The recent looting of some warehouses in some parts of Nigeria is a red flag. And the message is clear: things have gone terribly bad for many citizens. It underlines the acute food shortage in the country and the urgent need to find solutions to the problem.

In the most recent incident in Abuja, some suspected hoodlums broke into a government warehouse in the Gwagwa-Tasha area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and carted away food items. Hoodlums had also attacked and looted several other warehouses and trucks owned mostly by manufacturers and other members of the organised private sector in such places as Niger, Kaduna and Ogun states, among others.

Last year, some youths invaded warehouses belonging to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Adamawa State and looted relief materials. Items stolen include gallons of vegetable oil, palm oil, bags of rice, spaghetti, and many other valuables. Youths had, about two weeks earlier, invaded a warehouse in Taraba State and carted away bags of rice, maize and some other items.

On account of the current hardship in the country, there were protests in Lagos, Kano, Osun, Oyo, Niger, among other places last month. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) also staged a one-day nationwide protest to press home their disgust over the hardship in the country.

Hunger and hardship have been a recurring decimal in Nigeria. In 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), in a joint report noted that the food crisis had tightened its grip on Nigeria and 18 other countries. Some of the affected countries were Afghanistan, Somalia, Southern Sudan and Yemen. The worst hit states in Nigeria were Adamawa, Borno and Yobe where over four million people were said to be ravaged by hunger. The other hot spots of hunger and malnutrition were states like Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto. Also, in the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Nigeria ranked as low as 103 out of 121 countries.

Poor leadership is the major bane of the country. We have had the misfortune of having insensitive and selfish leaders who only bother about how to milk the resources of the country. Most times, they waste money flying around the globe with a retinue of aides, who collect humongous allowances in the name of searching for foreign investors.

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These leaders have also failed to provide security to farmers and the larger society. The spate of insecurity now is such that many farmers no longer go to the farms. This is worst in the North where the food crisis is much prevalent.

The impromptu removal of fuel subsidy and the floating of the exchange rate also contributed to the current high cost of living. Today, inflation is as high as 29.9 per cent. From 24.82 per cent in May 2023, food inflation climbed to 35.4 per cent as of February 2024. This is a present danger.       

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that the primary function of government is security and welfare of the people. This government has failed in this regard. It should, therefore, show more seriousness in the efforts to tackle hunger and ameliorate the suffering in the land. Government is not just about making money. It must make conscious efforts to reduce the high cost of living in the country. In the interim, let there be massive importation of food items and mechanisation of agriculture. Government should give incentives to farmers to enable them to produce food in abundance. We also need aggressive diversification of the economy.

It is pertinent to note that our government is not short of plans on paper. Implementation is always the problem. In 2020, the National Council on Nutrition approved a five-year nutrition action plan to reduce hunger in Nigeria by at least 50 per cent. It was under the administration of Muhammadu Buhari and was to run between 2021 and 2025. Four years down the line, the programme appears to have become moribund.

In the current dispensation, the Federal Government established a Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention to help tackle the food crisis in the country. It ordered the immediate release of 42,000 metric tonnes of maize, millet, garri and other commodities from the national grain reserve and held meetings with the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria whereby the millers reportedly guaranteed about 60,000 metric tonnes of rice. How this will solve the massive problem of food insecurity in the country remains unclear.   

We condemn the looting of warehouses and trucks in Nigeria and urge private and corporate citizens, including donor agencies, to come to the help of the government. Let there be massive job creation for the unemployed youths. This will largely reduce crime and curb youth unemployment, which stands at over 53 per cent, the second worst in the world. But the government must, first of all, provide security without which the other plans will amount to nothing.