President Muhammadu Buhari recently expressed his concerns that there might be a severe food shortage in the coming year. This is in view of the current leaps in the prices of commodities in the market that have made life very difficult for the citizens. The global economic outlook does not make the situation better either.
For any president or leader who cares about the well-being of his people, this is a good statement. The world has seen and continues to experience one of the worst moments in history in terms of overwhelming humanitarian crises orchestrated by COVID-19, local and regional conflicts. Of course, Nigeria is not an exception.
Mr. President’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, revealed this in a statement he released specifically last Tuesday. The president blamed COVID-19 and “exploitative market behaviour by actors [which] has significantly increased among traders in the past few years”.
This he stated affected procurement of “raw materials for local production of fertilizer (damaging standing crops before harvest) and the speculative activities by a number of rice processors who are ready to pay for paddy at any price to keep their mills running non-stop.
Continuing, he stated that “the most worrisome are the activities of corrupt middlemen (with many of them discovered to be foreigners) and other food traders who serve as the link between farmers and consumers found to be systematically creating an artificial scarcity so that they can sell at higher prices”, he added.
But the president was optimistic that with good rain, as well as some policy measures his administration was putting in place such as the release of grains from the federal strategic reserve, etc, food crisis would crash and Nigerians would experience succour.
But a deeper assessment of the above statement and the dire situation on ground portray the presidential optimism as a huge joke.
How can a country so entangled in security problems in virtually every region and strata of its system talk so conveniently about food security using feeble policy statements as a strategy? North-central that is essentially the food belt of the country has been plagued with social instability on account of farmers-herders conflicts and mindless killings of peasants under a dangerous ethno-religious politics.
North-west, another food production region, has become a haven for banditry and a creeping insurgency. North-east is already a write off. Can the entire Southern regional block feed itself let alone the nation? Even the South is not so safe with reports of clandestine infiltration of armed gangs suspected to from the North.
Government keeps throwing public funds away into bottomless pits in the name of vaguely defined streams of agricultural loans and grants to “farmers”, “entrepreneurs”, “cooperatives”, etc, in a manner that is more of racketeering than a structured system.
The World Food Prgramme and other research bodies have been upbeat about this issue and the projections are very gloomy. How can you kill farmers and chase others from their farm and farmlands and chew out cheap promises to future?
The Nigerian government needs to be realistic, decisive and honest in its assessment and quest for genuine solutions. Unless we address the security situation without this political bend, there is no easy way out. Let’s not build hope of food security on the rains and sensational policy utterances; food security is anchored largely on this truth which we must face and tell ourselves or else we cannot beat hunger soon.
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