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Hunger and the urgent need to save Nigeria’s economy

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That many low income earners and self employed Nigerians can no longer afford two square meals daily and pay for public services on account of high inflation currently at 27.3percent resulting in their inability to buy food items and other basic consumables some 24 years after the return to democratic rule is enough evidence of the abysmal failure of government’s economic policies over the period which should be a source of deep concern to elected representatives of the people at all levels.

To a great extent also, their plight which got aggravated from May 29th this year after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu declared the removal of the controversial fuel subsidy in his inaugural speech and the subsequent introduction of a “managed floating” foreign exchange policy designed to force a convergence between the exporters and investors window as well as the parallel market, leading to massive devaluation of the naira requires an urgent review in order to ameliorate their sufferings and save the economy from possible imminent collapse.

We strongly demand that the federal government should speedily review both policies in the interest of the suffering masses, taxpayers and even manufacturers since the welfare and protection of the people is the primary responsibility of government. In addition, practical steps must be taken to tackle the food and fuel induced double digit inflation which has brought untold hardship on the citizens.

But any attempt by government to address the food inflation that had kept the prices of all consumables including rice, beans, garri, potatoes, yams, plantain, corn, millet, bread, fish, eggs, oil and water on the increase for months, should start with finding permanent solution to the current security challenges which had forced many farmers to abandon their farms for fear of being kidnapped or killed by bandits and terrorists especially in the North East and Middle Belt regions reputed as the food basket of the country.

As experience has shown, the federal government’s penchant of throwing money at agriculture through the Anchor Borrowers Programme targeted at rice farmers for instance, hasn’t yielded the desired outcome as the least price of 50kg of locally produced or imported rice in the market is over N45,000, an amount that is higher than the current N30,000 national minimum wage.

Again, the fact that all petroleum products consumed in the country are imported, following the devaluation of the naira by the Tinubu administration, has kept the costs of diesel, petrol, kerosene and aviation fuel very high even as the nation’s refineries have remained comatose for over eight years, not withstanding that immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari doubled as Commander-in- Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces and petroleum minister of one of the leading member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, and crude oil producers of the world.

Regrettably also, even the price of cooking gas has increased astronomically such that a large number of users in the urban centres have resorted to the use of charcoal, a development that constitutes environmental hazard and undermines government’s efforts to discourage pollution that will further deplete the ozone layer responsible for climate change. In other words the rising costs of goods and services including transport fares and medical bills had made life difficult for most Nigerians to the point that many have jumped at the slightest opportunity to seek greener pastures abroad at all costs.

Consequently, we demand that the federal government goes beyond offering palliatives to the vulnerable Nigerians as empirical evidence have revealed that more people are being thrown into the poverty bracket in addition to the over 133million citizens earlier identified as multi dimensionally poor by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, under the Buhari’s administration.

Similarly, the recent prediction by the World Bank that Nigeria’s low economic growth and rising inflation will force additional 2.8 million people into poverty bracket by the end of 2023 should be a source of serious concern to both the federal and state governments which control the lion share of the nation’s financial resources and spur them to formulate policies and programmes aimed at addressing the fundamental issues confronting the economy as a matter of national emergency.

In specific terms, the global institution explained that Nigeria under Tinubu confronted with several economic challenges in the first half of 2023, including a “growth deceleration in the first quarter and rising inflation, which had pushed many people into poverty” realized the need to change course, which prompted the new administration to undertake crucial reforms to restore macro economic stability by removing the fuel subsidy and liberalizing the exchange rate which unfortunately had not achieved the anticipated outcomes.

The results have been that both household consumers, low and middle income earners, self employed people and even the manufacturers are groaning under  food inflation and the imported fuel inflation following an astronomical increase in the costs of goods and services. The epileptic electricity supply nationwide had also made most producers to rely on diesel and gas which are expensive resulting in prohibitive energy costs and forced many to shut down operations and some multinational companies in the pharmaceutical sector and oil and gas sector to leave the country.

And considering that succeeding federal administrations have failed woefully in addressing most of Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges since independence on October 1st 1960, such that the country currently import most of its  basic needs including food and medicine, means that both Tinubu and governors of the 36 states should as a matter of urgency think outside the box and come up with the right policies to address the problems in agriculture and energy especially from boosting supply.

Significantly too, it is our strong view therefore, that the starting point to engender genuine change and set the country on the path of social and economic development should be to provide the enabling environment and provide adequate security for lives and property as well as micro, small, medium and large scale enterprises to thrive. This also implies ensuring radical change in the existing security architecture in which the Nigeria Police Force and Armed Forces personnel are saddled with the responsibility of providing internal security and warding off external aggression.

We demand that President Tinubu, formerly a true apostle of true federalism and democrat par excellence over the decades should initiate an executive bill to the National Assembly for the necessary constitutional amendment that will berth State Police, an initiative that should be fully embraced by both federal and state lawmakers for it to succeed in no time. This is because investments in all sectors of the economy can only thrive when prospective investors are convinced that there is adequate protection of their lives, property and investments.

Such, no doubt, can only be guaranteed when there is adequate policing in the country whereby such criminal elements as Boko Haram, bandits, killer herdsmen, kidnappers, and other non-state actors currently tormenting the people are defeated.

Truly, the current clamour by government for foreign investors to come and invest their hard earned resources in Nigeria in the face of the current security challenges, is an exercise in futility especially against the backdrop of recent divestment by some major investors who are relocating to other climes where they feel there is adequate security and returns on equity.

Again, we strongly challenge the 36 governors to as a matter of priority allocate more funds to agriculture in the 2024 budgets with a view to providing the necessary farming and fishing inputs to genuine farmers and fishermen for them to embark on large scale production next year.

They should further reintroduce farm settlements with full complement of basic necessities of life for trained young farmers who should engage in large scale farming similar to what obtained in the First Republic whereby regional governments relied on agricultural produce for revenue and funding for developmental purposes.

We strongly believe that with adequate security, enabling environment, and various incentives including agricultural loans guaranteed by state governments, and teeming unemployed youths recruited for large scale farming, Nigeria will in a few years record massive boost in crop production and substantially reduce the nation’s current heavy reliance on imported food items for survival. And since food security is the best form of security for a productive nation and fundamental to the health of all, the production, storage and supply of both processed and fresh food items to all parts of the country require a new solid partnership between the government and the organized private sector operators which the country can no longer ignore.



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