ROLLING BACK THE FANGS OF HUNGER

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Dahiru Mohammed is determined to use the platform of the Presidential implementation committee to make a difference, writes Dike Aguonye

A banker and international trade expert, Dahiru Mohammed leads the next frontier of work to tackle one of Nigeria’s most challenging problems – hunger. Strongly believing that the state of the hunger challenge in Nigeria is a result of a multi-sectoral failing, Mohammed wants a framework for tackling the problem recognizing and utilizing multi-faceted approaches. He intends to pursue a pragmatic programme that connects the dots from multiple windows to arrest the obvious gaps. President Muhammed Buhari on December 10, 2020 inaugurated the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Bilateral Agreement between Nigeria-Czech Republic with Mohammed as chairman.

The agreement aims to promote mutually beneficial scientific research and development activities including the establishment of a framework to embed applied research and innovation in public policy, business and entrepreneurship. One of the focal sectors for this agreement is in the area of agriculture and food technology. The direct feature of the two-nation agreement is on improved trade, creation of co-investment hubs to grow the economic value of vital sectors such as agriculture and food security.

The challenge of hunger is a major problem that successive governments have expended a lot of energy and investment on without fully addressing. The mass hunger scale is still one of the disturbing features of Nigeria. It is increasingly attaining an endemic national scale. For instance, the Global Hunger Index ranks Nigeria as the number 10 most hungry country in the world. Arising from this sorry position, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called attention to adverse nutritional challenge among children in Nigeria, rating the country second highest population of stunted children in the world.

This challenge, according to records, is most widespread in the states of the northern parts of the country. Noted as the most agricultural active state in Nigeria, the grave irony is that it is currently the states in the north of the country that feature exclusively among the 10 most affected states with its children’s population between 42 percent and 58 percent adversely affected by poor nutrition. The Integrated Food Security classification (IPC) and the Farming Early Warning systems (FEWS) have generated equally frightening data on the food crisis in Nigeria.

They state that 23.9 million people in Nigeria are in a condition under access to food index described as stressed while 8.5 million people in the country are currently in a food crisis with a significantly over half a million people in a condition they describe as a food emergency situation. These data present very depressing context but also offer those in the position of shaping and influencing policy a fairly complete picture of the demon they must confront.

The foregoing casts a formidable and enormous task before anyone who is desirous of reversing the shortcomings in the agricultural sector, who aims to roll back the fangs of hunger in the country must come to terms with. Part of the focal sectors the Nigeria-Czech agreement is gearing up energy to bring about a turnaround in its agriculture and food technology. In effect, it is easy with the depressing picture painted above to surmise what the derivable for a successful implementation of that agreement is as it relates to agriculture.

The Nigeria-Czech agreement for which the Presidential Implementation Committee is saddled with translating into tangible benefits on Nigerians in specific focal sectors has assured that it is not intimidated by the weight of the problems in any of the focal sectors among which is the agricultural sector. Without doubt, for Mohammed and the members of the Presidential Implementation committee the data in that sector reflect a very disturbing reality. His team, according to him, would rather choose to see an opportunity to use the platform in their hands to reverse the ugly manifestations.

Accordingly, he is determined to use the platform of the Presidential implementation committee to activate a multi-sectoral re-energizing capability of overhauling the agricultural value chain as well as its business ecosystem. He sees a lot of work ahead in using new technology to generate fresh knowledge base as well as new skills that can productively and commercially transform the local food chain, food technology and the mass nutritional needs of Nigerians in a manner that speedily begins to reverse the ugly trend of aggravating hunger and nutritional deficiencies.

The Presidential Implementation Committee was inaugurated on December 10, 2020 at the Presidential Villa by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari. Members of the Committee include Chief of Staff to the President; a representative of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; a representative of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment; the head of the Nigeria-Czech Republic Trade and Investment Council who serves as the chairman of the committee and the Executive Vice Chairman of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI).

President Buhari while inaugurating the Presidential Implementation Committee stated that the objective of the initiative was to actualize the core targets of the bilateral agreement on transfer of technology, information sharing between Nigeria and the Czech Republic in relevant areas of need. The President who spoke through Prof. Gambari enjoined the Committee to swing into action by swiftly translating the vision contained in the agreement into tangible positive daily reality for Nigerians.

He expressed the hope that the impact of its work would soon show in reversing the already dire needs that reflect in the myriads of socio-economic challenges facing the country. Nigeria, according to the president, needed a sustained productive economy propelled by technology and new innovative capacity. He said that as part of the government’s response for wealth and job creation through technology transfers and adaptation from advanced countries, it had become necessary to revive the implementation protocols of the Nigeria and Czech Republic agreement.

He extolled Nigeria’s potential strategic positioning as a global market destination. Czech Republic, on the other hand, being a formidable technology and innovation provider, makes the partnership between both nations the envy of other African countries. The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) is positioned to serve as a step-down agency for the technology interactions that will be activated with the Presidential Implementation.

Mohammed is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Loans and Risk Management, Nigeria, a member of Technical Working Group Vision 20.20, recipient of an award for Entrepreneurial and Economic Development as well as several other awards and recognitions on Cost, Profitability and Business Developments.

Aguonye wrote from Abuja