Having established that insecurity is the cause of the food shortage in the country, a farmer has proposed that an N1.2 trillion Northern Nigeria Security Initiative (NNSI) be floated by the 19 Northern states, the FCT and with contribution from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ward off the imminent crisis in the food sector.
Breakdown of the funding of the N1.2 trillion initiative according to its proponent, Kabir Ibrahim, the immediate past National President, of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), shows that N1 billion should come from each of the 19 States in the North and the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), while the CBN add N1 trillion to the initiative, which primary aim will be to fight insecurity so that farmers can go back to farms.
The NNSI is suggested to run from this May to December 2022 and should reside in the office of the chairman of the Northern Governors’ forum, and be headed by a Director-General.
Farmers have abandoned farmlands for fear of being kidnapped following the increasing bandit attacks, which has led to a food shortage that has caused the prices of food items to hit the roof. Across the land are complaints, daily, of increasing prices of goods at a time when the purchasing powers of consumers have declined.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) buttressed the increasing price of food items in its report on the Selected Food Price Watch for March 2022.
The NBS noted that the average price of 1kg of beans (white, black eye, sold loose) increased on a year-on-year basis by 46.64 per cent from N345.03 in March 2021 to N505.94 in March 2022. Also, on a month-on-month basis, this increased by 1.69 per cent from N497.54 in February 2022.
The average price of Bread Sliced 500g increased on a year-on-year basis by 34.98 per cent from N331.76 in March 2021 to N447.80 in March 2022. On a month-on-month basis, the average price of this item increased by 2.23 per cent in March 2022. Similarly, the average price of 1kg Tomato on a year-on-year basis, rose by 53.29 per cent from the value recorded in March 2021 (N267.45) to N409.96 in March 2022. On a month-on-month basis, it increased from N393.08 in February 2022 to N409.96 in March 2022 indicating 4.29 per cent growth.
In the same vein, the average price of Agric eggs (medium size price of one) increased by 27.14 per cent from N48.43 in March 2021 to N61.58 in March 2022. It also grew by 2.93 per cent on a month-on-month basis. The average price of 1kg Plantain (Unripe) rose by 43.54 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N228.18 in March 2021 to N327.54 in March 2022. In addition, the average price of Groundnut oil: 1 bottle, specify bottle stood at N994.62 in March 2022, showing an increase of 46.00 per cent from N681.23 in March 2021.
Ibrahim suggests that NNSI with the funds, should recruit and fund a Vigilante group comprising 2,000 young able-bodied youth who will be paid N20,000 monthly from each of the 19 Northern States and probably FCT to keep the peace among their recalcitrant peers. He also recommended a partnership between the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency NDLEA with each of the 19 state governments and FCT to proactively fight drug use and trafficking by impounding and destroying identified drug peddling enclaves or dens of drug dealers as well as abusers.
He lamented a series of efforts, mainly through kinetic means, deployed to stem insecurity that has kept farmers away from farmlands, albeit, with marginal success, adding that banditry and kidnappings are rampant so much so that the farmers are discouraged from readily accessing their farms in the North, especially, the North West and North Central where most of the country’s agricultural production takes place.
“This has resulted in a reduction of sustainable food sufficiency thereby impeding the attainment of food security despite the several intervention programs such as the CBN’s ABP, National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) integrated farm settlements, and several other programs by the Buhari administration’, Ibrahim said disappointedly.
The CBN started its intervention in the agricultural sector in 1977 with the introduction of the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (ACGSF). The Fund was to encourage banks to lend to farmers while the CBN will guarantees loans up to 75 per cent of the amount.
Data from the CBN from the inception of the ACGSF till March 2021, shows the apex bank had facilitated 1.180 million loans valued at N122.632 billion to farmers across the country.
Equally, the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) initiated in 2015 to assist smallholder farmers and deepen the sector, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had seen about N975.6 billion disbursed to 4,478,381 smallholder farmers, who cultivated 5.2 million hectares of farmland across the country.
Though the apex bank claimed farmers across the 36 states have so far benefitted, reports from some states indicate that a large number of farmers have not benefitted, as they were allegedly sidelined since the programme took off.
Boko Haram which initially came as a religious movement ent over 15 years ago, has moved into a full-scale war with Nigeria, causing it to be labelled as a terrorist group by the United Nations.
Ibrahim however said that given that agriculture essentially is practised in rural areas of the state, and is on the concurrent list with the federal government, he emphasized that the central, together with the states can create an enabling environment with policies that will encourage a return to farms.