Flush out terrorists, make Nigeria safe again – Part 2

Closely tied to insecurity is the adverse impact it has on food security. In the last eight years, farmers in food producing belts have been chased out of their farms by bandits and terrorists. This development has exposed the country to less production and higher food prices. This is unacceptable and must be reversed.
The Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), in a policy brief posted in March this year reported that the number of food-insecure Nigerians increased significantly, from 66.2 million in the first quarter of 2023 to 100 million in the first quarter of 2024, citing data from the World Food Programme (WFP,2024). Of this number, 18.6 million face acute hunger and 43.7 million hovers around crisis-level hunger. Nigerians actually need no evidence of this as they are surrounded by families and neighbours increasingly migrating into poverty. 
Not minding that grim data, NESG expressed hope of improved yield since the nation enjoys favourable climatic conditions, apart from occasional flooding. The challenge, therefore, is for the Federal Government to make farms safe for cultivation to take place. The other challenge is for state governments to provide enabling environment for farmers to produce optimally. Each state in the country has potential to grow different crops, including rice, tomatoes, oil palm, yam, cassava and many more. 
Unfortunately, in 2021, the country spent around N1.9 trillion on food importation. In 2022 and 2023, about N2 trillion was spent each year to import food items for which there are local substitutes, except that the barns are empty. Food inflation in May had reached 40.66 per cent. Many states have not prioritised agriculture as a major engagement. They vote yearly budgets for agriculture but the reality is that revenues from the sector are hardly showcased in states’ Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). Most of the states have nothing to show.
President Tinubu has challenged governors to meet targets on food security, assuring them of support. This is not the first time the President would make pronouncement on the intention to revamp agriculture. What has been lacking is the practical and pragmatic measures to follow up. Government should make states safe for farmers to return to work. Insecurity in the 19 northern states has rendered farming a risky engagement; and the hazard is rapidly spreading to the southern states. Many farmers have been killed on their farms and thousands displaced. Hundreds and thousands of farmers in Niger, Benue, Nasarawa, and others have since relocated to IDP camps. This is a recipe for food crisis, which is already brewing.  Government has a duty to avert the looming danger.
At their recent meeting hosted by the Development Agenda for Western Region, Southwest governors promised to strengthen farm security with specialised units of Amotekun Corps, promising that the region had not lost capacity to produce food. The situation in Southwest markets is, however, dire and does not support empty resolutions canvassed at conferences. The reality today is that food items hitherto grown in the Southwest are no longer available in the market. Supplies from other geo-political zones arrive Southwest markets at huge logistic costs.
Insecurity in regions of Oke Ogun in Oyo and northern Ondo State has caused farmers to abandon the land. Parts of Ogun State are equally threatened. It is rather unserious for Southwest states to announce their intention to boost agriculture half way into the planting season. What were they doing before onset of the planting season? They have forgotten the agriculture legacy they inherited from the Western Region.
Even Lagos State with its cosmopolitan nature has huge farming potential. The state government should disclose the status of the Lagos rice mill at Imota, whose impact is not felt yet despite the promise to boost the market with affordable rice. The rice mill, commissioned by former President Buhari in 2023, is touted to be the largest in sub Saharan Africa, with capacity for 32mt/hr of 2.5 million 50kg rice per annum. We are aware that other Southwest states, particularly Ogun and Ekiti have capacity to grow local rice particularly the ofada brand. Where have the capacities gone to? Other rice growing states of Ebonyi and Anambra in the Southeast and those of South-south should prioritise agriculture and produce what they eat. Every state is endowed with immense agriculture potential.
To make states safer for the farming population, the need to create state police is again worth emphasising. Despite fears expressed over likely abuse by state governors, many well-meaning citizens have aligned with the idea of state police for swifter responses to insecurity challenges in the sub national level. The advantages seem to overwhelm the possible misuse by governors, which in any event can be structurally curtailed, with checks and balances.
In the true, practical sense of federalism, it is in states that human and business activities take place. It is in states and by extension, local government areas, that crimes take place. Having the command-and-control levers of police formations close to crime scenes and within reach of governors (as chief security officers of their respective domain) will bring security closer to the people, provided there are sufficient guardrails to prevent misuse. That point has been sufficiently canvassed.
We challenge the Federal Government and states as well as the lawmakers to be open-minded on the need to overhaul the system and make it work for all.  A well-restructured polity holds the promise to return the country to the path of safety and growth. On the contrary, managing the country under its unwieldy form holds the risk of further degeneration of insecurity.

The post Flush out terrorists, make Nigeria safe again – Part 2 appeared first on Guardian Nigeria News.

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