Northern challenges and the hike in food prices

IN the olden days, hunger and starvation occurred mainly as a result of instability which forced people to flee their settlements due to raiding by slave merchants or war with neighbouring villages. People caught in fear and hostilities were prone to hunger and starvation due to a lack of farming and other economic activities. The recurrent banditry and kidnapping we are witnessing now in Nigeria, have affected communities in the same way as days of old. The unprecedented soaring prices of food items have caused hardship to citizens. Farmers have fled their farms the whole rainy season, sheltering in IDP camps. For many, they do not know how to forge ahead with life in the IDP camps years after the crisis in their communities. They are deprived of their means of livelihood by the spate of activities of these cut-throat bandits and kidnappers. Rural areas are largely the source of food for the cities. If these places are not secure, there will be a shortage in the food supply chain. This affects the overall food security of the nation. It is therefore imperative for the federal and state economic planning bodies to act fast in order to forestall a disaster in the food industry.

There is a need to develop the agricultural business of these remote villages since their mainstay is farming and rearing cattle and other domestic animals. Roads should be built for easy access for people and goods. By investing massively in agricultural programs in rural areas, migration from rural to urban areas can reduce drastically. Most Nigerian cities are populated by the economic migrants from villages, who troop in daily looking for menial jobs and petty trading, thereby increasing the rate of crimes, anti-social behaviour, traffic congestion coupled with an unhygienic environment. The massive migration of young men to the cities has taken a toll on agricultural activities in the rural areas, leading to abandoned farmlands. Most Government programs are mainly centred in cities and bigger towns. This has led to a disparity in the provision of basic amenities between the towns and villages. In fact, most Nigerian villages are without basic amenities. They seldom have any functional government establishment. Ignoring villages without viable government presence is what has backfired today, which is affecting the whole of Northern Nigeria. Small farmers are the backbone of food security. Statistics show that they produce almost 80  per cent of farm produce in the country. This in effect, has a great adverse effect on food supply when their security cannot be assured. If the security of rural farmers is assured and guaranteed, this will in effect lead to the creation of jobs in the country.

Generally, peace and social stability are crucial for the development of any nation. Most developed nations take precautionary measures for the stability of their society. They spend a huge amount of their budgets on curtailing any perceived internal or external aggressions. Nigeria has vast lands and resources which are underproductive. The few forest reserves if properly utilized will improve our economy. The lack of utilization of some of these forest reserves has by chance, created hideouts for kidnappers and other bandits to unleash havoc on highways and villages. The Government should expand its forest reserve as well as build new ones. These vast resources should be harnessed for the overall economic growth of the country. There is also a need for the expansion and building of new dams to enhance irrigation farming. Before his assassination in 1966, the late Sir Amadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, the premier of the Northern region embarked on tours to remote villages, initiating developmental projects, building mosques, schools and dispensaries in Hausa land. Even to this day, no politician ever has visited towns and villages in his administrative functions like the late Sardauna of blessed memory.

In his autobiography titled My Life, the late Sardauna of Sokoto has captured the whole essence of Northern Nigeria’s unique detailed perspective, history, religion, problems and philosophy. An aristocrat lineage of Shehu Usman Dan Fodiyo, and a political leader of Northern People Congress (NPC), he has laid the foundation for progress for the North. Nigeria’s porous borders make it easier for even foreign terrorist groups to operate freely and even to secure an enclave within the nation’s territorial space. It is just recently that Nigeria can afford to issue National Identification Number (NIN) and to harmonize the database of its 208 million people. Today, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and herdsmen activities have remained a major source of worry for us as a country. The lack of proactive leadership with visionary objectives to curb this security menace has given us not much hope as a people. A few programmes of past administrations like the nomadic education which was enshrined in the National Policy of Education, but have cut off Fulani herdsmen from any educational programmes; they are marginalised in the forest, disenfranchised from any formal learning program.

It is only when they are trained and educated that they would not be gullible and become easy prey for mischief-makers who used them to destabilize the entire country. By and large, the absence of social justice will make the problem worse. Northern Nigeria is grappling with compounding social challenges bit-by-bit, and there is no sign of abetting in the nearest future. Only God Knows!

  • Akinbo writes in from Egbeda, Lagos.

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