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High cost of living: Nigeria paying for years of agricultural neglect and insecurity

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By Adémólá Òrúnbon

Nigeria is endowed with lots of natural and human resources with a large expanse of fertile land and estimated to be the most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa. And it has different sectors such as agriculture, solid minerals, sports and entertainment, tourism etc, yet the citizens live in abject poverty subsisting on less than $2 a day as a result of several factors which includes inappropriate domestic policies and an unfavourable external economic policy and environment. The country discovered oil in 1956, over sixty-eight (68) years ago at Oloibiri in today’s Bayelsa state, but over 70 percent of the country’s earnings come from oil paying, little or no attention to other sectors of the economy and that is why Nigeria is said to be suffering from what is known as the “Dutch Disease”.

In Nigeria, agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy, employing about 65-70 percent of the labor force. Agricultural holdings are generally small and scattered; farming is often of the subsistence variety which is characterised by simple tools and shifting cultivation. These small farms produce about 80 percent of the total food. About 30.7 million hectares (76 million acres), or 33 percent of Nigeria’s land area, are under cultivation. Nigeria’s diverse climate, from the tropical areas of the coast to the arid zone of the North, make it possible to produce virtually all agricultural products that can be grown in the tropical and semitropical areas of the world.

Squealing to the discovery of petroleum, Nigeria has rapidly grown into a major food importing nation as the government has become neglectful of the agricultural sector since petroleum is considered a more viable resource for economic development. This situation quickly polarized the nation into high and low income groups. Unfortunately, while only a small fraction of the population benefited from the oil wealth, the population suffered the misfortune of food insecurity as they can hardly afford the rising prices of imported foods. However, though at a subsistence level, a sizable ratio of the population in Nigeria is still employed in the agricultural sector.

Food security is a phenomenon which is multidimensional with economic, environmental and social aspects. Unfortunately, the greater share of the population of the undernourished is located in the developing countries. Although the total population of the food-insuring people in Asia outweighs that of Africa, 18 out of 23 nations where undernourishment is prevalent are from Africa.

Food is, no doubt, the most basic of all human survival needs. Although so many efforts have been sunk in improving the quality as well as production of world food supplies, food insecurity remains prevalent, particularly in the global southern nations of Asia and Africa, and in Nigeria, malnutrition has resulted in death of many of its citizens. African Food Security Briefs (AFSB) estimated that approximately one out of every three persons in sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished. Achieving a sustainable economic development in Nigeria and Africa at large will continue to be a mirage without well-nourished and healthy people.

In fact, failure to ensure food security has unavoidably resulted in many social problems including civil unrest and riots in many major cities of the world. Some economic experts described the food system and its governance as a process with a complex web which many times overlapped or even contradicted with formal policies and regulations, and made even worse by the unwritten laws and practices which may not be susceptible to political subjugations. Food insecurity is therefore strongly linked with other global issues, such as population growth, surge in energy demand as well as competition for land and water and issues of climate change.

Though Nigeria prides itself as the giant of Africa with its economy becoming the largest in 2014, the poverty rate in the country is alarming. Not less than 70 percent of the Nigerian population is surviving on less than $2 per day while food insecurity prevalence in the low income urban house-holds and rural areas respectively stands at 79  percent and 71 percent. Since the discovery of oil in Nigeria in 1956, the agriculture sector became less important to the government as it cannot withstand the economic sagacity of the oil industry. Thus, Nigeria became heavily dependent on importation of food. The rural areas have become even more vulnerable to malnutrition, erratic supply of food items, unaffordable food costs, low quality foods and sometimes complete lack of food. This situation is more prevalent in many parts of the northern region of Nigeria.

Nigeria is blessed with a very diverse and rich vegetation capable of supporting a large population of livestock and has an estimated surface water volume of about 267.7 billion cubic meter and underground water of about 57.9 billion cubic meters. The ecological zones in Nigeria are also very diverse with the semi-arid Sudan (Sahel) zone, Guinea Savannah and Derived Savannah zone as well as Forest and Mangrove (high rainfall, moist sub-humid and very high humidity) zone. A few variations exist within each ecological zone. The ecology and trends in precipitation in a region determines what kind of farming system the people will practice, their food preference and how they make use of natural resources in their environment.

Agriculture, since independence, has been a major contributor to the Nigeria economy. The agriculture sector has been metamorphosed by commercial activities from small to medium and large-scale levels of the market. The principal cash crops include cocoa, oil palm and rubber while major staple foods are rice, cassava, yams, maize, taro, sorghum and millet. Production of timber and livestock rearing such as goats, sheep, cattle and poultry as well as artisanal fisheries are the common occupation.

Agriculture in Nigeria has remained the largest non-oil contributor to the national economy, accounting for 41.84 percent of the GDP in 2009 and employing almost 70% of the national work force. The farmers are mostly small-scale subsistence farmers totaling about 14 million with an average farm size of 1 hectare in the south and 3 hectares in the north of Nigeria. Despite the fact that the sector has been neglected by the Federal Government sequel to the discovery of commercial quantities of petroleum resources in 1956, the inevitability of agriculture to the Nigerian economy cannot be over emphasised.

Nigeria is grossly an agrarian state which is reflected in the fact that over 70 percent of her economically active population is employed in the agriculture sector. The difference lies in the kind of crop that is cultivated in the various regions of the country depending on the soil characteristics and climatic conditions. However, due to the discovery of oil in most of the south-south region of the country, agricultural activities have been grossly limited resulting from the consequential industrialisation and frequent oil spillage. Also, agricultural activities in the north are sometimes plagued by extreme weather conditions such as drought and flooding during the rainy season. The south-west and south-east have over the years had relatively balanced conditions for agriculture but unfortunately, these two regions also have the highest level of education in the country and mostly seek for opportunities outside the agriculture sector.

Food insecurity is a multifaceted problem. It is quite an uphill task discussing the driving factors for food insecurity in Nigeria. Nigerians lack enthusiasm for local products and often consider them inferior to imported food products. The emergence of the oil sector marked the imminent end of the agriculture sector as the huge revenue generated from the petroleum products shifted attention from agriculture. The government embarked on importation of food and local production shrinked away, especially as wealth from oil has changed the status and tastes of many Nigeria in favor of foreign goods. This coupled with socio-political instability which precluded the economic downturn, civil war, dwindling human resource base, gender inequality, education decadence, poor health facilities and the general loss of good governance have coexisted to further degenerate food accessibility. The following among others have however, been identified as the prime agents of food insecurity in Nigeria.

Modern agriculture has become so highly industrialised and dependent on energy. Mechanised farmers are very reliant on consistent power supply which has eluded us and has become a mirage for successive governments to achieve. Now, much of the agricultural products we consume are produced in farms located far away and processed in other distant locations before being imported via air, water or land.

The whole of these processes requires a lot of power and fuel to keep food prices low and affordable for the common man. However, with escalating prices of petroleum products, there have been calls for diversification to increase energy efficiency. One key alternative is biofuel and other agriculture-based energy production. This alternative will create more competition for food items particularly in developing nations and depending on how the process is managed may increase food insecurity.

Òrúnbon, a journalist, poet and public affairs analyst can be reached via: [email protected] or 08034493944 and 08029301122.

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Opinion

Breaking the cycle of national trauma

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Abiodun was raised by an alcoholic father while his mother was the subservient punching bag who could not stand up to her husband. Abiodun grew up watching his father batter his mother under the influence of alcohol, and he could not do a single thing about it, especially since his mother always defended her abusive husband. Imagine seeing your father develop a dependency on alcohol without which he could not function. How do you think you would feel every time you set your eyes on him? It was a traumatic childhood for this young boy. Perhaps he could have found solace in the company of friends, but his father never allowed him to visit friends out of fear that he might reveal what happened at home. Abiodun felt his life was like a prison. He was not allowed to spend an extra minute in school once the closing bell rang because being late immediately translated to being beaten blue-black. He was really bitter towards his father.

When Abiodun eventually had his own family, he prevented his only son, Dare, from ever visiting his grandfather. Alcohol was also banned in the Abiodun household. But Dare was a youngster surrounded by friends who drank and rolled with the ideology that drinking was a sign of maturity, so he began to secretly drink. By this time, though, Abiodun’s father had outgrown his terrible ways. He had seen how his lifestyle negatively impacted his family and hated that his only son, Abiodun, was not on speaking terms with him. He checked himself into a rehabilitation centre and had been clean for over a decade, but Abiodun had sworn never to have anything to do with his father. Dare, on the other hand, was always curious as to why his grandfather was a no-go area. He had sneaked out many times to see his grandfather and, by his own analysis, found him pretty chill. He would pay his grandfather secret visits to complain about his father’s domineering attitude. Abiodun was too blinded by his rage towards his own father to realise that he was suffocating his son. In trying to protect Dare, he made the home a psychologically toxic place for his son. Dare eventually snapped and ran away from home as soon as he could. He took to alcohol as a coping mechanism and before long became alcohol dependent.

By the time Dare began his own family, he tried to keep his children away from his “bitter” father, Abiodun, but a cycle had been established. Unless someone deliberately tries to stop this pattern, there will be a perpetual disconnect between generations, a trend we already see playing out in our dear nation, Nigeria. Perhaps, this is the root cause of our disunity as a nation. The psychological impact of bitterness and resentment can be profound. Abiodun’s unresolved trauma from his father’s abusive behaviour led him to harbour deep-seated anger and resentment, creating a psychological barrier that prevented reconciliation. This bitterness not only strained his relationship with his father but also impacted his ability to connect with his son. Dare, in turn, rebelled against this oppressive atmosphere, seeking solace in the very behaviour Abiodun tried to shield him from. This story of Abiodun’s family is a metaphor for Nigeria. The alcohol dependency speaks to the corruption perpetuity that has unintentionally become an entrenched value system. This value system has given room for bitterness and resentment to take a foothold between the older generation and the youth. Are we surprised that the disconnect between the old and the young in this game of politics and governance is fast becoming worrisome?

Nigeria as an entity has hurt its people deeply. The older generation, for example, has made mistakes, costly ones, that are almost unforgivable. Thankfully, as they age, they are forced to face the brutal realisation that perhaps, they made a mistake. While I think that some are trying to make amends, I think it is also important to remember that this unresolved trauma has lingered for many decades and has created a psychological barrier that is preventing reconciliation. This is why today we seem even more divided as a nation than we seemed many years ago. Until this trauma is healed, I do not see a way forward for this nation.

In cutting off the older generation, we may end up creating another Dare, who would repeat the mistakes of the older generation. But if we embrace in its entirety the ways of the older generation, will we not make the same mistakes they did? Is there any way out?

I think there is. In my previous article titled, “Are Youth the Panacea for Nigeria’s Problems?” I explored the potential of youth in transforming Nigeria’s leadership landscape and how important it is to allow for an integrated approach where the wisdom of age converges with the dynamism of youth. This inter-generational synergy is crucial in creating a psychologically safe nation and holistic wellness-focused people, free from the cumulative hurt and bitterness from the actions of the older generation. To address this cycle of unresolved trauma and bitterness, healing must happen, as biases formed in one generation can poison subsequent generations as has been established in Abiodun’s family and as we see in our nation today.

I think it may help for the government and other key institutions to formally acknowledge the wrongs and injustices of the past, admitting mistakes and the harm caused. While this is underway, what immediate remedies can kickstart this healing process? I think we can begin with the deliberate inclusion of youth in the decision-making process, at all levels and in all spheres, including the tripod of governance: the public sector, the private sector, and civil society. I think a policy that compels every leader of stature to have a youth shadow them may trigger the healing process that can reconcile “Dare” back to “Abiodun.” In shadowing, the youth has the opportunity to see why the older generation acts the way they do, why they think the way they do, and why they made some of the mistakes they did. It will be a hands-on experience to ensure that not only is there continuity but the possibility for forgiveness can be activated.

Time and again, organisations, both private and public, are recognising the importance of inter-generational synergy. Governments like Lagos State are establishing initiatives like the Lateef Jakande Leadership Academy, which enables youth to shadow cabinet members and Heads of Agencies. Similarly, private organisations like the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation are offering scholarships to West African youth interested in public service careers, facilitating their pursuit of a Master of Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. I can see a deliberateness to include the youth in the decision-making process and I commend the older generation for being deliberate about this. The journey towards a transformed Nigeria is not solely the responsibility of the “Dares” or “Abioduns” independently. It is a collaborative effort. By curating environments of psychological safety and national wellness, and by recognising and supporting intergenerational mentorship, we can create a leadership ecosystem that is resilient, adaptable, and responsive to the needs of our nation.

Temitope ‘TBOG’ Omoakhalen – Fellow, Lateef Jakande Leadership Academy

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Opinion

FG, Labour tussle: The victor and the victim

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By Otuedon Vincent

There is no doubt Nigeria as a country is going through one of its toughest times economically. In the midst of the harsh economic realities, the government has increased the cost of governance and labour has also demanded for improved pay, rightfully so.

Unfortunately, the victims of the ongoing tussle between the federal government and organised labour are indifferent. For clarity, the tussle is about who takes what of our common wealth. While labour has legitimate claims, the people of Nigeria are the greatest stakeholders in this matter. The contention is between two servants over what each thinks he is entitled to, incidentally while the civil servants are direct employees of the people, politicians are supposed to be the voice of the people, chosen by the people to protect their interest. Between the two parties, (government and labour), the people are the focus or the lord.

The politicians who are supposed to be the voice of the people to determine the salaries of our employees have lost their voices due to wanton and arbitrary allotment of our commonwealth to themselves, so they have no clean hands to approach the court of equity. It is the masses, only the rise of the masses can tame this unruly evil of our government being reciprocated by the unrealistic demands of labour for its members.

It is elementary economics, that during inflation, salary earners suffer, increment of salary does not curb inflation rather it aggravates inflation, increasing spending by government skyrockets inflation. But the politicians are too guilty to drive home this point.

There are hardly organisations that increase salaries by 100 percent, even if it does happen it is when the organisations break even and decide to reward its workers not when the organisation is bleeding almost to death, though, the flamboyance by government officials does not reflect the bleeding state of the masses. There are many other ways, if we decide to reason outside the box, to cushion the effect of the inflation on the workers other than unrealistic wage demands, knowing the obvious consequences on the economy of the nation we claim to be serving. Except labour is saying, since politicians do not care, they also no longer care.

Obviously, the politicians lack the moral fortitude to confront these issues, how would the few politicians whose monthly entitlement is almost able to pay all the workers put together complain that the increase of workers salary would cause inflation? Particularly when they have not agreed that their prodigal spending has landed the nation’s economy where it is now.

The burgling question remains, if Nigerian workers receive salaries that are as high as the politicians, who suffers? What is the resolution of labour to tackle the inflation and the menace of corruption other than the increment of salary? The people of Nigeria whom they serve deserve to know.

If the government of Nigeria has money, it is only because it is not working, which pushes the burden of living above the waters on individual households and birth the need for increase in income for the home front. If we increase the earnings of households because the government is not working, it will amount to giving up on the nation because we would have shared what we were to use to build the nation to households.

I respectively submit that labour should have a rethink, we have a common enemy that has hijacked our commonwealth. We need a concerted effort to tame it but to go in the manner labour is going about it may plunge the nation into a terrible state and the people whom they serve would be the victim. I also call on the government to as a matter of duty make sacrifices by cutting down the cost of governance in order to lead by example making sacrifices in hard times where the people are already feeling the pains of economic policies.

Otuedon Vincent is a Human Right Activist and President Liberty Harbingers Network

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Opinion

MFM and erring pastors’ poisonous tales

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By Funmi Branco

As a church, the Mountain of Fire and Miracles (MFM) organisation is known for its emphasis on holy living, anti-demon fervour, and evangelistic preoccupation. With its investments in the spiritual and social wellbeing of its members, there is no doubt that over the years, it has been placed at a vantage position as one of the churches that God is using to change lives. The church, relying on its divine mandate, has been used to save many people from physical and spiritual challenges. Testimonies abound of people who encountered massive turnarounds through the church, living glorious lives after decades of demonic oppression. That the church has done a lot for many cannot be doubted. Beyond evangelism, the church has been performing its social responsibilities creditably; it has invested massively in youth empowerment, helping to lift up the Nigerian society through sports and steer the youth away from crime. The church has various sports clubs that have produced notable star players who have gone on to display their mettle on the international stage. First class graduates from the church are given huge sums of money as a form of encouragement, the objective being to channel youthful energies towards profitable endeavours. There have been occasions in the past when these high-flying graduates were given cars, the thinking being that others would be able to take them as role models and strive towards excellence in their academic pursuits.

The MFM General Overseer, Dr. DK Olukoya, is a well-known firebrand preacher who gives no quarter to demons and demonology. He has never hidden his desire to see people worshipping and living in a climate of freedom, totally divested from demonic bondage. He is one of the potent instruments that God has been using to depopulate the kingdom of darkness. That being the case, he and the church he presides over cannot escape censure, persecution and serial attacks by the cosmic powers whose activities have been hampered or even hobbled by the church. The agenda of the naysayers who love evil and resist the activities of Olukoya and the church is to derail heaven-bound people by attacking the message of sanctification and holiness that the church preaches. That is understandable. How can the kingdom of darkness rest when so many people are being delivered from witchcraft and foundational problems? Satan’s agents cannot cease casting  aspersions on the church, but truth is constant irrespective of their devious antics. This is the background from which the recent falsehood purveyed against the church by certain ex-members must be seen.

When two ex-members and pastors recently rose against the church with their salacious stories, many immediately began barraging and de-marketing the church with gusto, giving no thought to the need to hear the other side of the story. But as the leadership of the church reacted to the falsehood, it became clear that the ex-pastors were merely playing to the gallery. It turns out that at no time did the church frame up its ex-members identified as Femi Jimoh and Caleb Oloruntele. Recently,  the three individuals who testified against the former members in court over the alleged act narrated how the duo approached them to solicit their assistance on how to hire a gun to rob the “first fruits” offering of the church in 2008. These individuals, namely Akeem Omojomolo, Tajudeen Usein, and Fatai Adebayo, revealed how they played along in the plot, leading to their arrest. By their narrative, it became clear that Pastor Jimoh’s allegation in a recent interview that the church was behind his imprisonment for nine years without trial over alleged armed robbery is nothing but sheer bunkum.

Jimoh had claimed that his ordeal started when he met the chief security officer of  the MFM founder at a native doctor’s house, while Caleb claimed that Olukoya wanted him dead because he refused to give false testimony against a pastor identified as Femi Agboola. Strangely, as revealed by the Chief Legal Adviser of the church, Davidson Adejuwon, with documentary evidence, the claims of the duo are based on pure mischief. Hear Adejuwon: “Is it not curious to push a narrative that Dr Olukoya, the General Overseer, locked them up when all members of their family refused to get two individuals for nine years to stand as their sureties for them to be released? A case of planned armed attack on credible intelligence against the church which could have led to the death of any member cannot be treated and handled internally by the church. We must report such to the law enforcement agency saddled with the responsibilities to investigate and deal with such issues. And that was exactly what we did as a responsible church.”

Whereas the accused claimed that they were detained by Olukoya for years, the evidence says just the opposite. On page 1 of the judgement delivered by the High Court of Lagos State on July 1, 2016, in the case between the people of Lagos State and Oluwafemi Jimoh, Henry Aiyewero and Caleb Oloruntele (LCD/19/2009), the court made the following pronouncement: “The prosecution dragged its feet, closed and reopened its case, and sought for endless adjournments. What makes it more worrisome is that the defendants continued with this pattern of delay when it was their turn to present their defence, in spite of the fact that the Ist and 2nd defendants who had been granted bail did not meet the conditions of bail, so they remained in custody.” There you have it: the accused remained in custody because their families did not rally round them to meet the bail conditions imposed upon them by the court, not because Olukoya ordered them remanded permanently in jail!

In this social media era where people rush to judgement without hearing the facts, many people easily build hell for themselves here on earth. Bloggers possessing no moral background peddle fake news with vigour. Therefore, there is a need to let the world know what actually transpired. Contrary to Pastor Jimoh’s claim that Olukoya and MFM do not forgive, there is ample evidence of the church’s toleration of his improprieties. He was redeployed several times following complaints by members of his congregation.  In a letter dated October 14, 2002,  he was directed to proceed from the Warri, Delta State branch of the church to Lagos for reorientation, at the completion of which he could be redeployed in accordance with the discretion of the appropriate authorities. The letter was signed by Pastor Moses Odunsi, the Regional Overseer. The second letter of redeployment, signed by the zonal pastor, Kayode Oyejide,  conveyed his redeployment from Gbagi zone to the Regional Headquarters. It was dated August 19, 2003. The third, dated June 27, 2005, conveyed his redeployment from SWII to the Regional Headquarters in Lagos. It was signed by Pastor Martins Adeneye, SWII Regional Overseer.

It is clear that the church tried to reform Pastor Jimoh to no avail. What is more, he and his family are the architect of his long stint in detention, not the MFM. Not having imposed the bail conditions, the church was in no place to help him meet them. The case was between him and the state.

Branco sent this piece through [email protected]

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