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Nigeria’s growing food prices inflation: Risk of National chaos & anarchy

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Nigeria is apparently roving round the brink of food crisis. The huge deficits in food production – a reflection of turbulent strains bewildering the agriculture sector, recently, have posed records of negativities in the profile of food prices with scarcity and its attendant high inflation.  The Food Prices Watch Report for July 2022 released on Monday, 21st August, 2022, by the National Bureau of Statistics  (NBS), are embodied with reflections of crises in food availability and accessibility in the Country. With rising records of inflation in the prices of selected food items increase in July, 2022, the NBS report shows that the average price of 1kg of white beans rose by 23.22 per cent from N444.21 in July 2021 to N547.38 in July 2022. On a month-on-month basis, the price increased by 2.09 per cent from N536.17 in June 2022 to N547.38 in July 2022. The report stated also that the average price of 1kg of tomatoes increased on a year-on-year basis by 7.71 per cent from N414.83 in July 2021 to N446.81 in July 2022.

Average price of 1kg beef (boneless) in July 2022 was N2,118.84, an increase of 27.58 per cent from the N1,660.76 recorded in July 2021. The NBS also stated that average price of a bottle of groundnut oil stood at N1,078.17 in July 2022, showing an increase of 40.24 per cent from N768.81 in July 2021. It added that the average price of 1kg of local rice increased on a year-on-year basis by 13.55 per cent from N411.97 in July 2021 to N467.80 in July 2022. The average price of one bottle of palm oil stood at N890.67 in July 2022, showing an increase of 40.19 per cent from the N635.31 recorded in July 2021.

State-by-State analysis showed that Ebonyi recorded the highest average price of 1kg of white beans in July 2022 at N900.51, while the lowest price was recorded in Borno at N317.73. The report stated that the highest average price of 1kg of tomato was recorded in Edo at N799.16, while the lowest was recorded in Taraba at N159.14. Similarly, Rivers recorded the highest price of 1kg of local rice at N619.62, while the lowest was recorded in Jigawa at N363.34.

Analysis by zones showed that the Southeast recorded the highest average price of brown beans at N853.19 per kilogramme, followed by the Southwest at N598.00, while the Northeast recorded the least at N379.03. The Southeast recorded the highest average price of tomato at N678.80, per kilogramme, followed by the Northwest at N656.93, while the lowest was recorded in the Northeast at N194.72. The NBS stated that the average price of 1kg of local rice in the Northwest was N796.03, representing the highest recorded in July 2022, followed by the Southwest at N519.64. The North Central recorded the lowest price for 1kg of local rice at N401.72, it stated.

The above statistics in quick perception do not reflect positivity on food availability, accessibility and sufficiency for sustainability, required for an healthy population. The records are clear reflections of strains which have their roots in destabilising forces such as insecurity, devaluation of the Naira and the strains of Forex, among other socio-economic challenges.

It is indisputable that the Government has to wake up to the demands of the realities with interventions which are foremost needed to address the challenges. Some of these have clustered together reflecting hydra-headed strings, hence, the necessities before the Government are those of emergencies, key to avoid an explosion of turbulence which may brew out of the deficiencies.

The troubles of food crisis are beginning to take their reflections, particularly as more citizens are continually finding it difficult to have access to food which remains a focal necessity among basic needs. The turn of many to dehumanising settlements to get access to food poses threats to the well being of the society. The eroding purchasing power of the people associated with inflation and the devaluation of currency, have left tingling resonance on the ears of the masses and sour taste with the majority.

Special interventions from strategic and intelligence-based responses to tackle insecurity challenges which have left narratives of desertion of farm settlements at the front of wobbling challenges of food crisis; to the stretch of critical policy interventions to moisturise the environment for agriculture; up to macro economic policies essentially at the fore front of fiscal and monetary frameworks to recondition the state of the Nigeria’s economy are sine qua non. The Country might be sitting on a ticking bomb if, by and large, she dwells too long at the brink of food crisis which may create the ambience for national chaos and anarchy. The traces of red signals are evident as more people are increasingly resorting to indulging in illegitimate venture for survival. The macroscopic impacts are threats against peace and order. To avert a deep seated stronghold of criminal exchanges and social delinquencies which may result from turning to criminalities for survival instinct, the necessity to rise to addressing the casual factors of the conditions, premising food crisis in the Country must be taken with the force of immediacy.

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Editorial

Nigeria’s National Identity Card initiative: A misguided venture

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The recent announcement by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) regarding the launch of a new national identity card with payment functionality epitomises folly.

While touted as a solution to streamline identification and financial services, the collaboration between NIMC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System appears to be a misaligned endeavour.

In a nation burdened by limited resources and an array of urgent challenges, Nigeria’s pursuit of grandiose projects with questionable benefits is a luxury it cannot afford.

Despite its surface appeal, closer scrutiny reveals a troubling trend of duplication, bureaucratic inefficiency, and a glaring gap between governmental aspirations and citizens’ realities.

This venture echoes previous attempts to overhaul the national identification system, notably the ill-fated 2006 concession awarded to Chams.

That endeavour, marred by allegations of collusion and technical sabotage, squandered over $100 million, leaving a bitter legacy of failure. In light of this history, skepticism abounds regarding the prospects of the current initiative.

As Nigeria grapples with pressing socio-economic issues, including poverty, insecurity, and inadequate infrastructure, it is imperative that resources be directed towards initiatives with tangible benefits for the populace.

The proposed national identity card, with its payment functionality, appears to be a misplaced priority in this context.

Rather than embarking on ventures with dubious returns, Nigerian authorities must prioritise accountability, transparency, and citizen-centric policies. The nation cannot afford to repeat past mistakes at the expense of its long-suffering populace.

Furthermore, the purported justification for the new card – facilitating access to “multiple government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised – falls short when juxtaposed with the formidable hurdles Nigerians encounter in simply linking their National Identification Number (NIN) to vital services like mobile phone accounts or bank facilities.

The pandemonium and exasperation prevalent in these endeavours, resulting in citizens squandering valuable time and resources, should stand as a stark warning regarding the government’s competence in executing such extensive identity management schemes.

Moreover, if the concern is the proliferation of identification documents in Nigeria – from international passports and driver’s licenses to voter cards and the existing national ID card – this newspaper holds that this mosaic of identification systems not only spawns unnecessary confusion and bureaucratic headaches for citizens but also casts doubt on the government’s capacity to efficiently orchestrate and amalgamate these diverse platforms.

Instead of tackling these persistent issues head-on, the introduction of yet another identity card appears to be an ill-conceived effort to reinvent the wheel, with scant consideration for the practical challenges confronting Nigerians in their daily lives.

In a nation grappling with limited resources and a plethora of pressing needs, the decision to allocate billions of naira to this new card project is both confounding and deeply concerning. Many would argue that the government’s time and financial resources could be more effectively directed towards enhancing existing infrastructure, fortifying public services, and confronting the numerous socioeconomic challenges plaguing the country.

From the dire state of the healthcare system to the ongoing insecurity that has resulted in significant loss of life, there exist far more urgent issues warranting the government’s attention and, critically, its constrained financial resources.

Moreover, the assertion that the new card will facilitate access to “government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised raises concerns about introducing yet another bureaucratic barrier for vulnerable Nigerians.

Instead of introducing a new identification system, the government’s focus should be on refining and strengthening existing social welfare programs, ensuring they are accessible, efficient, and tailored to meet the needs of the populace.

The government’s ambition to distribute the new card to approximately 104 million citizens is cause for concern. Undertaking such a monumental task without a clear and comprehensive plan is likely to result in further delays, logistical complexities, and a considerable squandering of public funds – resources that could have been channeled towards making tangible improvements in the lives of Nigerians.

In essence, the rollout of the new national identity card with payment functionality reflects a recurring pattern in Nigerian governance: the inclination towards grand, top-down initiatives that often fall short of addressing the underlying issues fueling the country’s challenges.

Instead of pursuing this dubious venture, the government’s focus should shift towards strengthening existing identification systems, fostering better coordination among government agencies, and prioritising investments in areas directly impacting the lives of Nigerians.

As a nation, we must resist the temptation of embracing flashy new projects that promise quick fixes to complex problems.

Achieving genuine progress demands a nuanced, collaborative, and evidence-based approach that acknowledges the distinct needs and challenges of diverse communities.

It’s high time for the government to abandon this latest identity card scheme and redirect its efforts towards more impactful and sustainable initiatives that truly serve the citizens it is sworn to uplift.

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Editorial

Articulated vehicles and the scourge of avoidable deaths

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Nigerians across the country continue to die utterly preventable deaths thanks to a lack of political will on the part of its leaders. It is an ugly fate thrust upon its citizens to live in a country whose economy is built upon the blood of the ordinary people, not out of sacrifice, but nonchalance. Articulated vehicles wipe out families, dreams, and human capital in one fell swoop. Press statements from the leaders are not enough. We need the May 2024 immediacy of the Tinubu administration in this sector too.

Last week, a falling container killed a woman in the Ogudu area of Lagos. The woman was inside a car when the fully loaded 40ft Mack articulated truck fell on it, leading to her instant death, according to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

In October 2023, a businessman identified as Akuma Kalu, was crushed to death by a 40-feet container that fell on his car along the failed portion of Etche-Ngokpala road in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers state.

In September 2023, five women died in a fatal accident that occurred in the early hours of Friday at Odumodu Junction, Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area along Awka Road, Anambra State. As usual, the container of the truck fell upon the bus carrying these people, killing them. We could go on and on. The story remains the same: tragedy upon tragedy.

Every year, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, does sensitisation with little result to show for it because the arm of the law is too short to punish offenders at the root of the problem. The constant assault on the senses has led to a desensitisation on the part of the populace. Month after month, another story of a truck that erases a family, or multiple families because its brakes fail, or its container is overturned. The combination of the death of empathy on the part of leaders and the emotional exhaustion of the citizens will lead Nigeria down the path of a dystopia.

The governors of each state have a responsibility to institute laws to protect the indigenes. This, the Federal Government must also do nationwide. The FRSC has rules and regulations for trucks. The Government needs to only enforce these rules. Enough of blaming the trucks themselves because they are not the evil entities. The lack of accountability and a weak system perpetuates the dilemma.

The political class should not wait until Nigeria happens to one of their own before acting as is usually the case. Most cases bear the mark of immediate fatality. By the time a family member experiences it, it would have already been too late. We have hope that this administration will do what it takes to restore hope to the common man. Time to act is now.

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Editorial

Renewed Hope Initiative: Beating back inequality in all spheres

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Nigeria is full of inequalities that its leaders contend with administration after administration. With every President comes a partner who shares in the vision, and does her part to alleviate the pains of the citizens. Oluremi Tinubu has etched her name in the annals of history as one of such compassionate ones.

Recently, in Abeokuta she flagged off the Renewed Hope Initiative for women in agriculture and people living with disabilities nationwide in a bid to achieve this noble goal of equity in Nigeria.

“We are supporting 20 women farmers per state with the sum of N500,000 each. To this end, a draft of N10 million per state for the South West zone will be handed over to the first ladies of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo states who are the Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI) state coordinators for onward disbursement to all beneficiaries in their respective states,” she said.

“The Renewed Hope Initiative Social Investment Programme will be empowering 100 persons with disability, small business owners in Ogun State with a sum of N100,000 each to recapitalise their existing businesses.”

In Kebbi, represented by the Wife of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Fatima Tajuddeen Abbas, in Birnin Kebbi, she said, “Agriculture plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable development and food security. Consequently, we are introducing ‘Every Home a Garden’ competition to encourage each Nigerian woman to cultivate a garden at home to feed the family and share with neighbours, we want to see food on every table.”

We commend the forward thinking and passion for national growth required for such a herculean task. If emulated in all quarters, it will stimulate the economy at the grassroots. It is well acknowledged that the government cannot do it alone. Private individuals who are capable must rise up to contribute to national growth.

It isn’t alien to the Nigerian condition, after all. The country was able to survive the assaults of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the joint efforts of private individuals under the umbrella of Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID, a Private Sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The Renewed Hope Initiative joins the tradition of programmes committed to national improvement. History will look upon it kindly.

 

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