Red Cross Declares Nigeria’s Hunger Crisis Alarming, Demands Immediate Attention

•Says time to act is now

•PDP: Tinubu is overwhelmed, lacks capacity to lead Nigeria

•Bugaje: His officials not telling him the truth, he removed petrol subsidy without planning

•Youths protest in Ibadan against hardship

Chuks Okocha, James Emejo in Abuja, Mary Nnah in Lagos and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan

Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS), yesterday, declared that the country’s hunger crisis had reached an alarming state, saying the situation demands immediate attention and collective effort to ameliorate the sufferings of vulnerable persons.

Secretary General of the body, Dr. Abubakar Ahmed Kende, who made the declaration in Abuja, said the organisation remained deeply concerned about the escalating food insecurity in the country. Kende said it was about time the government acted.

Equally, yesterday, the leadership of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) slammed the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), declaring that the President Bola Tinubu administration is overwhelmed and lacks the capacity to lead Nigeria.

A former member of the House of Representatives and elder statesman, Dr. Usman Bugaje, also expressed disappointment with Tinubu’s performance, and alleged that the president was being misled by his officials.

Bugaje spoke on a Channels TV programme, Politics Today.

The assertions came as the widening nationwide protests against food shortage and rising cost of living yesterday spread to Ibadan, where protesters in their hundreds defied police warning and paralysed activities in the metropolis.

Speaking during the launch of a partnership between the Red Cross and Ecobank on local resource mobilisation for hunger crisis appeal in Abuja, Kende said the rising fuel prices had led to hyperinflation and the soaring of food prices beyond the reach of many Nigerians.

He said about 26.5 million Nigerians, including women and children, were currently facing acute hunger, and were in dire need of urgent assistance to prevent death and prolonged suffering.

According to him, “More than half of the states in Nigeria are presently food insecure, and the hunger crisis has reached alarming levels. Increased insecurity, inflation, extreme weather patterns, and global conflicts continue to drive hunger.”

Kende declared, “The time to act is now.”

He said the Ecobank partnership was dedicated to raising funds locally to support the hunger crisis appeal designed to provide relief to those affected by the crisis.

The Red Cross secretary general said children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers were bearing the brunt of malnutrition, with nearly 4.41 million children and 585.000 mothers facing acute malnutrition, and about 1,000 Nigerian children died daily from malnutrition-related causes.

He said NRCS was taking urgent action to alleviate the crisis and mitigate its devastating impact on Nigerians in line with Nigerian Red Cross Act of 1960, to act as auxiliary to government to alleviate human suffering wherever it might be found.

Kende added that NRCS’s 800,000-strong community-based volunteers were present in all 36 states of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and ready to respond to humanitarian needs, even in the most difficult-to-access communities and conditions.

He stated that the appeal was anchored on the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) Pan-African Zero Hunger initiatives and also related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda, “Leave no one behind.” He said this showed the inter-linkages of deprivations experienced by poor people – No Poverty (SDG 1); Zero Hunger (SDG 2); Health and Well-being (SDG 3); Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6).

The Red Cross boss said, “As we speak, millions of our fellow citizens are facing acute hunger, with about 26.5 million people, including women and children, in dire need of urgent assistance to prevent death and prolonged suffering.

“The factors contributing to this crisis are multifaceted: changing weather conditions; increased internal conflict; the aftermath of COVID-19, compounded by violent conflicts, including the insurgency in the North-east; armed banditry; perennial farmer-herder conflicts; and separatist agitation in the South-east, among others.

“And global crises, such as the Russia/Ukraine, Gaza war, and rising fuel prices, which have led to hyperinflation and soaring food prices beyond the reach of many Nigerians.”

Kende stated that natural disasters, such as the rising incidence and frequency of floods, as part of the consequences of climate change, had impacted food production, availability and affordability in the country.

He said with the support of Ecobank, among others, NRCS would provide the much-needed humanitarian assistance to the neediest communities.

Kende also said the Red Cross would scale up current efforts to provide multipurpose cash grants for emergency relief and recovery, offer continued nutritional support for pregnant and lactating mothers to combat acute malnutrition, and emphasise Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives, along with livelihood programmes, to reduce the prevalence of diseases and other infections.

He stated, “I call upon all individuals, groups, businesses, and organisations to join us and support the government efforts across all levels in this critical endeavour.

“Together, we can make a difference, provide hope, and save lives. Let us stand united in the face of this humanitarian crisis, we can alleviate the suffering and hunger of the Nigerian people and foster a brighter future.”

Kende disclosed that IFRC and NRCS recognised the severity of the situation early and launched a 4.1 million Swiss Francs appeal in June 2021 to aid the delivery of humanitarian assistance targeting 200,000 people in seven states across the country.

The emergency appeal had already reached over 30,000 beneficiaries, providing vital support through multipurpose cash transfers and nutritional assistance to pregnant and lactating women, he said.

Moreover, he said, Mothers Clubs have been established to empower women with skills training and nutritional knowledge, fostering self-sufficiency.

Kende stated, “The gravity of the hunger crisis persists, and more individuals are in desperate need of assistance. The IFRC, in collaboration with the Nigerian Red Cross, has, therefore, scaled up the Hunger Crisis Emergency Appeal to reach 2.5 million people.

“This appeal is part of the broader Africa Hunger Crisis Appeal, recognising the regional impact of this dire situation.

“Here’s where our partnership with Ecobank Nigeria comes into play. In joining forces, we aim to raise funds locally to address the pressing needs of our communities.

“The funds will be directed towards providing multipurpose cash for emergency relief and recovery, prioritising health and care, nutritional support for pregnant and lactating mothers, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiatives, and livelihood programmes to reduce diseases and other infections.

“The Nigerian Red Cross, with its 800,000-strong volunteer force spread across all 774 local governments, stands ready and capable of reaching the communities most impacted by acute hunger with emergency assistance.

“This partnership emphasises the critical role that corporate entities, like Ecobank Nigeria, can play in contributing to the welfare of our nation.”

PDP: Tinubu is Overwhelmed, Lacks Capacity to Lead Nigeria

PDP said the APC government of Tinubu was already overwhelmed and lacked the capacity to lead Nigeria.

The party, which condemned APC for attacking PDP governors for speaking out against the failures of the Tinubu government, said the administration had plunged Nigerians into excruciating suffering.

In statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, PDP said, “Our party restates its position that the APC and the Tinubu administration are responsible for the current biting economic hardship and surging wave of insecurity across the country, as they are completely overwhelmed and lack the capacity and competence to lead a nation like Nigeria.

“By seeking to allocate President Tinubu’s statutory duties to governors, the APC has unambiguously admitted that it foisted on Nigerians an incompetent president, who cannot guarantee security and whose administration has devastated our national economy, resulting in extreme hunger, hopelessness and desperation, as evident in the protests, agitation and rising spate of suicide across the country.”

PDP said every Nigerian was lamenting the terrible situation, which Tinubu’s ill-informed and ill-implemented policies had brought upon the nation.

It stated, “President Tinubu is directly in charge of security and the national economic policies, including administration of petroleum resources, as Minister of Petroleum Affairs; other national revenues.

“He cannot transfer his incompetence and failure to other tiers of government, which have no control over national security, fiscal and monetary policies, which mismanagement by President Tinubu’s government has crippled our economy.”

PDP said governors had no control over the pervading corruption and continuing monumental treasury-looting under Tinubu, who had failed to take concrete measures to curb the malaise.

Ologunagba said it was an assault on the sensibility of Nigerians that instead of charging the government it formed to live up to its billings, APC was seeking a sordid and depraved approach to divert public attention from its failures.

The PDP statement added, “From its diversionary statement, it is clear that the APC is jittery and afraid that it has been exposed following revelations and reports in the public space that its leaders are involved in multiple scams and fraudulent deals through which they continue to siphon funds meant for the wellbeing of the people, resulting in the unbearable hardship being experienced by Nigerians today.

“The complicity of the APC leaders apparently informs why they have remained silent in the face of the incompetence, monumental treasury-looting and corruption in the Tinubu administration.”

PDP counselled Tinubu and APC to face their self-inflicted woes and heed the patriotic call of the PDP governors, who were providing quality leadership with life-enhancing projects and programmes in their various states in line with the people-oriented manifesto and policy thrust of the PDP.

Ologunagba said that it was evident today across Nigeria that only PDP governors and other PDP elected public officials were commissioning legacy and life-enriching projects and programmes with which they were repositioning their states and various constituencies into oases of development.

He stated, “Nigerians should, therefore, continue to hold the APC and President Tinubu solely responsible for the suffering, which they face.

“The PDP will not hesitate to name APC leaders allegedly involved in the continuing treasury-plundering, as the APC must not be allowed to ‘grab, snatch and run’ with our national patrimony at the expense of millions of our citizens.”

‘Tinubu’s Officials Not Telling Him the Truth’

Former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Usman Bugaje, expressed disappointment at Tinubu’s performance.

Speaking on the state of the nation and the harsh economic conditions during a programme, Politics Today, on Channels TV, Bugaje said, “I am extremely disappointed at the performance of President Tinubu in the last eight months. I used to know him as someone who is always reading and engaging, but I have not seen that at all.”

The political activist and scholar stated that the president was surrounded by sycophants, who did not engage him intellectually.

He stated, “They are not telling him the truth and he seems to be comfortable with the kind of people around him that don’t seem to have any idea on their heads nor have any solution to the problems that we have. And they are always trying to find excuses.

“I understand one of the ministers was even saying that things were improving, when people are in the mess they are at the moment. How can things be improving when insecurity has reached that level where even Abuja, the capital state, is not safe? And when it comes to finding solutions, they are repeating what has been done 40 years ago without any success.

“They are looking at controlling process. How can you control the prices of things that you don’t have?”

Bugaje stated that even though a lot of the things happening today were not conceivable a few years back, it was always clear that the county was going down the drain.

He said, “We could see a lot of these problems years back, but not as bad as they are at the moment. Certainly, the speed with which it has happened and depth of the problems that we have found ourselves are not things that we anticipated.”

The elder statesman recalled that he had warned the country’s leaders years back about the country coming to its present dilemma.

He said, “I remember as far back as 2005-2007, there were signs and then I was a member of the PDP in the House. And I did draw the attention  of the chairman of our party then, Chief Audu Ogbeh, that things are likely to get worse if policies do not change.

“I specifically drew his attention to a book written by Robert Kaplan, titled, ‘The Coming Anarchy.’ I did a 15-page review article of the book and in that review I was shocked that reading it 15 years after, it is speaking specifically to the issues we are witnessing today.”

He said just like when the last regime took over in 2015, it was clear that it didn’t have the capacity to deliver but even then, Nigerians never expected that they will do the level of killing and basically loot the country’s treasury.

Bugaje stated, “It is becoming very clear at the moment.

“Similarly, we had expected that when the new leadership, Tinubu, took over, things will change for the better. We were expecting that he was surrounded by expertise and we were expecting that for him to have announced the removal of subsidy, he must have had a plan. Something that will address the consequences of that. You don’t make a policy without looking at the consequences and preparing to cushion the effect of that.”

Bugaje said, apparently, Tinubu erroneously announced the removal of subsidy without any preparation. He said what was happening at the moment was anticipated, but the extent to which it had come was baffling.

He alleged that those in government advising the president did not even understand the present realities.

“They seem to think that it was somebody somewhere manipulating some things,” he added.

Alleging disconnect between the government and the people, Bugaje said, “If you want to know what is happening, speak to the imams and pastors because these are persons the poor people run to. They have easy access to these people and they go to them normally because when you are in this big trouble, you look for God.

“You sort of surrender more to God because you know you have come to the end of your wits. From these people we got to know that some of these people are feeding their families with dead meat because they have nothing. They have come to their wits end.”

Youths Protest in Ibadan against Hardship

Commercial activities were brought to a standstill in different parts of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, yesterday, as protesters in their hundreds defied police warning and marched on popular streets, in demonstration against the rising food shortage and high cost of living in the country.

The protests caused heavy traffic in many areas, including Mokola, Adamasingba, Ekotedo, Onireke, Sango, Bodija, Agbowo, and Ojoo.

Hundreds of youths converged on the popular Mokola Roundabout yesterday morning amid heavy security presence, to forestall breakdown of law and order.

The protesters carried placards with inscriptions bordering on the rising cost of living, escalating prices of food items, hunger in the country, economic hardship, and the urgent need for the government to take pragmatic steps to make food available. 

Prior to the protest, the state police command had warned against any protests without prior notice to the police. The command had in a statement warned that unscrupulous elements could hijack the protests for criminal purposes, adding that the security agency would not allow any form of violation of public order that could lead to breach of public peace.

However, defying the police warning, the protesters called on Tinubu to immediately address the raging issues of insecurity, economic hardship, and hunger, among others, faced by Nigerians.

The protesters, who were mostly youths, said they were fed up with the current state of affairs in Nigeria, and demanded immediate end to the crisis.

They held placards bearing different messages, such as, “Tinubu Must Address Insecurity,” and “Hunger is Killing Us.”

The protesters also expressed concern over high cost of living, which they said was making it difficult for people to afford basic necessities of life. They said food prices had skyrocketed, making it difficult for many Nigerians to feed their families.

They hoped that their demonstration will draw the attention of Tinubu and the government to these pressing issues, as they called on the government to do more to alleviate the suffering of the people and improve the country’s economy.

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