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 Of Looming Food Scarcity In Nigeria

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In the course of the week, there were several warnings about an impending food crisis in the country. Farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector, raised an alarm over the impending food crisis in the country baring urgent government intervention. The President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) warned that should the prices of fertilizer continue to rise, this year’s rainy season farming and harvest will be affected and of course, that will mean reduction in food supply to the citizens.
In his words, “Last year, because the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) did not give the usual subsidy to supply 20:10:10 at N5, 500, farmers could not afford the commodity as in previous years and this is directly proportional to the hike in food prices today and if the prices of fertilizer remain like this, there will definitely be corresponding food inflation in the country.” Investigation shows that the average price of a 50kg bag of NPK fertilizer, mostly used by Nigerian smallholder farmers, has surged by 112.5 percent to N17,000 from last year’s N8,000.  Similarly, a 50kg bag of urea fertilizer sold for N6,000 last year, now goes for N17,000.
Still within the week, the Executive Secretary, ECOWAS Rice Observatory, Dr  Boladale Adebowale, disclosed that about 19.4 million Nigerians will face food crisis, and nutrition insecurity by August this year, owing to insecurity, adverse weather conditions, climate change, low mechanisation, poor seed quality and varieties, low access to agric credit, low agro-processing capacity, low investment in agricultural research, high prevalence of systemic inefficiencies and other factors threatening the agricultural sector. These reports are very scary, to say the least. Already, it is very hard for many people to feed their families due to the high cost of food items in the markets. There is virtually no food item whose price has not tripled in the past couple of months, yet the salaries of workers, particularly the government workers remain the same and we are told to expect harder days?
Not even the assurance of the President of African Development Bank (AFDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, that Africa will not experience food crisis because of the “High 5” programmes of the bank which centre on feed Africa, can assuage this fear. Nigeria’s case might be different from that of other African countries that the AFDB was talking about. We are on ground and we know that many Nigerians are dying of hunger. I belong to the welfare committee of my church which caters for the downtrodden in the society. People donate bags of rice, beverages, condiments and other food items which are shared to the poor weekly. It is heart wrenching seeing the large number of families that always queue up for the tiny quantities of food. Some of them tell tales of how that might be the only sure food for their families in many days.
Sadly, this is happening in a country where those in authority both at the federal and state levels are busy embezzling billions of naira meant for the poor masses; where politicians are dolling out N100million each to purchase party presidential forms. Yes, we know that there is a global surge in fertilizer prices, occasioned by the Russia-Ukraine crisis that has cut off shipments from the Black Sea region that accounts for 30 percent of the major grain trade and at least 12 percent of food calories traded. We are not oblivious of the fact that with the disruption in the global supply chain caused by the crisis in the black sea region that accounts for almost a third of the world’s wheat export, Africa, of course Nigeria inclusive, now faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from both countries.
But the question remains, over the years, what has the government at various levels done to increase food production in the country and how are they taking advantage of the present precarious food situation to boost our local production of both fertilizer and other agricultural products that will enhance adequate food production in the nation?
During the commissioning of the $2.5 billion Dangote Fertilizer plant at Ibeju-Lekki, by President Muhammadu Buhari, last March, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, made bold to announce that the number of fertilizer blending plants in Nigeria, has risen from seven to over 48, since the assumption of office by Buhari in 2015, adding that 35 million blended bags of fertilizer have been produced in the country within the last five years.Many analysts have however wondered about the positive impact of the said increased numbers of fertilizer plants since fertilizer, a critical input needed to boost the fertility of farmlands, is still beyond the reach of many farmers. They have also warned of the danger of allowing one capitalist to monopolise fertilizer production industry in the country, emphasising that that might not make fertilizer affordable, especially going by what obtains in the cement industry where Dangote cements are cheaper in other African countries than in Nigeria.
Many Nigerians will therefore want to see more competition in the fertilizer production business through the government’s establishment of more fertilizer plants in different parts of the country or creating a conducive atmosphere for other private investors to do so.Agricultural experts have called for the use of the right policy and technology to curb post-harvest losses in order to boost food production and lower the prices of foodstuffs in Nigeria. They insist that reduction in post-harvest losses and food processing must be encouraged in order to curb food shortage in Nigeria. Studies have shown that African post-harvest loss can be as high as 50 percent in vegetables, fruits and root tubers and 25 percent in cereals. Proper processing of these large quantities of items will definitely make a huge difference.
Meanwhile, the much talked about insecurity in the country is still a big factor in the clog of the wheel of sufficient food production in the country. And until something is done towards curbing the spate of insecurity across the country, all efforts towards forestalling the food crisis in the country might be futile. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports, over 70 percent of Nigerians work in the agriculture sector, mainly at subsistence level.  A good number of these people have either fled their homes because they are afraid of being attacked by gunmen terrorising different parts of the country or they are still in their communities but can no longer carry on with their faming activities for the fear of being kidnapped or killed or their farmlands have been taken over by the gunmen.
For instance, a good number of businessmen who went into tomatoes and other crops farming in Anambra State some years back are said to have closed shops due to the criminal activities of unknown gunmen who have made the state very uninhabitable. It is therefore imperative that to avert the looming food crisis in the nation, the government should take sincere measures towards solving the insecurity problem in the country. Some people have often opined that if the politicians and those in power put their selfish or whatever interest behind and work towards bringing an end to the insecurity problems that is tearing this country apart, there will be a remarkable change and there is no better truth.
Again, the endemic corruption in the nation must be addressed if this country must move forward.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

  Exchange And Variety: Vital For Continuity

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One William Bolitho, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, whose leg had to be amputated after a road accident, made an important statement: “The most important thing in life is not to capitalise on your gains. Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from your losses. That requires intelligence, and it makes the difference between a man of sense and a fool”. Similarly a woman who was thrown out of her matrimonial home for having extra-marital relationship, but whose second marriage became a great success and joy, said that: “Exchange and variety give joy, fun and longevity to life”.
Surely, monotony results in boredom and stand-still, because, sustainability and continuity in life demand regular exchange and variety. Exchange should be understood to mean equity and balance in the process of giving and taking, while variety refers to comprehensive exposures to the issues and vagaries of life. In every interaction or relationship, one-sidedness has always been a major cause of disharmony and breakdown. One-sidedness can arise from a deliberate intent to cheat, or ignorance, which places the burden of giving only on one party, while the other becomes a parasite. Unfair deal!
Among other demands on a living being is the necessity or ability to turn liabilities, handicaps or losses into one form of asset or another. Thus individuals are often laden with burdens and cares which they must strive to resolve diligently, in the process of which they learn vital lessons and advance towards greater successes. So, to develop that tenacity to survive in a hostile environment demands that an individual must learn to take some loading tests and pass them without breaking down.
Not only individuals are exposed to loading tests as a means of capacity building, but nature also forces human environments to bear some stress and strains as the means for renewal of energy and regeneration. What we call natural catastrophes are usually necessary processes of repairs and balancing of wreaks and decrepit situations often brought about by humans. For example, lightning discharges between the clouds and the ground during thunderstorms balance the extreme differences in electrical potential which build up between the ground and higher atmospheric layers. Human activities, including illegal refining of chemical substances, cause such imbalances in the atmosphere.
Climate changes and climatic imbalances result from mining and other industrial activities whose disturbances and waste products pollute and endanger the atmosphere and ecosystem. Can crop yields and food production not be affected adversely in areas where the mining activities take place? Even though the effects may not be immediately visible, is it not likely that human health can suffer some risks arising from economic activities? Nature has a way of using ex-change and variety to maintain balance when human activities tend to throw the ecological system into chaos.
We can apply this Exchange and Variety theory in every human situation as a means of correcting social ills and perplexities. Without malice or favour in its application, exchange demands that value should go for an equal value, and variety based on complementarity. Is the political office holder in Nigeria being paid four times what the President of the USA earns (apology to ASUU) in one year, giving services of equivalent value to Nigeria, or a parasite to the country?
Where there is a mis-match in the blending of a variety of substances, there surely would arise some chaos and discomfort. Be it in food intake or in the amalgamation of chemical substances, conditionality must always prevail. Constipation arises in the human stomach when non-complementary food items are consumed, and, in the blending of a variety of substances a condition of near-homogeneities applies. You do not grind onions, tomatoes and stones together! So, the principle of exchange and variety as vital for continuity and sustainability cannot be applied without conditions; neither does nature apply it in an arbitrary manner.
In the farming system, farmlands get exhausted in terms of soil nutrition if same crops are cultivated repeatedly. So, local farmers resort to shifting cultivation while scientific farming would recommend alternation of crops as a way to guarantee or maintain fertility of the soil. Manure and fertilizers are also used to improve soil fertility. We also observe that natural catastrophes rarely occur without warnings to humans as a means of providing opportunity to avert worst dangers. Medical practitioners would say that pains and fever are signs and symptoms of some ailments trying to build up.
Often human beings in their myopic, indolent or complacent attitude allow signs and symptoms of impending disasters to pass without taking appropriate actions. From stomach discomfort, fever and pains; to increasing cases of banditry and terrorism, there is often the tendency to play down on signs and symptoms that are harbingers of catastrophes. The principle of exchange includes giving up something as a restitution, such as giving up a bad habit as an exchange for good health. In all such transactions there must be equity and justice.
Nature abhors and spurns injustices and inequities, and wherever they occur and persist with recalcitrance, then comes appropriate penalty or restitution. A genuine restitution goes with penitence, apology or compensation for the damage done. Similarly the principle of variety as vital element for longevity and sustainability includes the use of complementary additives to boost the energy and health of anything undermined by decrepitude. Healing by magnetism or by herbs is accomplished by infusing matching substances or radiation to give a boost to an ailing health.
In no way can something capable of aggravating a bad situation be considered as a complementary variety. In medical practice matching tests are conducted to ensure appropriate remedies for specific ailments. Thus the habit of consumption of drugs without diagnostic or matching tests is seriously discouraged. But in human relationships we find the union of people who rarely have complementary dispositions. Where the qualities and endowments of one person in marriage do not match with the other, love alone will not bridge the gap.
The woman quoted as saying that “exchange and variety give joy, fun and longevity to life”, after the failure of her first marriage, added that “there is stability and joy when you find a matching partner”. Often it takes several bitter personal experiences and perhaps failures, to be able to appreciate the fact that it takes an indomitable spirit to profit from your losses. Exchange and variety must go with willingness to give and interact justly and sensibly. Put everything to test before embracing them.

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Off Violence And Global Food Insecurity

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On February 24, 2022, the ego of one man led Russia to war. Many in the West, never envisaged that such a day could come again in continental Europe, but Vladimir Putin’s lust for a place in infamy cannot be quenched. For him, Mother Russia must be resurrected, even if it means the senseless deaths of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, and millions of refugees. After four months of Putin’s so-called Special military operation, the ripples are now felt across the world. Global food security is now at risk due to millions of tons of Wheat trapped in  Ukraine, and countries across the world that depend on food aid from the world food programme are now at risk of starvation since 50 per cent of the programme’s wheat supply comes from the country. Ukraine also produces about 20 per cent of global high-grade wheat and the equivalent of 7 per cent of total global wheat production. The war is also affecting Russia’s production, which when combined with Ukraine supplies about 30 per cent of wheat and 24 per cent of global barley supply.
Benue State is to Nigeria, what Ukraine represents in the global food supply, and it has been the target of continuous attack from Fulani herdsmen and bandits. Even though these attacks did not begin in 2015, since the advent of President Buhari, they have increased in frequency, spread and sophistication. Nigerian farmers in most states in the country now have to contend with stranger criminal elements unheard of in the past. The term bandit is a synonym for terror; most of our food-producing communities are the ones bearing the full brunt of the attack.
In Benue State, about 70 per cent of those in IDP camps are farmers whose communities and farms have been sacked and livelihoods completely eviscerated. When the herdsmen and bandits descend on these communities, they destroy barns and seedlings for the next farming season. Our once celebrated food basket is almost empty, and the impact could be felt across the country on every kitchen table, and food inflation now stands at 18.8 per cent. The most troubling part of this issue is that little or nothing is being done to arrest the situation; and by not dealing decisively with this matter, President Buhari has given tacit support to his kinsmen as they continue to decimate farming communities in Benue since 2018. Unfortunately, the farming communities in Benue State are not the only ones suffering at the hands of Fulani herdsmen and bandits.
On a TV programme in January 2022, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Aare Gani Adams, stated that the food crisis is imminent in the South-West region of Nigeria due to the onslaught on farmers by Fulani herdsmen. According to him, farmers in hotspots have stopped going to their farms for fear of being attacked by criminal herders. Another telling side of this herdsmen saga in South-West Nigeria is that they deliberately lead their herds into farms to graze, as a result, many farmers have incurred huge amounts of debt, leading to frustration.
In Rivers State, especially in Ogoni land and Etche, herdsmen with AK-47s have destroyed countless farms, raping women, destroying livelihoods, and dislocating local food supply in the process. They are undeterred because nobody wants to go to war; but how long shall we continue like this? They have removed the natural buffers and shock absorbers that offer us defence in times of food inflation and global food crises; and the monthly “Selected Food Prices Watch” of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in all parts of the country has been showing it.
According to the NBS’s data for May 2022, the average price of 1kg of beans (white, black eye, sold loose) rose on a year-on-year basis by 37.22 per cent from N382.37 in May 2021 to N524.70 in May 2022. Also, on a month-on-month basis, this increased by 1.09 per cent from N519.05 in April 2022. The average price of 1kg of a Yam tuber increased on a year-on-year basis by 37.87 per cent from N269.98 in May 2021 to N372.23 in May 2022.
According to the NBS’s data, on a month-on-month basis, the average price of this item increased by 3.05 per cent in May 2022. Similarly, the average price of 2kg of Wheat flour: pre-packed (golden penny) on a year-on-year basis, rose by 34.92 per cent from the value recorded in May 2021 (N785.87) to N1, 060.26 in May 2022. On a month-on-month basis, it increased from N1, 047.74 in April 2022 to N1, 060.26 in May 2022 indicating a 1.20 per cent rise.
From  the NBS’s data also, the average price of Palm oil: (1 bottle, specify bottle) increased by 42.81 per cent from N593.36 in May 2021 to N847.39 in May 2022. It also rose by 0.55 per cent on a month-on-month basis. The average price of 1kg of beef (boneless) rose by 34.11 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N1, 513.43 in May 2021 to N 2,029.59 in May 2022. In addition, the average price of Groundnut oil: (1 bottle, specify bottle) stood at N1, 040.88 in May 2022, showing an increase of 47.99 per cent from N703.36 in May 2021.
During the monetary policy committee meeting in March 2021, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, adduced that the activities of the Fulani herdsmen was a contributory factor to rising inflation, he said, “This persisting uptick in food inflation was the major driving factor to the uptick in headline inflation”. According to him, this was due to the worsening security situation in many parts of the country, particularly, the food-producing areas, where farmers face frequent attacks by herdsmen and bandits on their farms. Unfortunately, things have gotten worse since 2021. Again, the committee further noted that the hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), the upward adjustment in electricity tariffs, and the depreciation of the naira are the key drivers of the increase in core inflation.  Where are we today in the above indices as compared to 2021? There is even a continuous micro increment on electricity tariff, but we dare not talk about the price of diesel, which is heading to N1000 per liter. However, going by the reasoning of the MPC in March 2021, the coming hike in the pump price of PMC might be the last nail that seals the coffin of most Nigerians for good.
But we know that most of these problems are self-inflicted. They are akin to the insane policy failures of President Joe Biden in the US. He has banqueted a thriving economy in January 2020, but in only 18 months the US economy is wrecked. It is so bad that the US is unable to produce its own baby formula, shelves are emptying fast across the county, and recession is already on the horizon. The saddest part is that he blames everyone but himself.
In all honesty, we cannot say that President Jonathan handed a fantastic economy to President Buhari, but whatever state the economy was in 2015 has been upended. Most of those in the cabinet of President Jonathan was indisputable technocrats, whereas, President Buhari’s incompetence and nepotistic disposition gave us one of the worst National Executive Council of all time.Thanks to Buhari, families who were able to eat two square meals are now struggling to eat one. It is sad because we thought that campaign promise meant anything, unfortunately, the repercussions of our votes in 2015 is felt every day on the kitchen table of our wives and our dining tables, and just like Joe Biden, President Buhari, through his spokesmen, Garba Shehu and Lie Muhammed have taken no responsibility for turning Nigeria into a living hell for most of us.

By: Raphael Pepple

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Opinion

Still On Open Defecation

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The issue of open defecation was once again brought to the fore at last Tuesday’s inauguration of the 2021 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH-NORM) III Report in Abuja. The report puts the number of people that still practise open defecation in Nigeria at not less than 48million.
Commenting on the report, the Minister of Water Resources, Mr. Suleiman Adamu, said, “The results show clearly that access to basic water supply services is available to 67 per cent of the population, at 92 per cent access levels, the richest households are twice more likely to use basic water supply services than the poorest households with 46 per cent.
“Disparities also exist between urban areas and rural areas, the most common sources of drinking water recorded by households were boreholes/tube wells, and only 11 per cent of the household population use pipe-borne water”, adding that the slow progress being made in improving water and sanitation services was due to population expansion, low commitments from states and impact of COVID-19.
That this huge number of Nigerians still defecate in the open is very disturbing, especially going by the government’s claim at tackling the menace.
Recall that in 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order 009 to end open defecation in the country by 2025 titled “The Open Defecation-Free Nigeria by 2025 and Other Related Matters Order 2019.”  The order aimed at changing the embarrassing record of the country being the second country with the highest number of people practising open defecation, next to India. Part of the executive order says, “there is a National Secretariat called ‘Clean Nigeria Campaign established in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources Secretariat. The secretariat is authorised on behalf of the President to implement this Order by ensuring that all public places including schools, hotels, filling stations, places of worship, market places, hospitals and offices have accessible toilets and latrines within their premises.”
Three years down the line, has anything changed? How many of these public facilities now have toilets and latrines? At the coming into being of the Order many questions were asked by some Nigerians which are still relevant today – How realistic is it for the nation to eradicate this problem in the next three years as the federal government targets? What plans are there to adequately provide these facilities before 2025? What are the established mechanisms of monitoring the use of existing public toilets and the ones yet to be established?
Again, many people resort to open defecation due to lack of water for flushing. Should we therefore not make water available to the citizens first of all, for our dream of ending open defecation to be a reality? There is also the issue of unstable water tables which makes digging of toilets in some places very difficult and expensive. Was this factored into the plan to rid the nation of open defecation in the next couple of years?
The minister was blaming the inability of the government to provide water on population expansion and others. Shouldn’t this have been factored into the development plan of the country? Year 2025 is just three years away and we are still being given excuses? It’s quite unfortunate. Going by the devastating impact of open defecation on the environment and health of the citizens, shouldn’t more sincere efforts be made by both federal, state and local governments towards reducing its prevalence in the country? Almost every year, the nation battles the outbreak of water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhea, hepatitis and others. Last year, the outbreak of cholera in some parts of the country caused no less than 816 deaths according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC). Experts have described cholera as a preventable and treatable epidemic -prone disease which is transmitted by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. One major cause of water contamination in Nigeria is open defecation. The huge human wastes that daily go into the seas, rivers and lagoons going by reports, is quite alarming. Little wonder in October 2019, Nigeria became the number one open defecation nation globally, passing India. In bushes, in schools, fields and classrooms, in uncompleted buildings, at dumps, walkways, under bridges, excreta are a common sight. It is not unusual to see someone hawking food item drop the item at a corner of the road or close to drainage, bend down, and pull down his underwear to answer the call of nature; neither is it strange to see a commuter bus pull out from the highway for the passengers to excrete at a nearby bush.
Let’s not talk about what obtains in some of our higher institutions of learning and public secondary schools where open defecation is almost a norm. Students are compelled to excrete in polythene bags and dispose off   on the streets or  in the bush either due to lack of water supply, poorly managed toilet facilities or outright non availability of toilet facilities.
At the airports, markets, motor parks and other public places, the situation is not too different. Although, most times, there are public toilets in these places, some people still prefer excreting in the open, thereby polluting the entire environment.  A typical example is the “prestigious” Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.  This is arguably one of the best airports in the country. In terms of neatness, especially inside and at the tarmac, it is next to none.
Move towards the car park,  the whole place reeks of urine and decaying faecal matters. This abysmal attitude obviously, is not peculiar to rural or urban dwellers nor can it be attributed solely to poverty or lack of toilet facilities. I have not forgotten an experience at a workshop some years ago, where all the participants made up of top civil servants, media executives, heads of schools, and other top people in the society gave affirmative responses to the moderator’s question of if there were any of the participants who had not defecated openly before. Some even narrated how they enjoy the natural breeze that caresses them while defecating in the open.
It is therefore,  imperative that Nigerians be educated and sensitized regularly on the dangers of open defecation and importance of proper hygiene because apparently, many do not know and some who are aware, prefer the unwholesome attitude.
Without these challenges being addressed, the idea of eradicating open defecation in the country in 2025 might just go the way of other unrealistic national campaigns. State governments should also toe the line of the federal government by prioritizing the issues surrounding water, sanitation and hygiene which will ultimately make the drive for no open defecation smooth and fruitful. Authorities at all levels should play down on politics which has taken center stage in Nigeria right now and pay more attention on tackling the mounting challenges in the country which are affecting the quality of lives of the citizens.
Meanwhile, as the government is expected to intensify efforts in their role towards solving the problem of open defecation in the country, we as the citizens should complement the government’s effort by dropping our primitive lifestyles that make us defecate anyhow, anywhere.   We should be more committed in taking care of the few available toilet facilities in our offices, worship centers, shopping malls and other public places.  It is indeed  time we improved on our personal hygiene and good sanitation habits.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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