• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Kidnap plague threatens Tinubu’s food security plan

Aide to Taraba State Governor kidnapped, 48 hours after NLC chairman’s release

President Bola Tinubu’s plan to boost food production and stabilise prices is being threatened as the rising spate of banditry, terrorism, and kidnapping across the country has worsened farmers’ plights.

In the past three days, several kidnapping cases have been reported in six states and Abuja, the nation’s capital. The deadly operations of terrorists and bandits across five of the six geopolitical zones have left no fewer than six persons dead, 60 kidnapped, and goods worth millions of naira destroyed.

Experts say the scourge of kidnapping, which has destroyed social and economic activities in some parts of the northern region, is shrinking farming communities as farmers are forced to flee tense states for safety, a development that has pushed up food prices and exacerbated the cost of living crisis in the country.

They described it as a huge threat to the food stabilisation plan of the federal government, saying it is hampering the country’s ability to diversify through agriculture and generate substantial foreign exchange despite its vast agricultural potential.

“We cannot stabilise food prices and feed ourselves with the high rate of insecurity across the country,” Jude Obi, president of the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria, said.

“The government must address the issue of insecurity if it is serious about food security and diversifying the economy through agriculture,” Obi, who is also the general secretary of the Soil Science Society of Nigeria, said.

Edobong Akpabio, a former head of agribusiness at Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the country has lost 60 percent of its food production in key producing states owing to rising insecurity.

“A lot of farmers do not cultivate in places where they usually grow crops because of the high rate of insecurity,” she said. “Insecurity must become a thing of the past before Nigeria can curtail the recent surge in food prices.”

The situation has also continued to deter new agricultural investments in key crop-growing states while putting existing agribusinesses in constant peril.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows the capital imported into agriculture has maintained a consistent decline since 2019, hitting its lowest in nine years in the third quarter of 2023.

Foreign investment into the sector declined 95 percent to $4.64 million in the third quarter of 2023 from $95.10 million in the same period of 2015.

“Insecurity issues are affecting the production and distribution of agro products. Investors are not getting rewards for their investments as they ought to and this is owing to the worsening insecurity,” Abiodun Olorundero, operation manager at Aquashoots Limited, said.

Abiodun said the situation has prevented some investors from making new investments in the sector, adding that some agripreneurs are now providing private security to protect their farmlands and investment, thus leading to increased production costs.

Ibrahim Kabiru, national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, said farmers across the country should be able to carry out their farming activities without any form of fear and having to pay bandits before harvesting their crops.

According to him, tackling the worsening rate of insecurity across the country is crucial in preventing a food crisis, curtailing the continuous surge in food prices and ensuring the country feeds itself.

Food inflation has shown no signs of easing despite the federal government’s unveiling of a price stabilisation plan last year. It quickened to 33.93 percent in December from 23.75 percent a year earlier, according to NBS data.

The country’s headline inflation accelerated to 28.92 percent in December, its highest in more than 18 years.

A 2023 Save the Children International report stated that armed groups have killed more than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across Nigeria between January and June 2023.

“All these challenges are a clear threat to our food production and that’s why we are grappling with insufficiency and the attainment of food security has become a mirage,” Kabiru said.

He, however, stressed the need for governments at all levels to address the issues of insecurity while promoting mechanised farming, technology, and innovation as well as deploying climate-smart agriculture.

Amnesty International Nigeria said on Monday that “the current epidemic of kidnapping highlights the utter failure of the Nigerian authorities to effectively protect lives”.

It said Tinubu must take all lawful measures to end “the cycle of violence and fear people in Nigeria are living under today, by effectively investigating waves of kidnapping and killings and bringing those suspected of responsibility to justice”.