By Ajibola Abayomi,
June 28, 2010.
A Non-Governmental Orgnanisation (NGO), Farm Infrastructure Foundation (FIF), has raised the alarm on rate of hunger in the nation.
The body also urged for quick passage of Right to Food Bill by the National Assembly.
Since 1999, FIF had been promoting policy best practices in agriculture and rural development, and in 2018 its promoted a bill on right to food bill, which is yet to be passed by the National Assembly.
Speaking with journalists at the Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council, the President of FIF, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Policy, Gbolagade Ayoola who led other members of civil society groups on food advocacy regretted the lip service government at all levels paid to right to food in the nation.
He pointed out that the government deliberately gave issues of food a mere mention on chapter two of the constitution and excluded it from the fundamental human right section in order to render agitation for quality food related matters inactive.
According statistics he reeled out, he he noted that: “It suffices to say that at the moment more than 40% of Nigerians cannot sleep because of hunger. The remaining less that 40% also cannot sleep because of fear of hunger.
He said this “implies that food security lies at the root of sluggish growth and economic development of the country over the years, just because the hungry cannot work well whether on the farm, in the industry, or market.
“Thus unless we prioritize food security on top of policy and political agenda, by conferring the status of fundamental human right to food in policy and in practice, now woe unto us all who toil night and day for growth and development of Nigeria” he said.
The professor noted that the above statistics depicted a looming danger on Nigeria in due course if the cry for the passage of the bill was not heard.
Say he: “The latest World Hunger Index published by the International FFOOD Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) indicates that as at 2017, an index value of 25.5 Nigeria ranked 84th among the 119 countries in category of serious hunger prevalence.
“This implies that about 3.4% of about 150 million people in Nigeria presently suffers from one or the other of the worst manifestations of hunger namely acute adult malnutrition, child stunting, child wastage and child mortality.”
The professor argued that there was a grand deception to make Nigerian believe that technology or market acting alone or together will provide the solution through agribusiness, but however statistics plainly indicated otherwise.
He explained that FIF formed partnership with 18 other viral food advocacy group under the aegis of Voices for Food Security (VFS) in the agricultural sector and also in association with Rural Environment Empowerment Initiative (T.R.E.E.) and organization concerned with food security.
According to him, the groups envisaged a country where adequate food would be sacrosanct.
“In this regard, our philosophical point of departure is dictum about development as freedom and so agricultural development is the freedom of hunger, which, the total elimination in its worst form constitutes a critical business of government.
“Thus without mincing words the sole purpose of Government, and rationale its policies is to make life worth living for the people, but which is definitely not the case about food security since independence about the six geopolitical zones.
Gbolagade called the on the Federal Government to respect series of united Nations Conventions, African Charter of Human right (articles 4,16, 23), Rome declaration on world food security (1996) particularly the 1966 international covenant on economic ,social and cultural right which stipulated thus,” the States parties to present covenant recognizes the right of everyone to an adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.
Adding his voice to the discussion, the Executive Director of T.R.E.E, Ropo Egbeleke faulted the allocation of less than 10% of national budget for agricultural development in the nation.
This he said was contrary to the international convention which recommended not less that 10% of the budget of every nation should be committed annually to grow agriculture.
He said the paucity of fund for agricultural development was the bane of access to good food in the nation.
Chairman of Lagos NUJ, Dr Qasim Akinreti hereby pledged the support of the Union for the activities of the FIF and other bodies.
He said time has come for Nigerians to demand quality food as a right and not as a privilege.
According to him, the Union had been offering its members quality food with varieties at its monthly congress to kick start the campaign for right to food among journalists.