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Nigeria and its soaring food prices

There’s no shortage of adverse headwinds confronting the future of the country. Ironically, just when you’re about writing the country off sometimes, it staggers to…

There’s no shortage of adverse headwinds confronting the future of the country. Ironically, just when you’re about writing the country off sometimes, it staggers to its feet from a prostrate state, resulting from being knockdowned by heavy punches unleashed by the actions of self-same people in whose hands its well-being has been entrusted.

Unfortunately, what we have now is a groundswell of cynicism. Indeed, I have never been so deflated over the state of the country like I have been lately and I think a lot of people do. And, I am certain that a preponderance of the dyed-in-the-wool optimists are at the backstage not just sobbing but having a rethink of their position owing to the trajectory of the country. Interestingly, the worst times always demand for hope to bask in the sunshine of better days. So, the current administration needs to start spreading the currency of hope to a bruised nation.

It was evident that the country was in a tailspin while the past administration was busy masking its many challenges with unexampled spate of borrowings in creating a false impression of stability and hope while corruption at an industrial scale was being executed behind the scene. The vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) became a playground of some sorts to the privileged. Sad revelations of not a few people caught with their hands in the cookie jar kept coming to light much to the pain and frustration of citizens.

Without a doubt, a broken economy was bequeathed to a successor. And, it was clear that there wasn’t going to be low hanging fruits – it will certainly involve taking tough and painful path to putting the economy in order. Sadly, so many unintended consequences have been spawned as a result.

The country can afford to have varied challenges in its plate but, certainly not food related. The current hike in food prices is bad for our national security. The country didn’t need a clairvoyant to tell of a day like this, given the poor position of the agricultural sector and the general mismanagement of the economy. So many factors have conspired to imperil the ability of the country to feed itself which need not be regurgitated. Though not exhaustive, but the issues of insecurity and corruption are serial culprits. The issue of food needs to be taken seriously! 

For the umpteenth time, having hunger precipitated by hike in food prices added to the pile of other challenges makes the current situation a ticking bomb. The poor are at the receiving end of the challenge with many nudged into the cold embrace of hunger and poverty. It is so, due to the disproportionate spending of their meagre resources on food amidst a purchasing power that has been effectively weakened by withering inflation. 

There is no place for ‘luxury’- spending on other needs like clothes, school books, health has been significantly cut back. In fact, education is braving serious hit as school fees assume a tall order. No heed is paid to the quality of food consumed just as the quantity consumed in a day has reduced. 

There so much concern on the rising food prices owing to the fact that everyone must eat. It goes without saying, that people get agitated and desperate when food prices go or begin to go beyond their reach, making it easy to bait anyone in such state into crime and other social vices. History is littered with examples in proving that food crises have been a veritable source of collective action.

High food prices constitute a tad of tipping point not least when it is combined with other deep seated political and socioeconomic issues. 

Ida Rudolfsen of the Peace Research Institute Oslo pointed out that food related instability is heralded by  “rapidly increasing food prices in combination with factors such as high rates of unemployment, low economic growth, import dependence, various forms of political mismanagement, and a consumer based urban middle class who have mobilisation potential.” The French revolution had other factors as catalyst outside the spike in prices of bread, so also the Arab uprising. 

The current state of affair should serve as an epoch to rejuvenate and power the economy for collective prosperity while ensuring that food security is made a priority and not footnote. Food security is an important goal for a responsible government. This means that all the stops must be pulled out in making the agricultural sector serve the needs of the people.

Abachi Ungbo wrote via [email protected]


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