New Telegraph

Abiodun’s N5bn palliatives and food self-sufficiency

Following the recent waves of protests against the rising cost of living in some parts of the country, Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, announced a N5 billion intervention fund to cushion the effect of food inflation in the state. While addressing a press conference, held at the Olusegun Osoba Press Centre, Governor’s Office, Okemosan, Abeokuta, the state capital, the governor stated that provision would be made for food palliatives to include rice and other food items for about 300,000 households across the state. This, he says: “Brings our total immediate interventions as a responsible state government to about N5 billion across all sectors of the state’s economy.”

For all intent and purposes, this is a time to know a leader who is proactively sensitive to the needs of the citizenry as opposed to reactionaries. For being so swift in his response to the challenging socio-economic situation in the country, not only did the governor appreciate the people for their perseverance, patience, and understanding, but he also assured them of food self-sufficiency in line with the agricultural policy of his administration. His words came like a soothing balm when he said: “As our administration acknowledges the concerns raised by many of our citizens regarding the rising food prices and shortages, coupled with the depreciation of the naira value, we identify with you and are taking proactive measures to alleviate the impact of these challenges to guarantee the welfare, well-being, and wellness of our citizens in this difficult time. “Let me assure you that the present economic situation is just a transient phase that will soon pass. Whatever we experience now are just necessary sacrifices that we have to make towards ensuring a greater tomorrow. “In a special way, we extend our appreciation to the President and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (GCFR), for his continuous efforts in navigating the complexities of our nation’s economic landscape.” As far as Ogun State is concerned, the latest intervention is not a one-off thing. Since he assumed office on May 29, 2019, Governor Abiodun has been consistent in his policy to boost agricultural productivity as a way of ensuring food self-sufficiency.

For four and a half years of the present administration, agricultural development has remained one of the key pillars of development of the state. This has been sustained through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) with the commitment to boost the agriculture sector for the well-being of all and sundry. And, of course, in a situation such as this, the only antidote against food crisis and hunger is a sustained effort to boost productivity. For this concern, Governor Abiodun has assured that he would continue to implement policies that would guarantee people’s access to affordable quality food to ease the burden of the rising cost of living. “In this direction and through targeted interventions, we aim to address these challenges by implementing a series of phased initiatives aimed at alleviating these burdens on all our citizens,” he stated. The essence of the planned interventions emphasised by the governor is to underscore the readiness of the administration to frontally confront the hunger that is threatening the stability of the polity with a pocket of protests against the high cost of living in some states. The ordinary people of Niger State who could no longer remain silent in the face of the hardship of the economy recently took their anger to the streets of Minna, the state capital, protesting the high cost of living. Youths and women had thronged the popular Kpakungu Roundabout along Minna-Bida Road to lament their lack of access to food. Subsequently, the protest spurred similar indignations in some other parts of the country. And because of adversarial politics going on in the country, some reactionary members of the opposition, who wanted to make capital out of the situation, turned the blame against President Bola Tinubu, citing the removal of fuel subsidy and foreign exchange rate unification as the reason for the current hardship confronting the people. That submission was shallow, hasty, and a lack of critical thinking in the analysis of issues.

For all they care, such a triviality is undeserving of public attention. And quite interestingly, the insinuation has been rightly treated with benign neglect by the listening audience. There is no denying the fact that since the declaration of the two audacious policies, the hardship arising from the socio-economic consequences of the new regime of subsidy removal has taken the better part of the common people, questioning the reality of the “Renewed Hope Agenda” of the administration. Among other things, the combined effects of these two policies have resulted in a high rate of food inflation and a lack of access to basic needs. From the records, the current rate of inflation (28.92%) remains the highest in the recent past. But all Nigerians know that the food security situation in the country has over the years been impacted by insecurity, especially the insurgency in the North East; armed banditry in the Northwest; perennial farmer–herder conflicts in the North Central, South West, and increasingly across the country. Other factors contributing to the food insecurity situation include rising inflation, poverty, and unemployment with deleterious effects on the living conditions of citizens, and their ability to access food. Before then, the food security situation in Nigeria had been a major concern with 17 million people estimated to be critically food insecure in 2022. A similar report by Cadre Harmonise, a government-led and UN-supported food and nutrition analysis, estimated that about 25 million Nigerians were likely to be food insecure between June and August of 2023. There is a nexus between the current food crisis and natural disasters, like floods in some parts of the country. For instance, according to the report of the National Emergencies Management Agency (NEMA), the 2022 floods led to the destruction and washing away of over 675,000 hectares of farmland. One can only imagine the extent of the impact of this scale of destruction of farmlands on agricultural activities and food production across the country. Farmers, the majority of whom are small-scale, lost not only crops and harvests, but also farm animals, poultry, fishery, and farm implements to the raging floods.

What all this means is that the food crisis has been a looming threat for the past two years but the cynics feign ignorance of the hunger that has been lurking long before the inauguration of President Bola Tinubu. For the patriots, this is not a time for a blame-game. We must all see the current situation as a collective tragedy that requires the collective action of all concerned stakeholders. As Jean Ziegler rightly quipped: “Hunger is a ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction.’ Hunger is not a respecter of tribal, religious, or racial boundaries. Hunger happens when people do not have enough food to eat. The main cause of hunger is not a collective shortage of food but rather access to food. Addressing hunger is more than just giving verbal support or condemnation.”

Read Previous

X-raying FUTO CE-sPESS workshops in Ebonyi

Read Next

As JUSUN strike takes toll on vulnerable persons in Osun State