Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has expressed concern over the looming food crisis in northern Nigeria, saying that the warning given by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations on Wednesday, July 29, 2021, of a looming acute food crisis in northern Nigeria should not be ignored.
Atiku said the UN warning should be seen as a whistleblowing moment by the federal government, the northern Nigeria being the food basket of the nation.
He warned that any outbreak of famine there will have a national impact on the rest of the country and cross-border impacts in the West African sub-region.
Atiku said the laissez-faire approach taken by the federal government to this most important issue is regrettable. He noted that food security is a vital part of national security, and where this issue is not resolved, the resultant crisis may unsettle the nation and its immediate neighbours.
“Now is the time to proffer solutions, so that our countrymen and women do not starve in a land with so much prospective abundance,” he said.
The former vice president cited insecurity as the major cause of the looming dearth of food. Farmers and other agricultural value chain workers cannot go to their farms due to the crisis of insecurity.
“I should know. I am heavily invested in large scale farming, and employ a workforce of over 10,000 in the endeavor,” he said.
As a solution, Atiku suggested that the federal and state governments should establish what he termed ‘Food Security Military Taskforce’ to work in farming clusters, to provide security for the nation’s farmers.
“We must give confidence to our agriculture workers, so that the sector can get on with the job of feeding the nation,” he said.
He also made a case for the federal and state governments placing a temporary moratorium on all loans to the agricultural sector in the affected states, by declaring a Force Majeure in the sector.
“We cannot expect small, medium and large scale farmers to service debts when they are not even able to access their farms and other businesses in the agricultural value chain,” he noted.
He also called on the federal government to intervene by providing free seedlings and fertilisers to the end users.
According to him, this policy worked to reduce hunger levels in Nigeria when Dr Akinwumi Adesina introduced the e-wallet policy.
“Perhaps it is time to reintroduce and ramp up that scheme,” he said.
He added: “If we cannot feed ourselves as a nation, we do not survive. This is the textbook definition of an emergency.
“It is my hope that we can remove politics from this vital area of our national life and address this crisis before it becomes a calamity.”