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Government & Politics

During Buhari’s Government: Families Now Beg On The Street For Food

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It was in one of the busy streets in Asaba, the Delta State capital, when a middle-aged man walked briskly to another standing on the walkway waiting to flag down a tricycle. It is common in Asaba as it is in other cities for people to stand along the road to wait for intra-city buses or tricycles. The middle-aged man walked to the other man and politely told him “my wife has just delivered and I don’t have anything at home for her to survive”. This he said with a mournful look on his face, a facial appearance that depicted hunger and could melt the hardest of men on earth.

He told him that his wife delivered the previous day but he had no food to sustain the wife and the new born. Hungry and beggarly families He pleaded for only five hundred naira for the momentary upkeep of the family. A reporter stood eavesdropping but fortunately for him, the man had the heart of gold. Rather than give him five hundred naira as he demanded, he offered him one thousand five hundred naira and the poor man thanked him and left. Although there are evidences that some of these persons may not actually be truthful in their confessions, it tells of the unavailability of food and the rate of poverty in Nigeria.

Similarly, Angelina Okonkwo is a Christian with one of the Pentecostal churches, also in Asaba. She lives with her husband with three children in a one room apartment. But somehow, Mrs. Okonkwo is reported to be surviving on borrowing from church members. Reports indicate that the Okonkwos left their former church for a new one due to borrowing from the church members. It was learnt that as the borrowing had gone beyond measures, the Okonkwos moved to another church and the trend continued. But as the borrowing in the other church also got to an alarming rate, she moved over to her former church, yes, all in a bid to survive due to lack of food in the home and the need to carry on with the survival instinct.

Also, there have been reports of people stealing foods from kitchen and making away with pots of soup from homes at least to keep soul and body together. A report that recently went viral revealed that a woman went to a rice shop and abandoned her child in preference for a bag of rice in the market. Many reports are emanating from various parts of the country that are heart rending, all pointing to the fact that there is serious food shortage in the country. Many had attempted suicide, some snatching food from school children while others are living beggarly lives on daily basis. The number of beggars is growing while some had attempted leaving the country until the country returns to a better state. The foregoing are indications of acute food shortage in Nigeria.

Many cases of such are in different parts of the country where families groan and children are abandoned as a result of food shortage in the family. The challenges these families face could be said to mean their inability to access food for their consumption and meet other needs of the family. The resultant effect is the challenge staring the families in the face. And for the fact that the families must survive, they resort to whatever means to pacify the survival instinct. Introduction of failed agricultural programmes The Nigerian government has had several programmes aimed at making food available for Nigerians but they have all failed and sadly, abandoned.

Also, almost all state governments have introduced programmes to produce food and make it available to their people but they have also ended in the paper work and on several occasions they are left to die after media publicity with the aim of deceiving the people in their respective domains. That is why Mr. Jude Adeleye, an engineer in Delta, said “I hate government, they have no good plan for their people. They make promises which they know they cannot fulfill. And most times when a government starts a programme but unable to finish the next one coming will kill those programmes and start a new one and as soon as he leaves , the next one will kill all the ones he met and start a new one again and the process continues, hence there is no sustainability of programmes and the Nigerian masses bear the brunt of government failures and ineptitude”.

This has been the case in Nigeria. From independence till the present administration, government has continuously introduced series of agricultural programmes all in a bid to make food available for Nigerians but all to no avail. In a lecture by Musa Yusuf of the Federal University of Wukari, Taraba State, and made available by Nigerian Business Forum, the lecturer identified factors responsible for the failure of agricultural programmes by successive governments in Nigeria.

According to him, during pre-independence Nigeria, the colonial government formulated agricultural policies that paid serious attention to the mobilization of rural people to produce export crops like cocoa in the west, oil-palm in the east, rubber in the mid-west and groundnut and cotton in the north. He said they were encouraged by the colonial government to produce these crops which are now almost extinct in some areas of the country. At independence in 1960 however, agricultural and rural development took another dimension with rural roads construction taking the centre stage in the country. This boosted food production in the rural areas and made agriculture one of most viable alternatives in Nigeria. During this era, youths were gainfully involved in food production and the economy boomed. But the discovery of oil in the 1970s led to decline in agricultural programmes, a development which diverted attention from the agricultural programmes to oil wealth.

How oil boom weakened agricultural programmes The oil-boom encouraged rural-urban drift with attendant adverse effect on the rural economy of the nation. Nigeria then relegated agriculture to the background and began expending colossal sums of the oil revenue on food importation paying little or no attention to the rural people. This was the beginning of the downfall of agriculture and the beginning of dependence on the while world for the nation’s foods. But as successive governments took over power, they introduced different programmes to channel the people back to agriculture but they failed as the craze for oil wealth overtook the greater part of them.

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The plethora of failed programmes In the midst of the craze for oil, in 1973, the federal government launched the National Accelerated Food Production Program (NAFPP). The program was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). But, in spite of the laudable nature of the programme, lack of government commitment and poor funding led to its death and eventual abandonment.

In 1976 the federal government again launched Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). But midway the OFN failed partly because it was directed at the wrong people, neglecting the farmers who occupy a prime place in agricultural production. This is the problem government faces when it politicizes programmes and leaving it in the hands of politicians who are after their stomach at the detriment of the common people.

Again, in 1979 the civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari launched the Green Revolution (GR) as a replacement for OFN. The aim of the GR was to ensure that Nigeria attained self-sufficiency in food production within five years. The revolution was instrumental to raising massive awareness on the problems of food confronting the nation. Sadly, it also failed because of poor handling by the authorities concerned. Between 1987 and 2004, series of agricultural and rural development programs were established by successive governments in Nigeria. They included Better Life for Rural Women (1987), Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Scheme-NAIS (1987), National Agricultural Extension Research Liaison Service-NAERLS. Others include Family Support Program-FSP (1994), Family Economic Advancement Program-FEAP (1995-1999 and scrapped in 2000).

Others are Small and Medium Industries Development Agency-SMIDA (2000), Nigerian Agricultural, Cooperative and Rural Development Bank-NACRDB (2000), now Agricultural Bank of Nigeria-ABN, National Fadama Development Project-NFDP (1992) which is being implemented in phases and the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy-NEEDS (2004). In the midst of the multitude of agricultural programmes established to meet the food needs of Nigerians, the realization of the goals has consistently been plagued by series of inefficiencies by governments coupled with abandonment when new governments take over the reign of power. This has evidently led to insignificant progress in the nation’s quest for sustainable agricultural and rural development.

Endemic corruption among government officials and project contractors as well as over-dependence on international donor agencies have also been identified as serious constraints to agricultural and rural development programs in Nigeria. Over-dependence on donor agencies has made the nation reluctant at fashioning out home-grown agricultural and rural development programs that would adequately address its peculiarities as an independent country. It remains therefore unarguable that the state of agriculture in Nigeria is still retrogressive and unsatisfactory. The rural people are being marginalized and not given attention by the people in power who sit in Abuja and the city centres believing that life in the cities is equal to life in the villages.

Causes of food shortage in Nigeria

The main goal of food security is for  individuals to be  able  to obtain adequate  food needed at  all times and to be able   to utilize  the  food  to  meet  the  body‘s  needs.  This means that a nation whose food production level is unable to  satisfy  this  criteria  is  said  to  be  food  insecure.  A country and its people are food secured when their food system operates in such a way as to remove the fear that there will not be enough to eat. Food security requires that the poor and vulnerable have secured access to the food they want. Food insecurity occurs when people experience a large reduction in their sources of food and are unable to make up the difference through new strategies. In the present day Nigeria, there is food insecurity. This is so because a greater population of Nigerians hardly get enough to eat and their families.

A professor of Food Technology, Olugbenga Ogunmoyela, said the rise in food prices, poverty and lack of agricultural inputs are causes of food insecurity in Nigeria. He pointed out that food insecurity remained a major public health issue in the oil-rich nation, despite various initiatives introduced by the government to increase food security and production and keep hunger and poverty at bay. He advocated for product development initiatives that would make food more available, convenient and affordable to the public. He urged the government to be more proactive in this direction, even as he stressed the need for the federal government to encourage private sector involvement and deployment of technology to boost agriculture produce.

He also suggested the redirection of focus on food fortification. What needs be done The federal and state governments must be willing to pay attention to agriculture not lip service and media adverts which many are given to. Many governments are only interested in initiating programmes but have continuously failed to execute same to benefit the people in their areas. There must a total commitment on the part of government to realize this objective. Again, there should be consolidation of programmes by governments. Killing or abandoning a project by previous governments can never take Nigeria to anywhere. The hunger and food shortage in Nigeria can only be addressed when government is sincere to promises made to the people. So much land is being wasted in the states across the country. Youths should be properly encouraged to divert their energies to food production with good farming implements and incentives. Agriculture can be revived and food can be made available but the government of the day must show actual commitment to realize the goal.

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