Nigerian President Tinubu declares food emergency

Sokoto farmers

Many farmers, especially in northern Nigeria, have had to stop cultivation due to the threat of violence from criminal gangs

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has declared a state of emergency to tackle rising food prices and shortages.

Some of the initiatives include using money saved from the recent removal of a fuel subsidy to provide fertilizer and grain to farmers.

Protection must also be strengthened for farmers, many of whom have abandoned their land after becoming targets of gangs who kidnap for ransom.

The poorest households are also to be helped with $10 (£8) a month for six months.

“I assure all Nigerians that no one will be left behind in these strategic interventions,” said Tinubu, who took office in May.

A UN report released in January projected that 25 million Nigerians would be at high risk of food insecurity this year, meaning they would not be able to get enough nutritious food every day.

Concerns about food insecurity have long existed in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, which has also struggled with widespread insecurity for several years.

More than 350 farmers have been kidnapped or killed in the 12 months to June 2022 alone, according to a Nigerian security monitoring website.

Many of these attacks took place in the north of the country.

But new security measures would mean farmers could return to farmland “without fear of attack”, said government adviser Dele Alake.

No further details were given on how the government intends to tackle notorious organized criminal gangs, whose members are branded as bandits.

All matters relating to essential food and water will now be the responsibility of the National Security Council, made up of the country’s security chiefs and headed by the President.

Mr Tinubu’s first major political decision after taking office was to remove the fuel subsidy, which had been in place for decades and kept the price of petroleum products low.

Its removal has led to increases of up to 200% in some parts of the country, but the new president has defended the move, saying it is essential to use this money more effectively.

Rising fuel prices have had a ripple effect on the economy, with many Nigerians relying on generators for their electricity supply.

Just days ago, the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria warned that bread prices would rise by 15%.

Some families have told BBC Pidgin they cannot afford bread.

“My monthly pension cannot cover the cost of buying bread every day, so we switched to another more affordable food,” said Mallam Ado Yahaya, from Kano state in the north of the country. .

The new monthly allocation goes to 12 million households through a program known as the National Safety Net Program – it is separate from another initiative launched by the previous government through which they receive around $6 a month.

These more vulnerable people are also likely to have access to grain and fertilizer offered to farmers – although the statement was unclear on the numbers.

“The program is expected to stimulate economic activities in the informal sector and improve the nutrition, health, education and human capital development of beneficiary households,” President Tinubu said.

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