In the last four years or more, Nigeria and Nigerians have been enduring a subsisting epidemic that has stubbornly refused to go away. That epidemic is hunger which has become a native, traversing homes, offices, markets, everywhere.
Hunger is a major fallout of the bad governance of the past administration under President Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari’s negative and punitive footprints cut across every sector of the nation’s economy and inflicted deep pains on the citizens.
Both Buhari and All Progressives Congress (APC) which produced him climbed on false and fake promises that they could not fulfill in eight years, hence Buhari has departed, leaving Nigerians mired in poverty, debt, insecurity and hunger.
It is on record that more Nigerians have slipped into extreme poverty in the last eight years than any other period in the history of Nigeria. It is ditto for hunger which has besieged many homes, especially among the low income earners whose income has been rubbished by Buhari-inflicted galloping inflation.
A recent report by the World Food Programme (WFP), an agency of the United Nations, said that a total of 24.8 million people, or one out of eight individuals, are experiencing acute hunger this year in Nigeria’s 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The report noted that the more people are in need of urgent food assistance, the greater the risk of starvation and death among the most vulnerable, and also the more people will be forced to resort to coping mechanisms such as selling possessions and child labour.
The reason for the rising cases of hunger is understandable. Armed conflicts, terrorist activities and banditry in some parts of the country, particularly the Northeast, have forced many farmers out of their farms. This has been made worse by the price of the available food items which is making it difficult for families to eat nutritious meals.
Buhari had told Nigerians that one of his priorities was to make sure “Nigeria produces what it eats and eats what it produces.” For that reason, importation of many food items, especially rice, were banned and Nigerians were forced to depend on local alternatives.
Buhari has done his eight years, yet prices of food items are on rooftop, far beyond the reach of the average citizen. Prices of staple foods have quadrupled in the last eight years, forcing many families to review their lifestyles. Many more families are relocating to the villages from the cities over the worsening state of the economy.
The hyper increase in food prices is making even ‘one square meal a day’ difficult for many families and many of them that cannot afford it are starving today.
All these and more explain our stand that the new government with Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the saddle should prioritise agriculture so that even if they cannot buy houses or good clothes and shoes, Nigerians must be able to feed well and save their children from malnutrition and ‘kwashiokor’.
We are not tasking the Tinubu government on implementing his promises on Agriculture as contained in his manifesto. No, far from that, because we know that whatever is in the manifesto was meant to serve electoral expediency. And that, unfortunately, is the Nigerian experience—politicians say what they don’t mean and mean what they don’t say.
We are rather urging the Tinubu government to make the necessary investment and take necessary actions to address all impediments to food sufficiency in the country and ability of the citizens to afford three square meals a day. One is insecurity. Another is poverty and yet another is inflation.
Insecurity which crystalises as frightening terrorist activities, banditry and kidnapping of farmers from their farms is a major reason for the low agricultural productivity in the last eight years of Buhari stint in government. Poverty, which has deepened within the same period, is a function of low economic activities including farming.
The Bull in the China Shop, in our view, is inflation which has pushed up the prices of the few available food items to unimaginable levels such that the little the poor man has in his pocket cannot buy anything for him and his family.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its recent report shows that there has been a consistent rise in the price of staple food items, pushing more families into poverty and starvation.
The report shows a few samples of food items where inflation has pushed prices up significantly. The average price of 1kg of yam tuber, the report says, rose by 25.30 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N353.56 in March 2022 to N443.02 in March 2023. On a month-on-month basis, it increased by 1.51 per cent from N436.41 in February 2023.
Also, the average price of 1kg of brown beans rose by 13.13 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N527.66 in March 2022 to N596.96 in March 2023. On a month-on-month basis, it increased by 0.47 per cent from N594.15 in February 2023.
The average price of 1kg of tomato increased by 13.81 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N409.96 in March 2022 to N466.60 in March 2023. On a month-on-month basis, the average price of this item declined by 0.32 per cent in March 2023. But it has gone up again from the beginning of May 2023.
These are mere staple foods whose prices should be taken for granted by both low and average-income earners. Gradually, these are becoming luxury items on their dining tables.
We are deeply pained that people are now opting for what their money can afford and, unfortunately, because of the cost of these food items, they have to take sub-standard stuff from caterers.
Kabir Ibrahim, President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), was quoted recently as saying that, though food inflation is a global one because of the effects of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Nigeria’s case is exacerbated by the weak purchasing power of the national currency and insecurity that has made farmers abandon their farms. We cannot agree more.
It is worrying, to say the least, that despite all the reported investment, the hype about the growth of the agric sector, food sufficiency and the façade displayed as Rice Pyramid, Nigerians are still hungry.
In spite of everything, Bola Tinubu is a philanthropist who cares about people, especially the less privileged. As the president of a largely hungry people now, time has come for him to rise to the occasion and end the hunger in the land so he can lead a healthy nation with a happy citizenry.