Hunger: Senate in panic debate, fears attack, seeks solution

The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday engaged in a panic debate on hunger and hardship facing the citizens across the country, fearing attack and revolt from the hungry and angry Nigerians.

The debate followed a motion, titled: “Urgent Need to address Food Insecurity and Market Exploitation of Consumables in Nigeria ”, sponsored by Senator Sunday Karimi Steve representing Kogi West Senatorial District and co-sponsored by Senator Ali Ndume Mohammed representing Borno South Senatorial District.

Senator Kaimi raised the alarm that prices of food and consumables were becoming unbearable for citizens due to high cost, inflation, and the continued weakening of currency with attendant worst living conditions.

To support his submission, he referred to the Bureau of Statistics’ recent data which showed that, “food inflation in the country skyrocketed to 40.66% on a year-on-year basis, a significant increase from the 24.82% recorded in May 2023.”

Karimi posited that the market price of food items such as beans, maize, rice paddy, yam, tomatoes, and onions which initially rose by about 40% after the removal of petroleum subsidy has now increased to over 100% to 300% without any attributable reason for the increase in prices.

To worsen the trend, the lawmaker said: “There is a general attitude of get rich quickly or get rich by all means, leading to many Nigerians to jettison being their brother’s keepers and exploiting one another to make abnormal profits.

“This attitude has been justified on the basis that many members of the political class, technocrats, and corporate elite have helped themselves with public funds without any repercussions in law, Nigerian traders have thus resorted to price gouging to maximize profits.”

Senator Ali Ndume who is a co-sponsor of the bill emphasized that the upper legislative chamber needs to have a thorough look at the motion, explaining that Nigeria has been listed among African countries likely to face a food crisis for the first time.

Ndume, representing Borno South Senatorial District, drew the attention of the upper chamber to a report by Action Against Hunger World Food Program, which indicated “that over 32 million people are expected to face critical hunger crises and emerging levels between June and August in Nigeria.

“I don’t know about some other countries, but there in the north, or here in the north, we have started seeing it visibly. People are hungry, very, very hungry.

“Many cannot go to their farms. All of us know this. In the North Central, the North East, and the North West. Even in the South East, we still have crises among the farmers and the herdsmen.

“Even in the South West, we still have this crisis. As it is now, a bag of rice is selling at about 100,000. A bag of maize, the same thing. Even prices of tomatoes, onions, and other basic food are high”

Former Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, after commending the mover of the motion submitted that Nigerians have exhausted their patience and may come after them if nothing was done in quick time due to acute hunger.

“Let me commend the mover of this motion and also add here that patience, and tolerance are both elastic but they are not eternally elastic.

Our constituents are facing real, real anger. I traveled to two states last week, in the north particularly, and I’ve seen firsthand how people, especially those who are not in the civil service, nor in any business, are suffering, fighting, and struggling to have food at least once in a day.

“Under normal circumstances, Mr. President, in the rainy season, from maybe June up to September or October, when there will be harvests of new foodstuff, prices of foodstuff are not expected to escalate, now we don’t even have that truth.”

“If you come and tell us, they will distribute foodstuff from our silos. The silos are empty, Mr. President. So it means we have to import food. And if we have to import, it means we need foreign exchange.

“And that is because we have to engage with the administration. We have to help the administration. Mr. President, we are the most vulnerable in the leadership arrangements of this country.

“Members of the National Assembly, everybody looks up to Senators or members of the House of Representatives. In fact, people see Senators as Messiahs. Any problem, they say, go for your Senator.

“So if we don’t take immediate action, we will lose the power and our citizens under the situation of increased fuel price, increased electricity price, increased everything and we are yet to get the right measures to provide questions for our constituents.

“We wouldn’t like the kind of thing that we see in our streets and it is time that we take every possible action to get out of the arms of the government to ensure that food floods our country, the right food.

Reacting, Senate President, Godswill Akpabio said the calamity now was due to herders’ attack on farmers in the North Central, bandits in the North West and Boko Haram in the North East which has been consistent for the past nine years.

“My opinion was that there was calamity when herders were pursuing people from their farms in the North Central; when bandits were pursuing people in Katsina and all over the North West zone and after the attack the people were moved to IDP camp and abandoned there. In the South there was insecurity and this has been for the past nine years and that is why there is scarcity of food in the country.

“Nigeria is now included among the countries that will experience acute food shortage. There is no doubt that the government must rise to the occasion”, he stated.

Hunger: Senate in panic debate, fears attack, seeks solution

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