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Hunger Republic

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*By Dakuku Peterside*

Every day, ordinary Nigerians from Maiduguri to Oyorokoto- Andoni in Rivers State, Okerenkoko- Delta to Wamako in Sokoto state
make difficult decisions. They are forced to choose between having one meal or paying essential life-sustaining bills. This anomaly does not affect the people at the lowest rung of the economic ladder alone, but also the middle class. The cliche, the rich also cry, is truer now than ever in our country. The increase in the price of food and essential items is not abating. The proverbial ‘three square meals’ that serves as evidence of good living and conquering hunger is gradually becoming a mirage. This basic feeding pattern has been replaced with various feed patterns that guarantee only one or two meals a day – the quality of the meal is not even considered in this equation. The goal is often to put food in the stomach.

The above is the reality of millions of families in Nigeria. Hunger is in the land, and there is no denying it. Many families have gone into survival mode, and food is a trade-off with other necessities like medication and school fees. Children are the most hit. They lack the necessary nutrients they need to grow and develop physically and emotionally with a lack of nutritious food. Two statistics in recent times drive home the point that Nigerians are facing the reality of hunger. Global Hunger Index report ranked Nigeria 103 out of 116 countries, indicating that hunger is severe and may become alarming if nothing is done urgently. As if that report is not indicative enough, the World Bank, in a new report titled ‘COVID-19 in Nigeria: Frontline Data and Pathways for Policy.” posits that additional six
million Nigerians may be pushed to extreme poverty and hunger by the end of the year 2021 because of food inflation. These damming reports call for urgent actions before many Nigerians face an existential threat.
One may be inclined to dismiss these reports as just alarmist. However, the reality on the ground is evident for all to see. If the fortunate few who are wealthy are feeling the pinch of
hyperinflation in Nigeria, imagine how the over 80 million Nigerians earning below one dollar ninety cents per day survive. Imagine how a family man that makes the minimum wage (N30,000 per month) will feed his family and pay all his bills when a bag of beans is almost N100,000, three times the salary, and a bag of rice is over N30,000 which is equivalent to his monthly salary. A sack of spaghetti is N350 from N200 a few months ago. All these increases in prices are simultaneously happening when income is static or falling, and many are losing their jobs due to Covid – 19 induced economic crises. 

Hunger fuels criminality and crime; it affects education and school enrolment; it affects healthcare quality. Most importantly, hunger affects political choices. Politicians are already using it as a weapon as we match towards the 2023 general election. From the prevailing situation, it will be a significant weapon available to politicians to influence voters. One cannot blame voters entirely if they fall to the weapon of hunger because a hungry man cannot reason objectively; neither does he worry about the future when all he is struggling to do is to feed himself and his family in the present moment.
It is dangerous to our democracy to allow the weaponization of hunger and the proverbial calls for ‘stomach infrastructure. The implications of this on Nigeria development are dire. There is a nexus between hunger and unemployment, increased poverty, food inflation, widespread loss of income and low productivity. How can we fuel our economy to grow to greater heights when most of the consumers are hungry and cannot afford to participate effectively in the economy?

Granted, this administration is doing all it can to tackle hunger and poverty, in various parts of Nigeria. By various interventions, nevertheless, for every recipient of poverty and hunger palliatives, many are left out. And more are joining the ranks of the poor and hungry in their millions. The government should rethink hunger and poverty alleviation policies and approaches and make them fit for purpose given the current realities. For instance, it is surprising that the government, through CBN, is giving out more loans and grants to the agriculture sector, but its impact is minimal or not felt on the dining table of families. Data from the Ministry of Agriculture suggest we are producing more rice in the country, but the price of rice is skyrocketing and beyond ordinary people’s reach. One should expect that there should be a corresponding increase in food self-sufficiency in Nigeria with such CBN intervention. Besides, it is either that the money from CBN is not getting to the actual farmers or is not being used for farming purposes. We cannot pretend not to know that the prevailing insecurity makes it almost impossible to farm in most parts of the country. The other issue is that most of the investment in the agriculture sector goes to subsistence farming and not mechanised and large-scale agriculture. Subsistence farming cannot help Nigeria address the problem of hunger and food inflation. Recently, the Central Bank posited that its various interventions in agriculture have led to the food import bill dropping from USD3.4billon in 2014 to USD0.56billion in 2020, representing a drop of over 80%. . However, this does not reflect on the affordability or availability of food in the market and homes. Statistically, our bill for food imports has dropped, but it has not bridged the gap in food self-sufficiency. Conversely, CBN may have inadvertently imposed suffering on the people or denied access to food stock by 80%. A country that works is not necessarily about statistics alone but the everyday experience of ordinary people. Food is not there, but the little available is beyond the reach of the common person. The government should explore a strategy that combines incentives for mass production of food and stimulus for influencing the supply chain to make sure that food is available and affordable.

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Food security must be at the heart of national security, and a rethink of the existing national food security strategy is needed. We want a situation where economic growth aligns with alleviating hunger. So, collaboration is required among relevant government agencies to address hunger and poverty. The present hunger ravaging Nigerians is precarious because many other factors are pushing Nigerians to the brim. The fragile and perilous state of our polity is marked by heightened insecurity, divisiveness, and ethnic agitations. Therefore, I call for a declaration by the federal government of a national state of emergency against hunger. It is anathema for a hard-working citizen of Nigeria to go to bed without food, not out of choice but out of lack. 

The sooner government tackled the insecurity situation in the food corridors of Nigeria, the better for everyone. Farmers should be encouraged and protected from attacks when they go back to their farms. The infrastructure needed for the movement of food and services allied to the food industry must be improved as national urgency. We must strengthen the supply end of food security.

Food processing is also crucial. Not only is demand outstripping supply leading to demand-pull inflation in food in Nigeria, but supply is not strengthened because of waste that occurs, especially with seasonal food. The government should encourage the food processing and storage industry to thrive in Nigeria. It must be the aim of the Nigerian government in the long run to make Nigeria a net exporter of food. We know that farmers need a moderate increase in food prices to make the food business economically viable. The effective synergy between farmers and the food processing and storage industry may help control and stabilise prices for the benefit of both farmers and consumers.
The demand for food in Nigeria will continue to increase. Not only is our population growing daily, but we also are at the centre of the supply chain for smaller neighbouring African countries. At present, the demand pressure may not come down, and policies to achieve a reduction will only work in the medium to long term. Therefore, I implore the government to focus on immediate remedial actions to salvage the situation.
Unfortunately, on the broad sectoral performance, agriculture grew by 1.22% during the third quarter of 2021 in real terms lower than the third quarter of 2020, which recorded 1.39%. This is worrisome. How can the agriculture sector grow less in 2021 compared to 2020, when the covid 19 pandemic was at its worst state? One explanation may be that insecurity in food corridors has a more negative impact on agriculture than Covid 19. Also, the medium-term effect of insecurity and covid 19 on agriculture may have started to show by the third quarter of 2021. Whatever be the case, the government should strive to turn this trend around.
There is a need to collaborate with international organisations dealing with the food crisis to alleviate the impact of lack of food or the high cost of food on poor people in Nigeria. We do not have to wait until hunger overwhelms our system before looking for international collaborations to ameliorate the problem. The implication may be too challenging to contemplate.
As a matter of urgency, Nigeria should revisit the policy of reducing the importation of food, especially now. There is no prescription that every nation has to meet its food self-sufficiency needs from domestic production. What nations must not fail to do is to identify their competitive advantages in terms of agricultural production for domestic consumption and export. The economic theory of specialisation and international trade provides that countries should import what they do not have a competitive advantage in producing while they export what they produce competitively.
As a temporary stop-gap measure, the government can allow for the importation of selected food items to cushion the impact of food inflation and gradually phase them out as food security is achieved and things stabilise. It is also not unreasonable to argue that the food inflation Nigeria is facing now may have been caused partly by the devaluation of Naira that has increased the prices of food and other goods imported from abroad at the new exchange rate.

In conclusion, we contend that food inflation is part of poverty and is at the root of the current ravaging hunger level. Tackling the supply side of food will help not only to make food available but will also force the prices down. The rising cases of hunger and malnutrition is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Now is the time to tackle it head-on and avert a crisis waiting to happen. A stitch in time saves nine.

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FEATURED

Group Calls For Protection Of Journalists In Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi States

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The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has urged for necessary measures to protect journalists and other media workers during this weekend’s off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi States.

The group sent the request to the federal and state governments, as well as law enforcement and security agencies, stressing that the role of journalists in disseminating information about the electoral process is critical to ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections.

In a statement issued ahead of the elections in Lagos and signed by the Communications Officer, Media Rights Agenda, Idowu Adewale, MRA also urged journalists to be cautious and to use its existing hotline (08138755660) to report any threat or attack they may encounter during the process, as well as any obstacle.

Adewale said in the statement: “Given the pattern of heightened attacks on journalists and the media during previous elections, including the recent 2023 general elections, as well as the tense political climate in the three states in the lead-up to the elections, measures must be taken to ensure general security during the elections and provide adequate protection for journalists covering the elections.”

“Access to information allows citizens and other members of the public to have the information they need about political and electoral processes, facilitating effective public participation in elections,” he says.

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“Journalists and the media play an important role in ensuring residents and other members of the public have access to information and may participate in the process.

“As part of efforts to preserve the integrity of the polls, it is also critical that the safety and well-being of these interlocutors be assured and safeguarded.”

Lamenting the increased number of attacks on journalists in the run-up to the off-cycle elections, as well as earlier this year in the run-up to the general elections, he emphasised that “a free and vibrant media is fundamental to a healthy democracy, and journalists must be able to carry out their duties without fear, coercion, or violence.” During this vital phase, MRA stands ready to assist them and assure their safety.”

 

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CRIME

Police Nab Husband, As Mother Of ‘Mummy Be Calming Down’ Boy Takes Own Life

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Men from the Edo State Police Command are said to have detained Mrs. Toluige Olokoobi’s husband after he allegedly murdered her.

Olokoobi was the mother of Oreofeoluwa Lawal-Babalola, the tiny boy whose video went viral in 2020 after he pleaded with his mother, “Mummy be calming down.”

Oreofeoluwa rose to prominence on social media after a video of him crying in an attempt to confidently appeal to his mother, who chastised him, went viral.

The film inspired Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who used it to deliver an Eid-el-Kabir appeal to Muslims and Lagos people in general to remain calm during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Following that, the youngster and his family met with the governor, who praised his bravery and poise.

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While little has been heard about the family in three years, heartbreaking news broke on social media on Tuesday that the boy’s mother had committed suicide.

According to an X user, Olokoobi committed suicide in Benin, the capital of Edo State, for unknown reasons.

The X user, who stated that he was present at the site on Monday afternoon, went on to say that she had refused to disclose her difficulties with anyone before committing herself.

“The woman in the viral Mummy Calm Down video has just committed suicide here in Benin,” he stated in an email.

“She refused to discuss her problems with anyone.” She abandoned three children for her husband, including the well-known Mummy Calm Down boy.”

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Meanwhile, confirming Olokoobi’s death in a chat with BBC Pidgin, the spokesperson of the Edo State police command, Chidi Nwabuzor, said her husband has been arrested and detained for questioning.

Nwabuzor said the husband reported the matter to the police.

The police spokesperson quoted the husband to have said that “he came home from the market when he saw his wife hanging with rope on her neck”.

Nwabuzor said she was rushed to the hospital and then to the mortuary after she was confirmed dead. (Adapted from a Vanguard report).

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CRIME

Anambra: CP Aderemi Adeoye Decorates Promoted Officers With New Ranks

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The Anambra State Police Command Headquarters Conference Hall was a hive of activity Thursday as CP Aderemi Adeoye took turns decorating around 18 promoted officers of the command with their new titles.

The delight of some of the officers whose wives assisted the CP in decorating their husbands with their new ranks knew no bounds, as their husbands duly saluted their wives and the CP for their new positions and responsibilities.

Obi Innocent, one of the officers elevated to the rank of Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), whose wife joined CP Aderemi Adeoye in adorning him with his new rank, said it was wonderful that the Inspector General of Police thought him worthy.

CSP Obi Innocent, the officer in charge of the Legal Department at Zone 13, Police Zonal Headquarters Ukpo, stated that his new rank was a call to service and that he would do his best to uphold the charge given to them by CP Aderemi Adeoye to respect and protect the citizenry’s fundamental rights in the discharge of their new assignments.

Charity Akharame, who was honoured with the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and was the only female officer among the 18 promoted officers decorated with new ranks, said it was not an easy feat but she was grateful to be among those who were decorated with their new ranks.

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DSP Charity Akharame, the officer in charge of stores in the Anambra State Police Command, recalled how she began as a Police Constable and worked her way up to her current position as Deputy Superintendent of Police.

She stated that as a very disciplined police officer, she would follow the Police Commissioner’s directions regarding respect for all and sundry in the fulfillment of her constitutional obligations.

Jane-Frances Obi, one of the spouses of the officers elevated to the level of CSP, stated that being the wife of a police officer was not an easy assignment. As a result, she recommended any lady who is married to a police officer to be patient and understanding because the job is quite demanding.

Jane-Frances Obi, whose husband is Innocent Obi, the officer in charge of the Legal Department at Zone 13 Ukpo, believes the promotion is a reward for years of being patient, understanding, and standing in for them when they are not present.

Meanwhile, Emenike Chinenyenwa, who was decorated with the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) and presented a vote of appreciation, expressed deep gratitude to the IGP and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission for considering them worthy of being adorned in their new ranks.

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ACP Emenike, the officer in charge of Medicals, stated that the elevation comes with increased responsibility and that they will work harder in their new tasks.

CP Aderemi Adeoye praised the current promotion winners in his remarks, noting that two aspects make the police career very interesting and eventful. He stated that one is for promotion and the other is for positions.

CP Adeoye, on the other hand, urged the newly honored officers to develop more empathy, compassion, care, and dedication in the performance of their jobs.

The police chief insisted that newly promoted officers must first recognise that they share the same humanity as others, and as a result, they must treat all people with dignity and protect their fundamental human rights at all times.

CP Aderemi Adeoye stressed that without the enormous roles of spouses, they wouldn’t have been successful in their careers. He therefore congratulated all the promoted and prayed that God gives them good health to enjoy the new ranks and the energy to discharge the responsibilities of their new offices.

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  • Source: Independent

 

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