Nigeria’s inflation rate hits 27.33 percentage s food insecurity deepens” was the headline that stared yours truly in the face. The inflation rate was not the major shock, as was the food insecurity. Elsewhere, one reads that Nigeria is projected to import 2.1 million metric tons of rice in 2024, which may make the country the top rice buyer globally. This is according to the latest Rice Outlook report by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The question arises as to what happened to the rice pyramids of last year? The closure of borders was meant to cause a revolution in the local production of rice, and also make Nigeria one of the largest global exporter of the commodity in a few years. So why is the dream dying so quickly? Could it be that the nation’s population and rate of rice consumption (despite its high pricing in the market) has risen astronomically? If that is the truth, why is there no upsurge in the rise of ‘beriberi’ disease? Was government aware of the probable deceit in the pyramid or its inconsequential relevance and hence the opening of the borders for the importation of hitherto restricted goods? But, why food? What is the level of the dependence of our food economy on imported inputs?
Another headline reports that increase in bread and cereals, oil and fat, potatoes, yam, and other tubers, fish, fruit, meat, vegetables, milk, cheese, and eggs caused the rise in food inflation year-on-year and the average annual food inflation rate for the twelve months ending October 2023 over the previous twelve-month average was 26.33%. The major concern is that most of the foods listed are locally produced, with few imported inputs, so why the hike? Could it be that very few Nigerians are interested and are involved in agriculture?
Even at a time when flower stands have been uprooted in homes and replaced with vegetables and seed yams? Or are industries multiplied in Nigeria that the demand for these ‘raw materials’ have led to scarcity for individual consumption? For those in the poultry and fishery business, one can only pity them in times like this. The cost of feed and drugs keep increasing on a weekly basis. The feed mills located in the country are groaning that there is scarcity of maize, fish meal, soya and other ingredients to produce the feeds. So it is either they import the inputs or import the whole finished product under a depreciated naira regime. But what about the yams, cassava (for bread or not any more) and meat? You mean, with all the RUGA (or is it still in the pipeline?), and the criminal destruction of farmlands, there is still scarcity of milk and meat? Was it that ab initio, Nigerians were fed incorrect statistics about our food production prowess?
A cursory look into the States with the highest food inflation rates also calls for alarm and questions. The statistics stipulate that the State with the highest food inflation rate is Kogi at 41.74%, followed by Kwara’s 38.48%, Lagos 37.37%, Akwa Ibom 36.98%, Delta 36.87%, Rivers 36.85%, Ekiti 36.73%, Oyo 35.07%, Ebonyi 34.35% and Osun 34.31%. The Ebiras in Kogi State are skilled farmers, and in high demand in other Nigerian States, while Kwara, a link between the North and South are farmers, and animal producers. Delta and Rivers are fish suppliers, while Ekiti apart from Education have close to 80 percentage of the citizens engaged in farming. So, where are the foods produced, such that cost of feeding has soared unbelievably? Seems that the government of these States might have neglected the areas in which they had comparative cost advantages, and have reneged on their duties to the nation, while focusing and investing in areas in which they have little or no advantage.
The lack of adequate investment (financial, infrastructure, security, labour, equipment and supports) in the agricultural sector, including the jubilation over lies and proposed (as against real) statistics is fast turning a land flowing with milk and honey; a fertile agrarian political system into a place for famine to establish itself with glee. Wherefore as we did to Oil, so we do to food.
We waste the good resources and import laboratory developed junks, thus importing sicknesses into our bodies. In those days when the availability of food was seen as an important element in the sustenance of sovereignty, even secondary schools could boast of possessing at least one Mark Ferguson Tractor with trailer and other accessories. But now, how many Local Governments, not to talk of farmers’ association has any?
Joyfully, bitten as it were with the rabid infection of indebtedness virus, we go cap in hand to Saudi Arabia, (situated in the desert) for financial assistance to boost our agriculture. But, we know that our politicians, as Leopards, never change their skin, hence the destination of most of the assistance is known before their arrival, except a miracle happens. While the borrowing spree suggests that this government is pursuing a hundred trillion-naira record, and before the Saudi largesse arrives, permit the reminder of President Bola Tinubu’s surgical analysis of Nigeria:
We are not poor in knowledge
We are not poor in human resources
We are not poor in capital resources
We are only poor in management and leadership
And that is why I ran for President
To have all of us mould the soul of our country in the right direction
It is time to engage the moulding skill of the President in using our (not borrowed) rich resources to create a nation where the basics of food, shelter and clothing would no longer be a prayer point. It takes a well fed Nigerian to think creatively and contribute their quota to national development. As it is now, government seems to have transformed into taskmasters who gave no tool, little food and more sanctions to the workers and still expects them to produce at the optimum level.
Adieu to the OAU, Ile-Ife Lecturer who slumped and died in his office. A hero fell in battle, and would soon be forgotten like many others.
December knocks and many Nigerians would be asked to engage in long fasts, so the righteous suffer while the unrighteous get pot bellies. From the days of our fathers, the poor have been making sacrifices (just as old songs show). Dear President, now is the time for the answers to past sacrifices, and not calls for more. Government knows the demons, get them. Wasteful and extravagant use of funds by leaders is a gross sin against the people and it creates an impetus for the followers to try and out-do their masters, for a leader’s sin is a leading sin.