The prices of foodstuffs have hit an all time high and more and more people are sliding into poverty, as they can no longer feed, not to talk of meeting other needs.
What is happening can best be described as hyperinflation.
Hyperinflation is a term used to describe rapid, excessive, and out-of-control general price increases in an economy. These price hikes are affecting every sector of the economy, from local items to the imported ones. It is so widespread that even in rural areas, the prices of staples have flown above the purchasing power of rural folks.
Prices are now so high that malnutrition and kwashiorkor may soon return to the land, a hunger illness that left these shores many eons ago.
A recent survey of prices of foodstuffs by a national newspaper in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja showed that, the price of a bag of Nigerian rice oscillates between N22,000 and N25,000, while imported rice is between N29,000 and N30,000. According to the paper as of Friday, last week, a 50kg Big Bull (Nigerian rice) was sold for N24,000 against the previous N22,000. Mafa Rice went for N23,000 against its previous N22,000 price tag. A bag of brown beans, previously sold for N50,000, is now N60,000, while a bag of white beans now sells for N50,000 as against the previous price of between N30,000 and N35,000 respectively.
How could a Nigerian worker living on N30,000 minimum wage survive with his or her family in all honesty under this level of inflation and prices of essential commodities? These are no luxury items, these are the necessary essentials and stables that families need to survive, grow in health and contribute to the development of the country. These are necessary essentials that are gradually turning to luxury that only the rich could afford. These portend a danger to our national security and to the health of the nation.
President Muhammadu Buhari in his interview with Arise TV said that he has lifted over 10million Nigerians out of poverty, perhaps he need to do more because it appears the more he lifts them the more other Nigerians are slipping into that slippery hole called poverty.
Before now, local farmers in the rural areas across the length and breadth of the country may not have access to modern facilities provided by technology, but at least with their hoes and machetes and their farmlands they could be sure to feed their families, sell the excess of their produce to buy what they could not produce and send their children to school. This simple way of life they inherited from their forebears is being eroded everyday by marauding herdsmen and bandits.
Reports now indicate that in parts of the country, communities have been forced to pay bandits to have access to their farmlands. They even have to pay a fee to plant and pay another fee to harvest their crops. For years now, many discernable Nigerians have been warning against the disastrous outcome of lack of access to farmlands by farmers. When those who farm are afraid of going to farm, general food scarcity is the obvious outcome.
The newspaper that did the food survey in the FCT Abuja reported that most traders in the markets blamed the increasing price of foodstuffs on the insecurity in the country and anyone who reads through the headlines of newspapers every morning would agree with the traders!
A solution to the food security challenge is to rein in the herdsmen and the bandits. The nation’s farmlands must be cleared of these outlaws so that farmers can resume their valued role of feeding the nation. President Buhari in his Arise TV placed the responsibility of handling the security challenges on the governors, but that is not what the constitution says. The police and the military are under the command and control of the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces and not the state governors.
When the governor of Benue State Samuel Ortom and the Benue State House of Assembly made Anti-Grazing law to tackle the herdsmen killings in the state, the man was lampooned by the presidency spokespersons. Similarly, when the Southern Governors Forum resolved in their Asaba Declaration that open crazing is banned in the region, they were faced by barrage of verbal missiles. Even the attorney general and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, weighed in to equate banning of open grazing to the banning of spare parts trading in the North. And to show ideological sameness with his attorney general, the President in the interview with Arise TV said that he has directed the attorney general to exhume the Antiquated Gazette of grazing routes and grazing areas and resuscitate it!
This is a direct rejection of the position of many governors on open grazing. This is even as many Northern governors including the governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje have publicly said that open grazing is no longer sustainable and the Kano State government has gone further to provide ranching land for herders, but such states’ solutions seem not acceptable to the President, yet in the Arise interview, the president said the governors are supposed to handle security situations in their states instead of running to Abuja for help.
While we wait for the commander-in-chief to resolve the security challenges that resulted in skyrocketing foodstuffs prices, we dare say that this has consequences for the security of lives and properties in the country. When people cannot have access to basic foodstuffs for sustenance, it becomes a recipe for social unrest, crime and open social discontent. Add this to the possible increase in fuel prices occasioned by the fall in naira value; and the rise in school fees in many institutions of higher learning, we have combustible scenario in our hands. All these combine to make it difficult for an honest worker to be able feed his children, not to talk of sending them to school.
One does not need to be a prophet to see that the high cost of food will have far reaching consequences for the average citizen. These are the people who constitute majority in the country. Efforts must be made to bring down food prices or unrest and increase in crimes may be one of the outcomes. May those who rule have the wisdom to navigate us out of this quagmire!