The unprecedented level of poverty and hunger affecting many Nigerians, may have reached exponential dimensions, according to global reports. Research findings from 15 agencies in the international humanitarian and development community showed that Nigeria, particularly northern region, was among eight countries, with two-thirds of the 113 million people, affected by acute hunger last year.
The worst food crises in 2018, in order of severity were listed as: ‘Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC), Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Syrian, Sudan, South Sudan and Nigeria. These eight countries accounted for two thirds of the total number of people facing acute food insecurity, estimated at 72 million people.’ The latest survey by United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU), identified terrorism and violence, as major factors fuelling destitution, particularly in the north, the epicentre of humanitarian crises and underdevelopment in the country.
These deficiencies were generally driven by persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions and adverse climate, it added. Experts expressed worry over escalation of hunger in Nigeria, due to its motley challenges, including population explosion, gross mismanagement of scarce resources and security infractions.
In this year’s Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC), the UN said ‘the number of people unable to meet their daily nutritional needs, without humanitarian assistance has been rising for several years. Unfortunately, a short-term outlook for this year showed that Nigeria will remain among the world’s most severe cases of food insecurity, as the other seven currently affected.’
An estimated ‘three million people were acutely affected in three North-Eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, due to the 10-year Boko Haram insurgency, where protracted conflict and mass displacements disrupted agriculture, trade, markets, livelihoods and hiked food prices,’ it added.
Indeed Boko Haram and other splinter groups have ravaged the region and hounded residents into extreme poverty and debilitation.
Widespread violence still affects many areas of northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) ‘with an estimated 5.3 million people in crisis.’ These appalling findings point to a systemic rot, indicative of a nation in disarray and dire need of a pragmatic transformation of its political and socio-economic ideals.
The entrenched infrastructural decay across all sectors is not only outrageous, but shameful, given the nation’s enormous oil wealth, solid minerals and agricultural resources. International development agencies and stakeholders have resonated the need for government to initiate viable programmes, capable of stimulating economic growth and attracting direct foreign investments, especially in the agro-allied industry. Evidently, the nation’s comatose public sector, characterized by flagrant profligacy and impunity also impedes citizens’ inalienable rights to proper diet, decent housing, health insurance, living wages and attainment of Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).
It is both sad and ironical that over 60 percent of the population still subsists on less that one dollar daily, despite government’s poverty alleviation projects such as Tradermoni and school feeding initiatives. Last year the Senate queried the utilization of N500 billion, totalling a whopping sum of N1.5 trillion, over a three-year period, on these spurious projects, which have little or no bearing on disenfranchised masses. These lofty initiatives, are still largely viewed as pipelines for malfeasance and vote-buying, due to lack of transparency, sustainability and equity in the implementation.The humongous looting of public funds, along with intractable carnage, have taken a huge toll on the nation’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors.According to Amnesty International, since three years, over 3,600 people in Nigeria have been killed in clashes between farmers and herders, while over 2,000 died in 2018 alone.
Similarly, Global Terrorism Index (GTI), said recently that ‘nearly 1,700 violent deaths were attributed to Fulani herdsmen in attacks carried out between January and September 2018.’
This has led to a massive loss of farms and crops as farmers, particularly, in the Middle-belt, are hounded and killed, in hostilities with pastoralists. If left unchecked these reprehensible brutalities, will invariably devastate the region’s rich agricultural potentials and economy, experts warn. According to Human Right Watch, recurring violence between herdsmen and farmers, as well as related cattle theft and banditry in many northern states posed serious threats to peace and security.
In Zamfara state, armed bandits have reportedly, killed over 3,500 persons, injured 8,219 and devastated 500 villages in the last five years. Other vulnerable states include Kaduna, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Delta, Plateau, and Taraba, due to ethnic tensions and grazing demands. Sadly government ineptitude and discriminatory tendencies tend to exacerbate the imbrioglio. Prominent nationals including, business mogul Aliko Dangote, blame politicians and state governors for destabilising and impoverishing the north. Dangote, at a recent forum, blasted northern governors for failure to confront poverty and hunger, which tend to escalate the intractable bloodshed and religious extremities in the zone.
‘It is unacceptable for a people with vast arable land to live in such poverty. While the overall socio-economic condition in the country is a cause for concern, the regional disparities are very alarming. In the North West and North East, over 60 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty,’ he said. It is equally anomalous that, ‘the 19 northern states which account for about 54 per cent of Nigeria’s population and 70 per cent of its landmass, collectively, generate only 21 per cent of the total subnational IGR in 2017, he stressed.
Undoubtedly the region is challenged by numerous complexities, which undermine its peace and progress. Government needs to address this anarchy, as part of a holistic review of the national template on agriculture, which is critical to integrated development.
Ojukwu, a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow and journalist writes via [email protected]