• Monday, May 27, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

No food security without constitutional backing – Ayoola

Taming the food crisis: Governors need to do more

Gbolagade Ayoola, a professor of Agricultural Economics and president, Food and Infrastructure Foundation (FIF), has appealed to the government to make food a fundamental right that is backed by the constitution.

Ayoola made this known in a memorandum addressed to Ovie Omo-Agege, deputy senate president/chairman – Senate Ad hoc Committee on the Review of 1999 Constitution, entitled: ‘The Need to Make the Right to Food a Fundamental Human Right in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’

Based on the inherent advantages of the bill, the FIF founder urged the committee to be positively disposed to recommending the Right to Food Bill currently pending before the Senate (SB Bill 240).

The bill requires amending the constitution in chapter two (Directive Principles of State Policy, wherein not justiciable), and in chapter four (Fundamental Human rights, wherein justiciable).

Moving the food security provision from chapter two to chapter four, the advocate said, citizens could better engage the government over failure to make food available and affordable by not providing requisites such as irrigation facilities, rural road networks, markets, and other critical infrastructures.

He says this would thereby influence authorities to create an enabling environment and provide security of the farm population as well as boosting productivity, noting that these responsibilities of the government will make food available in all parts of the country.

He said the President should be mandated to produce and review on yearly basis an implementation strategy as a schedule to the bill, and to deliver an annual Food Situation Address to the National Assembly in accountability for the huge resources appropriated for the purpose, and in recognition of food security as the bedrock of national security.

Ayoola said the bill is geared towards the improvement of the policy environment for food security and agribusiness in terms of responsibility, accountability, transparency, and due process on the part of the government.

The Professor argued that entrenching such in the constitution would engender food sovereignty and self-sufficiency, thereby freeing the country from the clutches of neo-colonialism through food trade and make the people feel an implicit gratification for their ability to feed themselves.

“That right to food bill will stimulate incremental food output through the supply response of farmers in the bid to meet the new demand pressures from the general populace, thereby improving incomes, livelihoods, and employment in rural Nigeria,” he said in the memorandum.

Giving an insight into the genesis of the move, the FIF- a not-for-profit organisation for promoting policy best practices in agriculture and rural development, with particular focus on food security and agribusiness, said the purpose of the memorandum “is to register our humble appeal for the favourable consideration of the Right to Food Bill currently before the Ad hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution; which Bill was passed on to the committee for further deliberation following its successful First and Second Readings earlier in this year.”

Ayoola said the move started in the sixth Assembly (2007-2011) when a proposal for the purpose was submitted by FIF to the then Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of 1999 Constitution, and it was presented at all the public sittings of the committee in the six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory.

However, the committee did not approve the proposal, which informed the decision to reduce it to a private member’s bill in the National Assembly, to achieve the same goal differently.

Thus, the bill was first introduced to the National Assembly in 2010 through the House of Representatives, during the sixth Assembly, and subsequently reintroduced through the Senate, during the seventh Assembly; next, through both the House and Senate during the eighth Assembly; and now through the Senate during the present ninth Assembly.

The bill in focus ‘seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) to ensure that the state directs its policy towards food security squarely and more sharply, and to make the right to food a guaranteed fundamental human right in the constitution.’

This requires amending the constitution in chapter two (Directive Principles of State Policy, wherein not justiciable), and also amending the Constitution in chapter four (Fundamental Human rights, wherein justiciable).

The advocates said they are convinced that “without the right to food, there can be no food security in Nigeria.”

He prayed that the ad hoc committee should approve the memorandum and, accordingly, recommend the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to Senate to guarantee the right to food as a fundamental human right in Nigeria.

This, to the advocates, is a critical requirement for human, social and economic development of the country in the medium to long-term future.