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State of emergency declaration on food security – A governance perspective

State of emergency declaration on food security – A governance perspective

On the 13th of July 2023, Nigeria’s President Bola A Tinubu declared a state of emergency to tackle the rising cost of food and its impact on Nigerian citizens. A UN report in January 2023 by Cadre Harmonisé, a government-led, and UN-supported food and nutrition analysis carried out twice a year, projected that 25 million Nigerians were at high risk of food security this year, up from the estimated 17 million people currently at risk – meaning they would not be able to afford enough nutritious food every day. We can infer that Nigerians are in the middle of a crisis, hence, the need for President Bola Tinubu to declare a state of emergency regarding food security.

It is important to understand what the state of emergency on food security means. In an emergency situation, a government is given special legal powers to steer the country through a crisis or an extraordinary situation to protect its citizens. This kind of declaration should trigger a range of responses: normal government functions may be suspended, citizens may be advised to change their behaviour, government agencies may be authorised to execute contingency plans, and certain non-absolute civil liberties and human rights could be limited or suspended.

Read also: Idris reveals FG plans on food security as Tinubu arrives Abuja

In a state of emergency or crisis of this nature, leaders face challenges that are uniquely different from any normal activities within the state. There are at least four common activities that must take place. The first is the need for preparation before the crisis, the second is the ability to mobilise followers during the crisis; the third is the leader’s effectiveness or performance perception by the followers, and fourth is the effect of consolidation of efforts following crisis situations. The need for preparation before a crisis is the most common observation made by many scholars. Also, an effective leader should be able to read the signals of looming crisis with cognition and sensemaking ability to proactively frame key social issues that may become political in the future. It is critical to emphasise not only the significance of preparation but the importance of risk identification, predictability, and vulnerabilities assessment as essential components of tackling a crisis from the onset.

This paper looks at the positive steps taken so far by the Nigerian government, explores potential governance challenges observed from various publicly published documents, and offers practical suggestions that could assist in ensuring effective food security crisis management in Nigeria. It will not be analysing the causes, consequences, and historical context of the food insecurity crisis in Nigeria, which has been covered extensively by organisations such as CARE International’s Evaluation, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Islamic Organization for Food Security and more.

It is important to acknowledge Tinubu’s determination to address the cost-of-living crisis facing our world today, with a declaration of state of emergency to address the known emerging threat which is now at crisis point in Nigeria. This appears to align with CARE’s analysis of the 12 key action points around which Bola Tinubu’s government is committed. In addition to the list of actions stated by CARE, a BBC online report stated some of the initiatives proposed by the Nigerian government, such as using money saved by the recent removal of a fuel subsidy to provide fertiliser and grain to farmers; increased protection for farmers who have abandoned their lands following years of attacks and kidnaps for ransom; and a desire to support poorer citizens with a $10 (£8) allowance a month for six months.

Finally, President Bola Tinubu’s declaration of a state of emergency on food security shows a strong commitment to tackling the critical issue of food scarcity and limited access to clean water in Nigeria. In agreement with Akinsemolu A & Onyeaka H’s analysis, this paper also believes the proposed measures demonstrate a thorough approach to mitigate this crisis in the immediate, medium, and long-term. If Bola Tinubu’s plan to focus on all aspects of the agriculture and food value chain succeeds while creating jobs at the same time, then the President’s declaration holds significant potential for positive change for generations to come in Nigeria. However, it is imperative to ensure that effective crisis leadership and risk management governance with utmost transparency and accountability processes are in place to ensure that the intended outcomes of the above initiatives are achieved. The next section will be looking at some of the possible challenges Bola Tinubu’s government could face in achieving the intended outcomes.

Read also: Producing quick maturing crops critical to food security -ARCN

The governance challenges

This crisis should be a moment of critical reflection for changing the psychological equilibrium (the mindset) of the Nigerian stakeholders because it will create a new set of uncertainties which outcomes can be positive, negative, or something completely unknown depending on how it is handled. The starting point for President Tinubu’s regime is clarifying roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders that will be involved in implementing the measures stated above. Also, the government will have to depend on the machinery of the civil service because of the significant role they play in the formulation and implementation of strategies necessary to manage the crisis.

Furthermore, the Nigeria civil service is still grappling with the problems of bad governance due to non-accountability and the ever-present manifestation of corruption that is pervasive, undisguised, and yet untameable as suggested by Fatile. Also, the reliability and effectiveness of the technical and administrative capacity of the civic service should be questioned and could create limitations in dealing with the complexity of the crisis. Unless good governance exists that will make the Nigerian civil service accountable, the process of facilitating individual/collective efforts of the citizens in resolving the food crisis will be hampered.

Stakeholders’ roles, responsibilities, and coordination challenge. The question is, who or which of these stakeholders will be leading the implementation of President Tinubu’s plan? For the President’s state of emergency declaration to be successful, each stakeholder’s roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined with measurable expected outcomes and a time limit. The Intergovernmental and intraorganizational dynamics often lead to a lack of a coordinated response, distrust, and conflict.

A lack of clarity in the scope of implementing the proposed urgent mitigation plans could be another challenge. This is sometimes referred to as scope creep resulting in wasting public funds, negative reputational damage, and leading to the expected positive outcomes of declaring the state of emergency not to be met. Also, inadequate scoping of what needs to be done could lead to implementation ambiguity, making it challenging to manage and define boundaries surrounding the crisis.

The ineffective mode of giving, receiving, and sharing information is one of the reasons for ineffective emergency management response. The Tinubu’s administration will not only have to master the art of communication with the Nigerian citizens that they are protecting but also dialogue with all the stakeholders directly or indirectly involved in responding to the emergency.

Emergency response performance measurement and management challenge. How would President Tinubu’s team have assured Nigerians that the state of emergency declaration plan is effective, efficient, and adaptable? This is a critical governance challenge to overcome to demonstrate commitment beyond words to the Nigerian citizens.

Finally, ineffective management of risks and uncertainties in Nigeria.

Read also: Kidnap plague threatens Tinubu’s food security plan

The possible suggestions

This food security crisis implies there must be a change from standard operating procedures, where this change has significant implications for performance of the government and the people of Nigeria with potential positive/negative consequences depending on how it is managed.

In a state of emergency induced by a major crisis of this nature, effective governance and leadership will require a process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it. It should set in motion the process of facilitating individual/collective efforts of the citizens and those tasked with resolving the crisis to accomplish the shared objective of mitigating the food crisis.

Food security awareness through community engagement. There is no better way to engage the Nigerian citizens than an active community engagement intervention strategy. “Community engagement is important as it takes action to influence stakeholders with government, political or funding power to implement public projects and policies that primarily benefit individual communities and drive social change” This is necessary for Tinubu’s declaration to succeed.

Design a process to measure and improve the emergency plan by tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics. President Tinubu’s team should set up quantifiable measures that will help to evaluate the state of emergency plan’s performance against the desired outcomes and objectives. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics should be set up for preparedness, response, and recovery.

If it is not already in operation, the office of National Chief Risk Officer, who will be responsible for coordinating, designing, tracking critical emerging risks, crisis, and national emergency in Nigeria established,


In conclusion, it is only when President Tinubu fully accepts and prepares to deal with the challenges of achieving efficient and effective emergency management that Nigerians will see a significant reduction in human capital suffering and economic loss due to unnecessary exposure to unmanaged crises, creating more risks and associated uncertainties. Nigerians are not new to presidential state of emergency declarations, many of which have not lived to the expected outcomes.

Will President Bola Tinubu’s stated emergency declaration make any difference to Nigerians in the next few years? Will citizens be able to confirm that the food crisis is now being managed with positive outcomes?


Joachim Adebayo Adenusi (Ogarisk) PhD; Partner – Conrad Clark Nig Ltd Convener – Nigerian Risk Leadership Summit: Head – Research and Policy – PSJ Foundation UK