Orji’s Path to Food Sufficiency

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Charles Ajunwa writes that Senator Theodore Orji’s Food Security Bill, which has passed through second reading on the floor of the Senate, will make Nigeria to be food sufficient

Nigerians, international groups and other citizens of the world recently supported the United Nations Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly, which was supposed to look into the outcome of universal food crisis in the country. While the programme lasted, it was obvious that many programmes in the past on how to sustain food security in the country had yielded little or no result.

The likes of Austerity Measure and Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) had proved to be ineffective. Nigeria has also had Agricultural Development Project (ADP) that was famous in a place like Ekiti State and the USDA approach farm-household food security. These programmes had good intentions in making sure that there was food on the table of Nigerians and its security, but their positive effects were not felt. Hence, Food insecurity remains an elemental challenge in Nigeria.

Over the years, the Food and Agricultural Organisation has enrolled Nigeria among countries faced with severe food anxiety problems. Despite all the food interventionists programmes in the country, physical and economic access to food continue to remain a hallucination.

Studies have revealed that about 14 million Nigerians, as at 1986, were food-insecure, despite the fact that majority were into farming then, although the subsistence type.

Today, the United Nations, through the World Food Programme (WFP), is on top gear in making sure that food will no longer be a problem to people. The body even set aside a day to celebrate food and is providing food assistance for 7.8 million people in several countries.

Like WFP that has been providing food security in parts of the world, Senator Theodore Orji, representing Abia Central Senatorial District in the Red Chamber, has proposed a Bill for making nutrition a necessity for every child in Nigeria, and he wants it not to go the way of other food programmes the country has had in the past.

The Bill, which has passed the second reading, was first read on the floor of the Senate on the 8th of October 2015. It is a good idea and a profound initiative from the affable ex-governor of Abia State who goes by the sobriquet, Ochendo.

Senator Orji wants Nigerians to gain freedom from hunger with primary right to food. He believes that every child in Nigeria has a right to food security with its production as the fundamental need of every citizen.

The importance of food pushed a WFP spokesperson, Elisabeth Byrs, during a press conference in Geneva, to lament “Nearly half a million people – refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons and local communities – face an acute food security and livelihood crisis,” she said. “In some violence-affected areas near the Cameroon-Nigeria border, acute malnutrition rates among children under five years of age could be as high as 36 per cent.

“With the arrival of the rainy season, already stretched health centres would struggle to cope. As food became scarce, some 4,000 refugees have moved to the Minawao refugee camp since the end of April. Displaced people said they could not rely for help on host communities, which are already struggling to access food.”

The foresight that Senator Orji has could be to save the country from experiencing what Ethiopia was experiencing when WFP reached out to 3.8 million people with emergency food assistance in 2011. Nigeria should not follow the path of Kenya, where 3.75 million people were said to have been affected by drought, and WFP reached out to nearly 2 million people with emergency food aid, which included over half a million refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps.

It will be important to point out what Senator Orji meant when he proposed for food security in the country. Before the Senate, he has talked about the menu: (i) To provide a framework that promotes the realisation of the right to freedom from hunger and access to food of acceptable quality as a fundamental human right. (ii) To provide a framework that promotes the elimination and prevention of discrimination of marginalised groups in the access and distribution of food. (iii) To provide a framework that promotes food production, self-sustenance and food security in relation to all persons in Nigeria. (iv) To provide a framework and mechanism for the co-ordinated implementation of the national policy, programmes and plans on food security by State Governments. (v) To provide a mechanism for ensuring that poor persons access food at all times in adequate quantities and quality through the implementation of state sponsored programmes.

The others include: (vi) To provide a framework for the planning, budgeting and implementation of the national policy on food security and nutrition using a right approach and to ensure the participation of rights holders and the accountability of duty holders. (vii) To guarantee the integration of the needs of vulnerable persons in food and nutrition strategies; (viii) To ensure that food is treated as a national strategic resource. (ix) To ensure that emergency situations that threaten mass access to food are anticipated, mitigated and addressed with equity and speed; and (x) To provide for a cross-sectional networking platform comprising all relevant ministries, agencies and actors concerned with the production, storage, and sales of food for purposes connected to ensuring access to food by all Nigerians at all times.

It is crucial in these days of climate change and its effects to support the Bill by the amiable Senator. The availability of food for the populace is very important and should not be seen as a supercilious idea or issue. The imperative of this is that food security is important for the sustainability in growth and of the wealth of the country. It is a very vital aspect that has involved global concern represented in WFP.

The Bill by Senator Theodore Orji should not face antagonism, so that Nigerians can realise universal food security. Nigeria can do it with its abundant fertile soil. The country needs the food security status. It will add importance and appeal to the socio-economic silhouette of farm family units and their food security circumstances. Orji’s bill on food security will boost the activities of Ministry of Agriculture led by Chief Audu Ogbeh.