After Kenya Uprising, Senate Warns FG On Possible Hunger-Induced Protests

The Nigerian Senate, on Tuesday, engaged in an urgent debate addressing the widespread hunger and economic hardships faced by citizens, fearing potential backlash and unrest from the increasingly desperate populace.

This follows the recent events in Kenya, where violent protests erupted against the government’s tax hike, escalating into demands for improved governance and the resignation of President William Ruto.

The debate was spurred by a motion titled “Urgent Need to Address Food Insecurity and Market Exploitation of Consumables in Nigeria,” sponsored by Senator Sunday Karimi of Kogi West and co-sponsored by Senator Ali Ndume of Borno South.

Senator Karimi highlighted the escalating prices of food and basic goods, citing factors like high inflation and currency devaluation. He referenced recent data from the Bureau of Statistics showing food inflation had surged to 40.66% year-on-year, up from 24.82% in May 2023.

Karimi noted that prices of staples such as beans, maize, rice, yam, tomatoes, and onions had increased dramatically, in some cases by over 100% to 300%, exacerbated by the removal of petroleum subsidies.

He also condemned a prevalent “get rich quickly” mentality, where traders exploit market conditions for profit, paralleling corruption seen among political and corporate elites.

Senator Ndume emphasized the severity of the situation, referencing a report by Action Against Hunger World Food Program predicting over 32 million Nigerians could face critical hunger crises between June and August.

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Senator Ndume said, “I don’t know about some other countries, but there in the north, or here in the north, we have started seeing it visibly. People are hungry, very, very hungry.

“Many cannot go to their farms. All of us know this. In the North Central, the North East, and the North West. Even in the South East, we still have crises among the farmers and the herdsmen.

“Even in the South West, we still have this crisis. As it is now, a bag of rice is selling at about 100,000. A bag of maize, the same thing. Even prices of tomatoes, onions, and other basic food are high

Former Senate President Ahmed Lawan warned that Nigerians’ patience was wearing thin, and without swift action, there could be severe repercussions.

He shared observations from his recent travels in the north, witnessing firsthand the struggles of those not engaged in civil service or business to secure even a single daily meal.

Lawan pointed out the need for immediate food imports, noting the nation’s empty silos and the requirement for foreign exchange to facilitate imports.

Our constituents are facing real, real anger. I traveled to two states last week, in the north particularly, and I’ve seen firsthand how people, especially those who are not in the civil service, nor in any business, are suffering, fighting, and struggling to have food at least once in a day.

“Under normal circumstances, Mr. President, in the rainy season, from maybe June up to September or October, when there will be harvests of new foodstuff, prices of foodstuff are not expected to escalate, now we don’t even have that truth.

“If you come and tell us, they will distribute foodstuff from our silos. The silos are empty, Mr. President. So it means we have to import food. And if we have to import, it means we need foreign exchange.

“And that is because we have to engage with the administration. We have to help the administration. Mr. President, we are the most vulnerable in the leadership arrangements of this country.

“Members of the National Assembly, everybody looks up to Senators or members of the House of Representatives. In fact, people see Senators as Messiahs. Any problem, they say, go for your Senator.

“So if we don’t take immediate action, we will lose the power and our citizens under the situation of increased fuel price, increased electricity price, increased everything and we are yet to get the right measures to provide questions for our constituents.

“We wouldn’t like the kind of thing that we see in our streets and it is time that we take every possible action to get out of the arms of the government to ensure that food floods our country, the right food,” Lawan stated.

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Senate President Godswill Akpabio attributed the current crisis to prolonged security issues, including herders’ attacks on farmers in the North Central, banditry in the North West, and Boko Haram insurgencies in the North East.

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He stressed the necessity for government intervention to prevent the looming food shortage.

My opinion was that there was calamity when herders were pursuing people from their farms in the North Central; when bandits were pursuing people in Katsina and all over the North West zone and after the attack the people were moved to IDP camp and abandoned there. In the South there was insecurity and this has been for the past nine years and that is why there is scarcity of food in the country.

“Nigeria is now included among the countries that will experience acute food shortage. There is no doubt that the government must rise to the occasion”, he stated.

The debate concluded with a call for urgent and coordinated efforts to alleviate the growing food insecurity and economic challenges facing the nation.

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