World Food Day: Why Minister’s laughter not in order


It was not a funny matter, yet the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, earlier in the week chose the venue of this year’s press briefing for the World Food Day to laugh at Nigerians who say there’s “hunger in the land.”
At the event, he said Nigeria was producing enough food to feed itself and send to neighbouring countries.
The minister who spoke in Abuja, said, “I think we are producing enough to feed ourselves. I think there is no hunger in Nigeria; there could be inconveniences. When people talk about hunger in this government, I just laugh.”
In the second Republic, Umaru Dikko then Minister of Transportation was also in charge of importation of some food items into the country. He was a powerful Minister in the Shehu Shagari government. When people complained about poverty at the time, he retorted that until Nigerians began to eat from the dump site, citizens were not poor.
36 years later Nanono has echoed a similar sentiment. Although Dikko was more cynical, but the message has been passed. While it may be true that Nigeria is not suffering food shortage, however the other truth is, a large number of citizens find it difficult to live on a day to day basis.
We had expected the minister to use the occasion provided by such global event to maximize opportunities for the improvement of agriculture in a more organised and sustainable basis leveraging any assistance promoted by WFD partners.
Sometimes, the problem with our leaders is simply not wording their comments properly; or choosing the wrong podium to ventilate political survival opportunism.
Nonetheless,  the World Food Day is celebrated every year around the world on October 16 in honour of the date the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations was founded  in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organisations concerned with food security, including the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
The day entered the United Nations calendar of events at the behest of FAO’s Member Countries at the Organisation’s 20th General Conference in November 1979. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. In Nigeria, organizations and individuals involved in feeding programmes connect with other stakeholders in food production, agro-allied industries, wholesalers and community-based organisations to address food security challenges.
According to the humanitarian organisation, Action against Hunger (AAH), the ongoing and deepening humanitarian crisis in Northeast Nigeria has led to the displacement of over 1.5 million people, causing four million people to experience acute food insecurity and be in need of humanitarian assistance. In 2018, a research based on the forecast by the World Poverty Clock and presented by Brookings Institute revealed that over 643 million people across the world live in extreme poverty, with Africans accounting for nearly two-thirds of the total number.
More disturbing also is the disclosure that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, showing about 87 million Nigerians reportedly living on less than $1.90 a day.
According to the World Poverty Clock, as of June 2018, 86.9 million Nigerians were living in extreme poverty which represents almost 50 percent of its estimated 180 million population at that time last year. This year, Oxfam claimed that 69 percent of Nigeria’s population live below the poverty level. As such, the importance of food cannot be emphasised on enough.
As the world marks the day, it is imperative that Nigeria brings to the fore the challenges threatening food security in the country. Food security, it is often said pre-supposes that there is an availability of food and people’s access to it.
While this year’s WFD theme addresses healthy and sustainable diet issues, it is also paying attention to what the people eat. This is an area governments at all levels are not pulling their weight. Nigerians are not properly educated on what and how to eat. What is more, with all sorts of illnesses ravaging the populace which right food choices can help.
We hope the minister will focus more on finding solutions to the real issues plaguing the food industry in Nigeria rather than sounding politically correct. The WFD celebrated on Wednesday offered that opportunity. In collaboration with the ministry of health both at state and federal levels, and the ministry of information and culture together with National Orientation Agency, more advocacy is needed on the right food to eat.
Also more support is required for Nigeria to produce more food and guarantee price stability for farmers. Strengthening our border is one of them so as to stem smuggling. Of course organising farmers, encouraging them and providing buffers for profit will motivate more people to join the sector. There’s still a lot to do.

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