Food insecurity: People have come almost to the end of their patience

The Senate has urged President Bola Tinubu to urgently address the food insecurity across the nation.

This prayer followed a motion moved by Sunday Karimi (APC, Kogi West) and co-sponsored by Ali Ndume ( APC, Borno South) at the Tuesday plenary.

The motion titled, “Urgent Need to Address Food Insecurity and Market Exploitation of Consumables In Nigeria,” noted that in the last few months, the price of goods and household consumables have been on an abysmal rise in the country, leading to a high rate of inflation, weakened buying power, and general worsening of living conditions of the vast majority of Nigerians.

Karimi further noted that the latest data by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics shows that, “food inflation in the country skyrocketed to 40.66 percent on a year-on-year basis, a significant increase from the 24.82 percent recorded in May 2023.

“The current market price of food items such as beans, maize, rice paddy, yam, tomatoes, and onions which initially rose by about 40% after the removal of petroleum subsidy has now increased to over 100% to 300% without any attributable reason for the increase in prices.”

He added, “Although insecurity in food-producing regions, bad roads, increase in the cost of transportation attributable to the removal of fuel subsidy and depreciation of the value of Naira, are possible factors that have contributed to the increase in the price of food items, household commodities, and consumables; the percentage of increase in the cost of transportation and some under factors listed above, is significantly less than the percentage increase in the current prices of goods all ever the country.

“Concerned that the greater percentage of the increase in prices of food items and consumables in the country is not only due to these factors but to the zest of the merchants, traders, and retailers to make supernormal profits whilst they excuse the hike in price on these factors (depreciation of the Naira against the Dollar, increase in price of Petroleum Products due to Fuel price increase and insecurity in farming Regions), thereby heaping all the blame on the Federal Government.”

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Karimi lamented that “there is a general attitude of ‘Get Rich Quickly’ or ‘Get Rich By All Means’ leading many Nigerians to jettison “being their brother’s keeper” and exploiting one another to make abnormal profits: This attitude has been justified on the basis that many political class technocrats and corporate elites and corporate elites have helped themselves with public funds without any repercussions in Law, Nigerian traders have thus resorted to price gouging to maximize profits.”

Karimi further stated that there are reports that Farming Communities in the Border Regions with other Countries, “prefer to sell their food items abroad (to these neighboring countries), rather than domestically(to the hinterland), thereby increasing local food insecurity.

“All efforts made by the current Federal Executive to arrest the consistent increase in food inflation have not yielded the desired results, there is a need to be more pragmatic about addressing food insecurity, curbing herder farmer crises, kidnapping for ransom, and terrorism, and ensure the development of a viable National Commodity Board to regulate the price of grains and ensure the elimination of artificial contributions to food and commodity inflation in Nigeria.”

In his contribution, Senator Ndume lamented that this was the first time Nigeria was listed as one of the countries battling food insecurity.

He said, “Currently there are four countries including Sudan and some others that are facing very serious insecurity. Nigeria is added to this list this year by the International Rescue Committee as one of the spots for food insecurity action against hunger. World Food Program also indicated that over 32 million people are expected to face a critical hunger crisis and emerging level between and August.

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“I don’t know about some other colleagues, but here in the North, we have started seeing it visibly. This is the first time we are experiencing this level of hunger. It’s the first time Nigeria is being listed as one of the countries with food insecurity.”

In his comments, former senate President, Ahmad Lawan, noted that the Nigerians have been extremely patient but for how long he couldn’t guarantee.

He said, “Our constituents are facing real anger. I traveled to states, that’s with the northern states and I’ve seen firsthand how people, especially those who are neither in the civil service nor in any business common everyday constituents are suffering, fighting, struggling to have food even once in a day under normal circumstances.

“In the rainy season from maybe June up to September or October pending when there will be harvests, but now, the silos are empty, we don’t have anything in the silos.”

Lawan added, “In today’s national dailies, it is written that the Federal Government is considering reducing or removing taxes on imported foodstuff.

“Here’s the catch. This Senate must immediately engage the executive. What are the issues? Which taxes are they talking about? Because we should be saying to be doing the right thing. We have little or nothing in our food reserve across the country and nobody to come and tell us they will distribute foodstuff from our silos. The silos are empty.

“So it means we have to import food. And if we have to import, it means we need foreign exchange. This is why we have to engage with the executive. We have to help the administration.

“If we don’t take immediate action and our citizens are under this situation of increased foreign price, increased electricity price, increased everything, and we are yet to get the right measures to provide food for our citizens, we wouldn’t like the kind of thing that we’d see on our streets.”

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The former Senate President warned, “It is time that we take every possible action together with the government to ensure that food flows in our country.

“The government must be entirely responsible because we cannot take people for granted for too long. People have come almost to the end of their patience.”

” The 1,200 bags of fertilizers ( 2 trucks ), the government wants to give each of the Senators for distribution to constituents, should be done fast as further delay, we render the intervention, useless “, he said.

In his contribution, the Chairman of, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Saliu Mustapha ( APC Kwara Central ), informed the Senate that the “Federal Government is already sending 60 trucks of fertilizers to each State of the federation, two trucks to each of the 109 Senatorial Districts and one truck to each of the 360 federal constituencies .”

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio in his remarks, said the food crisis facing the nation today, was a calamity foretold through insurgency,  banditry, and kidnapping, with attendant abandonment of farming by farmers.

Reiterating Senator Mustapha, the Senate President said that the distribution of the fertilizers must be properly monitored and ensure that it got to the appropriate quarters.

He said, “I have been informed by the chairman Senate Committee on Agriculture and the Deputy Senate president, that 60 trucks of fertilizers are to be distributed to state governors and they should be distributed to people irrespective of their political parties.”

The Senate, after that, urged the Federal government as a matter of urgency address the food crises across the country.

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