Major Issues fueling Nigeria’s systematic Food Insecurity.

President Bola Tinubu last week proclaimed an immediate “State of Emergency” on food insecurity in the nation due to soaring food costs.

The action is considered as a part of a determined effort to increase agricultural production and lower the high prices of Nigeria’s main staple foods.

The change is consistent with the government’s short-, medium-, and long-term plans for tackling the problems with food access and affordability in the nation.

“Mr. President is aware of how the rising cost of food affects the populace. While accessibility is not an issue, affordability has been a significant concern for many Nigerians across the nation.

This has led to a significant drop in demand thereby undermining the viability of the entire agriculture and food value chain,” Dele Alake, the presidential spokesperson, said in the statement announcing the government decision.

In the statement, Mr Alake listed some of the specific steps to be taken by the government in the implementation of the state of emergency. These include the immediate release of “fertilizers and grains to farmers and households” and protecting “farms and the farmers so that farmers can return to the farmlands without fear of attacks.”

There have been instances in the recent past where duly elected officials (Presidents or Governors) declared a state of emergency as a result of unrest, hostilities, or epidemics in various regions or parts of the nation.

When such statements are made, the government gives the appropriate authorities permission to quickly enact laws (such as curfews and lockdowns) that it would ordinarily not be allowed to do so in order to restore order for the safety and protection of its population.

The recent proclamation of a “state of emergency” on food security has only served to reinforce experts’ fears about Nigerians’ steadily declining purchasing power due to low income and the impact of climate change on food prices.

It also supports prior forecasts made by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations that over 25 million Nigerians may experience acute hunger this year at the height of the lean season (the time between planting and harvesting, from June to August).

Nigeria’s annual inflation rate increased from 22.22 percent in April to 22.41 percent in May, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Similar to other inflation rates, the rate for food increased from 24.61 percent in April to 24.82 percent in May.

Due to the effects of government measures, including the drive to converge forex rates and the quick termination of gasoline subsidies, among others, the situation deteriorated even further.

Since Mr. Tinubu’s announcement, numerous Nigerians have expressed worry regarding the main factors behind the country’s food insecurity as well as the potential legal repercussions of Mr. Tinubu’s proclamation of a state of emergency on the nation’s food security.

Food Security

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security is attained when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

It is also explained as the state at which individuals have sufficient food to generate a calorie requirement of about 2,200–2,300 calories per day for adult females and 2,900–3,000 (about 8-10 kg of maize flour) calories per day for adult males, while children require a lower calorie level to maintain adequate health.

The inability of a country to meet these criteria is often described as food insecurity.

The 11th edition of the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) published last year, showed that Nigeria ranked 107th (scoring 42.0 points) out of 113th countries globally in the food security index. This suggests that 12.9 per cent of the global population in extreme poverty was found in Nigeria as of 2022.

Nigeria falls behind other African nations like Morocco at position 57 (63.0 points), South Africa at position 59 (61.7 points), and Tunisia at position 62 (60.3 points), among others, in the list.

The report hinted that for the past three years, the trend in the overall food security environment has reversed.

“Eight of the top ten performers in 2022 come from high-income Europe, led by Finland (with a score of 83.7), Ireland (scoring 81.7) and Norway (scoring 80.5). These nations score strongly on all four pillars of the GFSI. Japan (scoring 79.5) and Canada (scoring 79.1) round out the remainder of the top ten,” it said.

According to the research, since 2019, the gap between the top performer and the nation at the bottom of the ranking has widened, highlighting the unfairness in the world food system.

The Food Insecurity in Nigeria

Poverty, climate change, conflict, insecurity, rising population, ineffective policy implementation, inefficient agricultural practices, post-harvest losses, and low budgetary allocation to agriculture are some of the main factors that have been identified as causing food insecurity in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, there are now significantly more people living in extreme poverty than there were ten years ago. In actuality, it is challenging for people to obtain and purchase nourishing meals due to high levels of poverty.

According to Statista, between 2016 and 2022, the number of males living in extreme poverty in Nigeria went from 35.3 million in 2016 to 44.7 million last year, and the number of women increased from 34.7 million in 2016 to 43.7 million last year.

According to data on the website, 88.4 million Nigerians were expected to be living in extreme poverty in 2022. While around 44.7 million men lived in the country on less than $1.90 per day, the figure for women was 43.7 million.

Agricultural productivity and food production are also impacted by adverse weather patterns, such as droughts, excessive heat, and floods, in addition to poverty, not just in Nigeria but also globally.

The effect of climate conditions has changed throughout the last few decades, and is evident on crop production across the country’s different regions.

Data from Nigeria’s Meteorological Agency (NiMet) shows that the duration and intensity of rainfall have changed from normal across some states over the years, with devastating impacts on agricultural practices.

Last year, Nigeria witnessed one of its worst floods in the last decade as hundreds of villages and urban centres were submerged in waters, displacing over 2.4 million people.

According to official estimates, the disaster claimed the lives of over 600 Nigerians and devastated countless hectares of farmland, having a negative impact on the availability, cost, and safety of food in the nation.

Violence and unrest
Farmers have been uprooted and agricultural activity interrupted in various parts of the country, particularly in the northeast, northwest, and north central. Due to the fact that many farmers are afraid to visit their farms in the past ten years for fear of being attacked by bandits or herdsmen, this has hampered food production and distribution.

Along with that, Nigerian farm villages also have subpar access roads, ineffective transit networks, and inadequate storage facilities, to name a few.

This frequently results in extreme deterioration and waste due to inadequate preservation efforts of infrastructure that could help improve the shelf lives of food items before getting to the consumers.

Due to Nigeria’s rapidly expanding population, the high level of post-harvest losses being recorded makes it more difficult to meet the country’s rising food demand. Despite not producing enough to supplement local consumption, supply chain disruptions and logistical difficulties cause a significant amount of the food that farmers grow to be ruined.

Budgetary Allocation Is Poor

Nigeria has not yet complied with the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, despite being a signatory to the agreement, which among other things mandates that signatories set aside 10% of their national budgets for the development of agriculture across the continent.

Even with waste and corruption, funding for the sector has been severely low over the past ten years.

Before the immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari, assumed power in 2015, only 1.43 per cent(N67 billion) of Nigeria’s 4.7 trillion national budget was allocated to the sector.

In 2015, agriculture drew a paltry budgetary allocation, with only 0.9 per cent of the N4.49 trillion budget.

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, allocation to the sector increased to 1.3 per cent, 1.82 per cent and 2.01 per cent of the N6.10, N7.44 and N8.61 trillion total federal budgets, respectively.

The rate fell to 1.56 per cent in 2019, and 1.34 per cent in 2020, before recording a slight increase of 1.37 per cent in 2021 and just 1.8 per cent in 2022 — the highest recorded in four years.

In percentage terms, the highest allocation to agriculture in the past two decades by any government to date was in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

In 2008, Mr Yar’Adua’s government budgeted N2.92 billion for agriculture, which was 5.41 per cent of the total budget, and in 2009, it budgeted N3.101 billion, which was 5.38 per cent of the total budget.

Agriculture policies that are ineffective
Nigeria has implemented a number of agricultural policies over the past 50 years to increase productivity and enhance food security, but these policies have had little success.

Nigeria’s economy relied heavily on agriculture in the early years of its independence; it was one of the world’s top producers of palm oil, groundnuts, cotton, and cocoa.

Over 70% of the labor force was employed in the industry, which also generated up to 62.3% of the country’s foreign exchange revenues. However, after the country discovered crude oil, circumstances deteriorated and the sector’s production fell.

With the multiple strategies put out by several administrations since then, Nigeria has struggled to reposition its agricultural sector.

Under Mr Buhari alone, notable agricultural policies launched in an effort to revamp the country’s agricultural sector are Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP), Nigeria–Africa Trade and Investment Promotion Programme (NATIPP), Anchor Borrowers Programme, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative(PEDI), Zero Reject Initiative, Economic and Export Promotion Incentives, National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy (NATIP) and the Food security council among others.

Despite these policy interventions, there have been no significant changes in the country’s state of food availability, affordability and accessibility, prompting Mr Tinubu to declare a state of emergency in the sector.

Tinubu’s Declaration is lawful.

Mr. Tinubu ordered that all issues relating to food and water availability and cost, as necessary elements for sustaining life, be brought under the purview of the National Security Council on Thursday while announcing a state of emergency on food security.

But ever since the proclamation was made, many Nigerians have been curious as to what the action implies and how the administration plans to put the pledge into effect.

By reading section 45(2) and (3) and section 305(1) of the 1999 Constitution, Abuja-based attorney Kazeem Oyinwola of Amofin Solicitors claimed that the executive president has the authority to declare a state of emergency.

According to him, the president may declare a state of emergency under section 305(3) of the 1999 constitution when the Federation is at war, in danger of invasion, or otherwise involved in a state of war; when a disaster or other natural calamity is about to occur; when there is any other public danger that obviously poses a threat to the Federation’s existence; or when the president so decides.

Based on these projections, Mr. Oyinwola said that by the year 2020, around 25.3 million people in Nigeria will experience severe food insecurity by June to August, in addition to the rising inflation figures from NBS and the effect of the recent removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit (PMS), there is an imminent danger of food insecurity in the country.

He stated that under section 305(3) of the 1999 constitution, the president may proclaim a state of emergency if: the Federation is at war or in immediate danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war; there is an event He claimed that this threat could be categorized as “an occurrence or an imminent danger” or “any other public danger which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of the federation” as described in section 305(3) of the constitution, enabling the president to issue a state of emergency.

“If we want to address food security, we need to tackle these limitations head-on and support the local food producers through catalytic initiatives,”

On his part, Razaq Fatai, Africa Policy Manager at the ONE Campaign, said while the declaration of a state of emergency on food security is a commendable step, it is imperative that it is accompanied by tangible actions and clear timelines.

He pointed out that the immediate distribution of wheat and fertilizer is just the beginning and that the majority of the other planned actions in the action plan are already in place and well-known to Nigerians.

According to him, the main obstacle is finding the political will to turn the president’s goals into concrete initiatives.

The federal government must immediately lay out a thorough strategy and offer a timetable for fulfilling its commitments. More individuals are caught in the terrible cycle of hunger and poverty every day that goes by without effective action, he claimed.

Similar concerns were voiced by Esther Adegunle, Associate Director, Business & Economic Growth, DAI, regarding the proposed strategies to combat food insecurity, especially in light of previous governments’ recurrent failures.

“Recently, we’ve observed Ethiopia pursue reform efforts, changing the status of the nation from one that imported wheat to one that met local need and exported wheat. This may be Nigeria’s route to reaching food security, she suggested, if it is implemented well.

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