected increase from the estimated 17 million people currently at risk of food insecurity. The report listed continued conflict, climate change, inflation and rising food prices as major drivers of its forecast. The National Bureau of Statistics aggregated food inflation in December at 23.75 per cent, a drop from the 24.13 per cent in November. Year-on-year, it was up by 6.38 per cent. Recent reports from local and international organisations point to the fact that millions of Nigerians go to bed hungry without any certainty as to where their next meal would come from as prices of foodstuff skyrocket.

Predictably, Nigeria ranked 103 out of 121 countries in the Global Hunger Index, which was released in October 2022, and jointly published by NGOs Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe of Germany. The report, which ranks countries by “severity” of hunger level, gave Nigeria a score of 27.3 – a hunger level falling under the “serious” category.

The 2022 ranking was the second consecutive year in which Nigeria’s ranking on the scale remained stagnant. It ranked 103 out of 116 countries in 2021 and finished 98 among 107 countries in 2020.

NBS data indicates that food prices continue to rise in Nigeria. For instance, the average price of 1.0 kilogramme of boneless beef on a year-on-year basis, increased by 29.00 per cent from the N1,812.03 recorded in November 2021 to N2,337.46 in November 2022.

Apart from rising food prices, the country has never had it this bad in terms of insecurity after the Civil War of 1967 to 1970. Now, almost every part of the country is under siege of one form of insecurity or the other.

The bloody breaches have created millions of internally displaced persons and rendered farming negligible in the North-East, North-West, and North-Central, all regarded as major food-producing regions. Farming in other regions is also increasingly being threatened.

The UN said of the 17 million people who are currently food insecure, three million are in the North-East BAY (Borno, Adamawa, and Yola) states. Without immediate action, this figure is expected to increase to 4.4 million in the lean season.

In November 2021, bloodthirsty Islamists beheaded 76 rice farmers in Zabarmari, Jere Local Government Area of Borno State, for allegedly supporting the Nigerian military, aggravating the anarchy in the region.

To underline the growing insecurity that is driving farmers out of their traditional routines, the Nigerian military conducted airstrikes against bandits in two states – Niger and Zamfara – in mid-June. Airstrikes by the Nigerian Air Force have been going on for years but are yet to achieve peace. Those two states, along with Kebbi, Katsina, and Kaduna, have been witnessing large-scale conflict.

Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, recently warned of imminent famine in the agrarian state. He said, “Bandits have forced us to change our way of life in Niger State; they stopped our children from going to school, stopped us from travelling on our roads, stopped farmers from going to the farms….” For years, Fulani herdsmen have been rampaging through Benue and other states in the North-Central and the South, maiming, kidnapping and massacring farmers. With the President, Major-General Buhari (retd.), rejecting pragmatism, the herdsmen are terrorising farmers in the country’s food basket.

Also, the destruction of farmland during the 2022 floods cannot be overlooked. The National Emergency Management Agency said widespread flooding during the 2022 rainy season damaged more than 676,000 hectares of farmland, which diminished harvests and increased the risk of food insecurity for families across the country.“The flooding is one of the effects of climate change and variability impacting Nigeria. More extreme weather patterns affecting food security are anticipated in the future,” it said.

Apart from climate change effects – Lake Chad has virtually dried up – the ravaging impact of the new COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine elicit concern.

Despite avowals by the government, Nigeria is import-dependent for food. It imports basic foods, including rice, wheat, frozen poultry products, palm oil, vegetable oils, and fruits. In the first six months of 2022, Nigeria’s agricultural imports hit N464.5 billion, the NBS stated. This is risky and unsustainable financially.

To make amends, Nigeria should refocus on security. Though Buhari and most of the 36 state governors are on their way out, this does not stop them from salvaging their battered images. Open herding is disrupting farming among small-holder farmers. The President should lead the policy to decelerate it.

The security system should be reviewed to extend effective security to rural communities, where 34.66 per cent of the population engaged in farming in 2020, per the World Bank. Nigeria has an abundance of land resources. Therefore, large-scale farming that utilises industrial methods to intensify production should be encouraged. In many countries, farming has become a major attraction for equity funds, investment banks and other types of investors.

The federal and state governments should plan to mitigate the future effects of flooding in flood-prone locations. They should build more capacity in rail transport and storage systems to curb wastage. Dry season farming should be intensified.

Copyright Reportr Door
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from Reportr Door.
Contact: [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *