Lt.-Gen. Alani Akinrinade (Rtd), Nigeria's former Chief of Defence Staff

Food Security: Famine imminent in Nigeria, unless …., Akinrinade, others warn

*Failure to put an end to killing of farmers in the country may lead to famine, says ex-CDS Lt.-Gen. Alani Akinrinade (Rtd)

*Experts advocate subsidy for food production, Forex liquidity, a deliberate policy to promote large-scale mechanised agriculture

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

While warning the Nigerian Government that failure to put an end to incessant clashes, and killings of farmers in the country may lead to famine soon, Lt.-Gen. Alani Akinrinade (Rtd), a former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to seek a permanent solution to the recurring attacks between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria.

It was gathered Akinrinade stated this when Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff (CoAS), visited Osun State to inaugurate projects at Kuta and Asamu areas of the state recently.

The veteran warned that any further delay in putting an end to the killing of farmers might lead to famine in the country.

He said: “We are regaled every day with blood-chilling stories of killings and pillaging of villages, sometimes towns in the north and central parts of Nigeria, and of recent talks of impending massacres and intensification of kidnapping coming our way in the Southern States and the main protagonists of the disturbance is the Fulani herdsmen.

“Sometimes, we are told that they are Fulani mercenaries from outside Nigeria being sponsored by our Nigerian brothers.

“The situation is so daring, that in collaboration with unexpected bad weather this year, a famine is imminent.”

The erstwhile CDS stated: “We hear we are already borrowing grains from the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries, the immediate result of farmers being forced to abandon their farms.

“I suggest to him to read the riot act to the Fulani herdsmen, that it is not acceptable for any foreigner by whatever name called to enter our country illegally and molest our people. They are not welcome.

“We should not, by mistake of omission or commission allow our people to degenerate to self-help. It is a sure road to anarchy and perdition, which will not go away.”

Akinrinade also warned against nepotism and ethnicity in the fight against insurgency and kidnapping in the country.

“The first is this pervasive belief that he is an ethnic bigot, an irredeemable religious fundamentalist, that he firmly subscribes and promotes the possibility of his ethnic Fulani to take over the country, the reason he does not interfere in curbing the brigandage of the Fulani herdsmen, that he has performed woefully in the fight against the terrorist Boko Haram.

“And that he cannot rise to the occasion when it comes to reflecting the heterogeneous composition of our country when it comes to appointments to sensitive positions in his government.”

According to Akinrinade, “these are difficult matters that cannot be addressed in the abstract. The whole buck stops on his table.

“Let me suggest to him that he needs to shape up, read the riot act to our people, enlist them in unswerving cooperation to participate fully in the redemption of their country. “Arms and brutal force is not sufficient to defeat an insurgency.”

He, however, suggested the restructuring of the country, adding, “what we simply term as reorganisation in the Armed Forces is what the bloody civilians call restructuring.

“It is long overdue and over flogged, as if it is such an impossibility, an attempt at which, will balkanise the country.

“As a matter of fact, it is what is required to move our country out of the doldrums into modernity. He cannot afford to pass it on.”

We may end up without a country, as no country has been known to survive two civil wars, he warned.

In a related development, experts have advocated subsidy for food production and Foreign Exchange (Forex) liquidity in the country.

Report indicated that analysts during the week advised the Federal Government to subsidise food production in the short term and ameliorate the pressure on the foreign exchange (FX) as inflation sustained its upward trajectory to 13.22 percent in August from 12.82 percent in the preceding month.

They noted that the current inflationary pressures were essentially cost-push due to scarcity of FX, increases in food, petrol and electricity prices as well as the general effects of the lockdown of the economy to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the last six months.

The way forward to curb inflation is for the government to tackle insecurity, so that farmers could return to their farms, experts said.

They explained that a deliberate policy was also required to promote large-scale mechanised agriculture.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) latest report, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation increased by 13.22 percent (year-on-year) in August in comparison to 12.82 percent in July 2020.

This is 0.40 percent points increase was attributed to increases in all the parameters that determine the headline index.

According to the CPI figures for August on a month-on-month basis, inflation increased by 1.34 percent in the review period, representing 0.09 per cent rise compared to 1.25 per cent in July

Food inflation rose by 16 percent in August compared to 15.48 percent in July, representing a month-on-month increase of 1.67 percent from 1.52 percent recorded in the preceding month.

The NBS stated that the rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, meat, fish, fruits, oils and fats and vegetables.

Core inflation, which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 10.52 percent in August compared with 10.10 per cent recorded in July.

The core sub-index increased by 1.05 percent in August compared with 0.75 percent recorded in the month under review with the highest price increases in passenger transport by air, hospital services, medical services, pharmaceutical products, maintenance and repair of personal transport equipment.

Other are vehicle spare parts, motor cars, passenger transport by road, miscellaneous services relating to the dwindling, repair of furniture and paramedical services.

Prof. Uche Uwaleke of the Nasarawa State University, commenting on the inflation outcome, said a recent increase in the pump price of fuel presented further downside risks to inflation.

He added that the uptick in the headline index was expected and will likely continue till the harvest season sets in.

Prof. Uwaleke stated: “This is particularly so given the fact that the inflationary pressure is coming more from the food component which increased by as much as 16 percent.

It is not difficult to see where the pressure is coming from.

“The economy is still reeling from the negative impact of COVID-19 on the food supply chain.

“This situation is compounded by the border closure, increase in VAT, electricity tariffs, stamp duties and upward exchange rates adjustment by the CBN in order to ease the pressure on the Forex market.”

According to the don, “the way forward to rein-in inflation in the country is for the government to tackle insecurity, so that farmers can return to the farms and put in place a deliberate policy to promote large scale mechanised agriculture.

This will involve scaling up interventions in agriculture, including through recapitalising development finance institutions such as the Bank of Agriculture.”

Dr. Chijioke Ekechukwu, a former Director-General of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), also warned of the ripple effects of the sustained rise in inflation as this has already adversely affected prices of goods and services, creating cost-push inflation in Nigeria.

The way forward was for the CBN to use all necessary monetary policy tools within its powers to ameliorate the pressure on Foreign Exchange and force down the rate.

Mr. Wale Okunriboye, Head of Research Investment Management, Sigma Pensions, submitted that food prices could be higher in the months ahead and push inflation to as much as 14 percent in September 2020.

He said: “Agricultural output over the harvest period in Q4 2020 is likely to be below trend levels.

“Higher electricity tariffs, increased fuel prices, continued Naira weakness and inadequate food harvest in September” could further accelerate inflation towards 14 percent levels, he stated.

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