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Exploring nexus between food security and national security

Akwa Ibom moves to partner entrepreneurs of food security

Lately, angry youths and women are taking to the streets in some cities to register their grievances about the rising cost of living in the country, especially of food commodities.

In Minna, the capital of Niger, some residents blocked one of the major roads in the city to voice their frustration over the escalating cost of living in the country.

The protesters chanted protest songs to draw attention to their predicament while security agents monitored the situation.

In Kano, hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of the ancient city.

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They chanted, “Everything is expensive, especially flour and grains, Tinubu come to our aid, we cannot feed our families, most of us are widows, and people are dying of hunger.”

Similar protests have been carried out recently in other parts of the country, including in Ondo State.

Some residents of Lagos Island and traders at the popular Idumota market have decried the increasing hunger in the land.

In a viral video, Lagos residents were seen in a trending video telling President Bola Tinubu who was in the state to celebrate Christmas in Yoruba language – “Ebi npa wa oo” meaning `we are hungry’.

As a responsible government, the Tinubu administration has not feigned ignorance to the situation and promised a robust action against it.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Olawale Edun, admitted the rising prices of food and other commodities in the country had become increasingly worrisome.

Edun also acknowledged that the situation had produced growing discontent among the citizenry, but blamed it on demand and supply forces.

Apparently aware of the security risk inherent in inflation and rising food cost, the Federal Government has pleaded for patience and tolerance as seeks to fix the economy and tame menace of food inflation.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Muhammed Idris, said President Bola Tinubu had directed immediate interventions to alleviate the suffering and forestall a further breakdown in security.

Speaking after the meeting of the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention, Idris said the government was addressing the issue of food shortage.

Indeed, the National Security Strategy (NSS, 2019), which was developed by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), contains the government’s recognition of the importance of food security.

“We recognise our farmers as the bedrock of this strategy; hence we will prioritise a range of measures to enhance their productivity. We have one of the most conducive environments for food production.

“With the drastic reduction in food importation, we will continue to develop our agricultural potential to attain self-sufficiency in food production as well as exportation“, the document said.

According to the document Nigeria will also endeavour to overcome further challenges such as climate change, land conflict, land degradation, rapid urbanisation and insurgency.

“Our food security strategy also requires support for initiatives that protect long-term leaseholds on farmland

“It also requires the institution of clear property rights as well as promote national sufficiency in strategic commodities and increase access to markets through massive rehabilitation and construction of rural infrastructure,” it states.

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However, some security experts say in spite of government’s recognition of the crucial role food security plays in national security, policy inconsistency and duplication of functions remain major stumbling blocks.

They ask why the Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention should be set up to perform a similar function as the National Food Security Council (NFSC).

The NFSC was established in March 2018 by former President Muhammadu Buhari under the chairmanship of Buhari with a mandated to get into the root of Nigeria’s food crisis.

The broad objectives of the NFSC include developing sustainable solutions to the farmers-herdsmen clashes, as well as climate change and desertification and their impact on farmland.

It also aims to address the issues of grazing areas and lakes, rivers and other water bodies; oil spillage and its impact on Niger Delta fishing communities.

Its mandate also covers piracy and banditry; agricultural research institutions and extension services and the problem of smuggling.

Part of the mandates is to take an interest in regional and global policies and trends that bear implications for food security in Nigeria.

“What happened to that council?” asked a security expert.

“During his tenure, Buhari also directed the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) to set up integrated farm estates in all 108 senatorial districts nationwide.

“Have we abandoned that programme? If yes, did we evaluate its challenges and prospects before ditching it?

Some stakeholders also said that, apart from inadequate production to meet demand, soaring inflation is shrinking households’ purchasing power, thereby contributing to the rising cost of food commodities.

They said the removal of subsidy on petrol and the unification of the exchange rate without adequate measures to cushion their effect have not made life easier for the citizenry as envisaged.

A National Bureau of Statistics report said the cost of food in Nigeria increased 33.93 per cent in December 2023 compared to same period in 2022.

However, neither the general cost of living crisis nor rising food prices is peculiar to Nigeria.

In 2023, a report by the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) estimated that between 691 and 783 million people in the world faced hunger in 2022.

“Considering the mid-range (approximately 735 million), 122 million more people faced hunger in 2022 than in 2019, before the global pandemic,” the report said.

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According to the World Food Programme (WFP), from 78 of the countries where it works and where data is available, more than 333 million people faced acute levels of food insecurity in 2023.

The Africa Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, multidisciplinary institution, quoting the IMF said food and energy costs amount to the bulk of the costs of rising inflation in sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria.

It said disruptions in supply chains caused by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, weakened currencies, and unsustainable public debt servicing obligations are partly responsible for the economic crisis.

Some stakeholders, however, say in place of data concrete efforts to ameliorate their plight should be intensified.

 

Kayode Adebiyi writes from News Agency of Nigeria.