By Samson Echenim
President Muhammadu Buhari’s direction to Central Bank of Nigeria to stop foreign exchange allocation for importation of food into Nigeria has received outright condemnation from Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former minister of solid minerals, who said the president was misinformed by those around him to believe that Nigeria is now self-sufficient in food production.
Buhari had on Tuesday in Daura, Katsina State, while hosting the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors to Eid-el-Kabir lunch, disclosed that he had directed the CBN to stop allocating foreign exchange for importation of food into the country, with the steady improvement in agricultural production and attainment of full food security.
He noted that some states like Kebbi, Ogun, Lagos, Jigawa, Ebonyi and Kano had already taken advantage of the federal government’s policy on agriculture with huge returns in rice farming, urging more states to plug into the ongoing revolution to feed the nation.
However, reacting to Buhari’s latest policy declaration, Ezekwesili in her tweets on her official Twitter handle, @Obyezeks, Wednesday described him as “a completely out of touch leader” who had been “cocooned away in the grandeur of Aso Rock where they serve him delicatessen and praise-sing to him: ‘Ranka dede Sir, your Agriculture Policy is working wonderfully. All farmers in Nigeria are now billionaires and exporting to the US.”
She observed that Nigerians knew that he has absolute contempt for data and added that she would not hesitate to put some of the knowledge he (Buhari) should have had before making this latest blunder of “directing’ what should be an independent central bank to not give a cent for food import”.
”I will share the latest information on Nigeria from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, (FEWS NET, ) which provides information and analysis on food insecurity around the world. That our President thinks we have achieved food security says a lot about his policy-making,” she said.
Ezekwesili who is also a former minister of education stated further: “FEWS NET ‘uses an integrated approach that considers climate, agriculture production, prices, trade, nutrition, and other factors, together with an understanding of local livelihoods. Knowledge that helps evidence-based policies. In the next few tweets, I’ll share highlights of FEWS Net June 2018 to January 2019 report on food insecurity in Nigeria for many reasons that any reasonable person will easily understand.
“Humanitarian actors have provided sustained food assistance delivery in 2018, reaching 2.5 million people in April 2018 across the 3 northeast states. In May, food assistance deliveries reached 15 percent fewer households, meeting targets closer to what was seen in March 2017. With the continuing military offensive, new arrivals continue to be identified in the northeast. As of May, IOM identified 1.8 million people displaced by conflict in northeast Nigeria. Between late November 2017 and April 2018, an estimated 100,000 new arrivals across Borno and Adamawa…
“Outside northeast, the main agric season is progressing favourably in much of the rest of the country, and harvests are expected to be average to above-average. Most households will have seasonally typical access to food, income and remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity
“Various stages of cultivation activities continue throughout the country. In the south and some central areas, they have begun harvesting early green maize and tubers. In other areas of central Nigeria, planting, weeding, and fertilizer application for maize, sorghum and legumes are underway. Planting of staples such as millet, sorghum, and maize, as well as groundnut, cowpea, and sesame cash crops, is progressing in most northern areas. Government support through the Anchor Borrowers’ Program continues to contribute to farmers’ access to improved inputs.
“However, areas worst-affected by farmer/pastoralist conflict are facing greater difficulty accessing basic needs and will be stressed (IPC Phase 2). In displaced settlement areas and larger cities, affected populations have restricted access to land for cultivation. Additionally, ongoing insecurity is again in 2018 keeping many from engaging or participating fully in cultivation.
“Heavy conflict between pastoral and farming communities in central and northern areas of the country also continue. These conflicts have left hundreds dead and lead to the destruction of property. These conflicts are also leading to the displacement of households and keeping many from their livelihoods. Both cultivation activities and pastoralists’ herd movements are affected.
“Main agricultural season: The agricultural season is expected to progress normally. The main season harvests will start normally in September/October across the country. Harvests are expected to be average to above average in most areas. Exceptions are in northeast areas affected by the insurgency and localized areas across the country where conflicts between farmers and pastoralists are disrupting cultivation. Main harvests will be substantially below average in the northeast and likely below average in areas impacted by the farmer/pastoralists conflict mainly in the central states such as Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba as well as in Zamfara.”
“As with most years, it is also likely that there will be some crop loss due to excessive flooding along major floodplains.”
She continued, “I have put out highlights of FEWS Net Report on Nigeria up to January 2019. As obvious from the report, there are positives on agriculture which for example include improved farmers’ access to input from the Anchor Borrowers Scheme. But, nothing of Food Security yet exists.
“What is Food Security? I will offer the universal meaning provided by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security because that should help a policymaker know easily whether such is the case in Nigeria before taking a major policy stance in agriculture.
“Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.”