Hit By Ukraine Conflict, Africa Faces ‘Unprecedented’ Crisis -UN

A file photo of a woman at a market.

 

 

Africa faces an “unprecedented” crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, particularly with soaring food and fuel prices, United Nations officials said on Friday.

The conflict and Western sanctions on Moscow are disrupting supplies of wheat, fertilizer and other goods, compounding difficulties facing Africa from climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is an unprecedented crisis for the continent”, UNDP Africa chief economist Raymond Gilpin told a press conference in Geneva.

Gilpin, who spoke by video-conference from New York, said there were risks from a widespread surge in inflation, particularly in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

“We are seeing a reduction of GDP growth on the continent, supposed to rise slightly this year after Covid,” he said.

That puts millions of households at risk across the continent — which includes a majority of the poorest countries in the world.

Economic difficulties could also exacerbate social tensions in crisis-hit parts of the continent, such as the Sahel, parts of central Africa and Horn of Africa.

“Tensions, particularly in urban area, low-income communities, could spill over and lead to violent protests and violent riots,” he said.

Countries holding elections this year and next year were particularly vulnerable.

Many African countries depend heavily on food imports and fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine, two major exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower oil. Rising oil prices from the war have also increased fuel and diesel costs.

In some African countries, up to 80 percent of wheat came from Russia and Ukraine.

“With the disruptions that now happen, you see an urgent situation materialise because where do these countries turn overnight for commodities?” said UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Africa regional director Ahunna Eziakonwa.

She said the crisis could also impact debt for many African countries with high borrow rates such as Ghana.

“There needs to be an effort by multilateral, bilateral institutions to really think about” restructuring debt, she said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said this week he was seeking talks to bring back Ukrainian and Russian agriculture and fertilizer products into world markets to help end a “three-dimensional” crisis in developing nations.

The International Monetary Fund said last month the war in Ukraine had already significantly impacted the Middle East and North Africa, warning high prices may lead to social unrest in Africa.

Prepare For Global Food Crisis, Akinwumi Adesina Tells African Govts

A file photo taken at a food market. A large percentage of poor Nigerians live in the rural areas where the predominant occupation is farming.
A file photo showing traders at a food market.

 

The President of the African Development Bank Group Akinwumi Adesina has called on African governments to prepare for a global food crisis. 

A statement from the AfDB said Adesina made the comment while speaking about Africa’s priorities as a guest at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre on Friday.

“The African Development Bank is already active in mitigating the effects of a food crisis through the African Food Crisis Response and Emergency Facility – a dedicated facility being considered by the Bank to provide African countries with the resources needed to raise local food production and procure fertilizer,” the statement quoted him as saying.

“My basic principle is that Africa should not be begging. We must solve our own challenges ourselves without depending on others…”

According to him, the Ukraine-Russia war has impacts spreading to other parts of the world.

“He said the war’s ramifications spread far beyond Ukraine to other parts of the world, including Africa. He explained that Russia and Ukraine supply 30% of global wheat exports, the price of which has surged by almost 50% globally, reaching identical levels as during the 2008 global food crisis,” the AfDB statement added.

“He added that fertilizer prices had tripled, and energy prices had increased, all fueling inflation.”

Nigeria’s Inflation Rate Hits 15.92% As Food, Gas Prices Rise

A file photo of a food trader at a market in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television
A file photo of a food trader at a market in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television

 

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measures inflation increased to 15.92 per cent on a year-on-year basis in March 2022.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) disclosed this on Friday in its latest report titled ‘Consumer Price Index March 2022’.

It explained that the percentage reported was 2.25 per cent points lower compared to the 18.17 per cent rate recorded in March last year.

This means that the headline inflation rate slowed down in March 2022 when compared to the same month in the previous year, while increases were recorded in all Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose (COICOP) divisions that yielded the Headline index.

“On month-on-month basis, the Headline Index increased to 1.74 per cent in March 2022, this is 0.11 percent points higher than the rate recorded in February 2022 (1.63 per cent),” said the report. “The percentage change in the average composite CPI for the 12 months period ending March 2022 over the average previous 12 months period is 16.54 per cent – this shows 0.19 per cent points decrease compared to 16.73 per cent recorded in February 2022.

“The Urban Inflation rate increased to 16.44 per cent year-on-year in March 2022, showing a decline of 2.32 per cent points from the rate recorded in March 2021 (18.76 per cent). In the same vein, the Rural Inflation increased to 15.42 per cent in March 2022 with a decrease of 2.18 per cent points from 17.60 per cent recorded in March 2021.

“On a month-on-month basis, the Urban Index rose to 1.76 per cent in March 2022 – this was up by 0.11 per cent points from the rate recorded in February 2022 (1.65 per cent). The Rural Index rose to 1.73 per cent in March 2022, with 0.12 per cent point increase from 1.61 per cent recorded in February 2022.”

 

Surging Food, Gas Prices

According to the NBS, the corresponding 12-month year-on-year average percentage change for the urban index was 17.10 per cent in March 2022.

It said the figure was lower than the 17.29 per cent reported in February 2022, while the corresponding rural inflation rate in March 2022 stood at 16.00 per cent compared to 16.18 per cent recorded in February 2022.

Similarly, the composite food index rose to 17.20 per cent in March 2022 compared to 22.95 per cent recorded in March the previous year.

The agency blamed the rise in the food index on increases in prices of bread and cereals, food products, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, meat, oil and fat.

“On month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased to 1.99 per cent in March 2022 – this was up by 0.12 per cent points from 1.87 per cent points recorded in February 2022.

“The average annual rate of change of the Food sub-index for the 12-month period ending March 2022 over the previous 12-month average was 19.21 per cent, 0.48 per cent points decrease from the average annual rate of change recorded in February 2022 (19.69 per cent).”

On the ‘all items less farm produce’ or core inflation, which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce, NBS said 13.91 per cent was recorded in March 2022, up by 1.24 per cent points when compared to the 12.67 per cent recorded in March 2021.

The highest increases were recorded in prices of gas, garments, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing, shoes and other footwears, clothing materials, other articles of clothing and clothing accessories, liquid fuel, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment and other services in respect of personal transport equipment.

Ukraine War Pushes World Food Prices To Record High

A file photo taken at a food market. A large percentage of poor Nigerians live in the rural areas where the predominant occupation is farming.
A file photo showing traders at a food market.

 

World food prices hit an all-time high in March following Russia’s invasion of agricultural powerhouse Ukraine, a UN agency said on Friday, adding to concerns about the risk of hunger around the world.

The disruption in export flows resulting from the February 24 invasion and international sanctions against Russia has spurred fears of a global hunger crisis, especially across the Middle East and Africa, where the knock-on effects are already playing out.

Russia and Ukraine, whose vast grain-growing regions are among the world’s main breadbaskets, account for a huge share of the globe’s exports in several major commodities, including wheat, vegetable oil, and corn.

Ukrainian ports have been blocked by a Russian blockade and there is concern about this year’s harvest as the war rages on during the spring sowing season.

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“World food commodity prices made a significant leap in March to reach their highest levels ever, as war in the Black Sea region spread shocks through markets for staple grains and vegetable oils,” the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement.

The FAO’s food price index, which had already reported a record in February, surged by 12.6 percent last month, “making a giant leap to a new highest level since its inception in 1990”, the UN agency said.

The index, a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, averaged 159.3 points in March.

The jump includes new all-time highs for vegetable oils, cereals, and meats, the FAO said, adding that prices of sugar and dairy products “also rose significantly”.

– Famine fears –
Russia and Ukraine together accounted for around 30 percent and 20 percent of global wheat and maize exports respectively, over the past three years, the FAO said.

Wheat prices rose by almost 20 percent, with the problem exacerbated by concerns over crop conditions in the United States, the organization said.

The FAO’s vegetable oil price index surged by 23.2 percent, driven by higher quotations for sunflower seed oil, of which Ukraine is the world’s leading exporter.

Spanish supermarkets have rationed the sale of sunflower oil to stop customers stockpiling over shortage fears due to the war.

The United States has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of creating “this global food crisis”.

France has warned that the war has increased the risk of famine around the world.

The FAO estimates famine in West Africa and the Sahel regions, both highly dependent on Russian and Ukrainian grains, could worsen and affect over 38 million people by June if no measures are taken.

Ukraine on Thursday called on the European Union to provide aid to its farmers. The European Commission has been asked to coordinate the delivery of fuel, seeds, fertilisers and agricultural machines to the country.

For his part, Putin warned on Tuesday that, against the backdrop of global food shortages, Russia would “have to be prudent with supplies abroad and carefully monitor such exports to countries that are clearly hostile towards us”.

FAO chief Qu Dongyu called Friday on countries not to restrict food exports, which would only worsen the situation for countries dependent imports.

“Above all, we must not shut down our global trade system, and exports should not be restricted or taxed,” he said.

The FAO also called for aid to vulnerable nations to boost planting.

“One and a half billion dollars would be sufficient for immediate agricultural assistance that would save the lives of some 50 million people by allowing the growing of food where the need is most keen,” said Rein Paulsen, head of the agency’s emergencies office, in a letter to AFP.

The conflict has also sent oil and gas prices through the roof, causing inflation to rise further across the world and raising concerns that it could derail global economic growth.

AFP

19.4m Nigerians May Face Acute Food Shortage, FAO Warns

A file photo taken at a food market. A large percentage of poor Nigerians live in the rural areas where the predominant occupation is farming.
A file photo showing traders at a food market.

 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that 19.4 million Nigerians may face an acute food shortage between June and August 2022. 

It hinged this on rising inflation and insecurity. This is according to a report by the agency in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The report analyses acute food and nutrition insecurity in the Sahel and West African region and noted that the food crisis will affect Nigerians in 21 states and FCT.

According to the report, about 14.4 million people in 21 States and FCT are already in a food crisis till May 2022.

The FAO analysis for March covered  Abia, Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Cross-River, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Lagos, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Tarba, Yobe, and Zamfara, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Moroccans Protest Against High Prices For Basic Goods


Moroccans raise placards as they gather in front of parliament in the capital Rabat to protest against rising prices, on February 20, 2022. STR / AFP

 

Protests broke out in several Moroccan cities on Sunday as people rallied against rising prices and to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of demonstrations that called for reform. 

In the capital Rabat, dozens of protesters decried the high cost of basic goods and shouted slogans harking back to the “February 20 Movement”, an AFP correspondent said.

The pro-reform and anti-corruption movement was born out of the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked the Middle East in 2011.

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A Moroccan man raises a placard as he takes part in a protest against rising prices, in front of the parliament in the capital Rabat, on February 20, 2022. STR / AFP

 

Dozens also rallied in Casablanca and Tangiers, according to videos posted on social media.

Drought has hurt the country’s economy and Moroccans are also feeling the pinch from high fuel prices.

Some 3.8 billion dirhams (over $400 million) is needed for flour subsidies alone in 2022, according to an economy ministry official.

AFP

Buhari Rues Youth Migration, Seeks Europe’s Partnership To Halt Trend

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented the mass migration of youths and is seeking partnership with European countries to halt the trend.

Buhari, who is Brussels, Belgium for the 6th EU-AFRICA, made the comment in an article published about the meeting.

“By 2050, Africa’s population of 1.3 billion is set to double, making up a quarter of the world’s total. My country, Nigeria, is set to double its population to 400 million by then, surpassing the United States to become the third-largest nation in the world.

“This means a huge youthful market right on Europe’s doorstep and — with increased trade — a growing middle class with money to spend,” Buhari said in the article published on the Politico, an online/offline magazine on Thursday.

“However, despite burgeoning possibility, irregular northward migration from my continent drains Africa’s talent pool, while provoking political crises in the EU. Despite its best efforts, Europe will not find a sustainable remedy to this problem by further reinforcing its Fortress Europe approach.

“Instead, more opportunities must be created for Africans at home, providing alternatives to the decision to take a life-threatening boat journey in order to seek them elsewhere. The relationship between the EU and Africa must be rebalanced to power job creation. Unfortunately, today’s arrangements do just the opposite.”

READ ALSO: PDP Governors Ask Buhari To Resign As Petroleum Minister

While explaining why Nigeria did not sign the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with Europe, he noted that agricultural subsidies in Europe are major blows to farmers on the continent. According to him, Africa is flooded with “artificially depreciated produce”, thus affecting competition.

“For instance, subsidy-driven surpluses of European milk are powdered and sent to Africa, decimating its dairy industry,” he said.

“It is a similar story when it comes to wheat and poultry production. Despite having the most underutilised arable land in the world, Africa remains a net food importer.”

The Nigerian leader noted that over €50 billion is pushed into markets in Europe to help them produce cheaper food. This, he explained, keeps Africa at the losing end.

“With its main export market distorted against them, African countries are deprived of foreign exchange, and investment in agriculture is stifled,” Buhari said.

PENGASSAN Raises Alarm Over High Cost Of Food, Cooking Gas

A file photo of a woman at a market.

 

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has raised an alarm over the increasing cost of food and cooking gas in the country.

In a statement jointly signed by its President – Festus Osifo, and General Secretary – Lumumba Okugbawa, the union lamented that the nation was degenerating into a land plagued with hunger.

The people’s purchasing power, according to its, has seriously worsened as the prices of food in the market have continued to rise in the last three years.

It blamed the situation on the devaluation of the naira against major currencies, displacement of farmers by bandits and terrorists, and inconsistent policies of the government, among others.

READ ALSO: NCDC Confirms Three Cases Of Omicron Variant In Nigeria

According to PENGASSAN, farmers in Benue, Plateau, Katsina, Nasarawa, and Taraba States cannot readily access their farmlands due to security threats.

On the cost of Liquified Natural Gas (LPG), commonly referred to as cooking gas, it lamented that the price of refilling a 12.5kg-cylinder has risen by almost 100 per cent.

The union believes poor families are going through harrowing experiences in their struggle to cope, even as the price of kerosene has since surged despite the unavailability of the product

It also asked the government to encourage its workers rather than making it mandatory to take the COVID-19 vaccine, adding the deregulation of the downstream oil sector must be based on domestic refining and not import-dependent.

Read the statement dated November 30, 2021, below:

PENGASSAN ON THE STATE OF NATION

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) wishes to bring to the attention of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other critical stakeholders to some of the burning issues in our national polity and the existential need for Government to put the interest of the citizens first in all its dealings.

We strongly advocate that Government must develop a strong mechanism in tracking how its macroeconomic policies, be it fiscal or monetary, affect the disposable income of individuals and households in the country.

The Association has noted and sadly so, that most of the recent macro-economic policies of the Government have further exacerbated the economic hardship faced by our members and Nigerians in general.

If this poverty induced policies are not urgently checked and correctional measures put in place, we could assure you that the little shred of hope that the citizens have in the country will fast erode and this could degenerate the already challenging security situation and grossly affect the level of governance.

Some of the prevailing issues that are affecting the general populace and require urgent attention are as follows:

  1. FORCED VACCINATION ON NIGERIANS

PENGASSAN have observed with dismay the recent directive accompanied with threats by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) that Civil Servants, specifically Federal Government Employees, would from December 1 st 2021, shall be required to present proof of vaccination or negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests, conducted within 72 hours to gain access to their offices in all locations in Nigeria and the Missions.

We consider this directive and threats as unbecoming, draconian and against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the Government pledged to always uphold. The Association has earlier admonished providers of labour to sensitise and advocate to its employees on the advantages of taking COVID-19 vaccines and not to issue threats to the workforce.

We wish to request that the undemocratic and anti-masses directives, that infringes on the right of the citizens be stopped and withdrawn with immediate effect.

  1. HIGH COST OF FOOD

The Nation is fast degenerating into a land plagued with hunger as if famine has descended on our beloved Nation. The purchasing power of the already pauperised disposable income of the citizens has greatly degenerated as the cost of food in the market has gone up astronomically in the last three years.

Whereas the astronomically increase in the cost of food, wages are at best stagnant and in some cases reduced unilaterally and drastically. This could be attributable to several factors that are not limited to the gross devaluation of the Naira against major currencies, displacement of farmers by bandits and terrorists, inconsistent policies of Government, etc.

To further exacerbate the looming dangers caused by food insecurity, farmers in states such as Benue, Plateau, Katsina, Nasarawa, and Taraba cannot readily access their farmlands due to myriads of security challenges occasioned by incompetence and lack of patriotism.

It is necessary to secure the farmers and their farmlands as aggregate food production by the local farmers is the bedrock on which the systems of our food security rest.

  1. HIGH COST OF LPG

The Association wishes to further bring to the attention of Government the hyperinflation that has greeted Liquified Natural Gas (LPG), commonly referred to as cooking gas. It is disheartening to note that the price of refilling a 12.5kg cylinder of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas) has risen by almost 100% percent over the past one year.

This is one singular product that is used by several households in the country. Currently, the cost of cooking gas has continued in steady climb from an average of 4,500 Naira at the beginning of 2021 to the current price of between 8,750 and 10,000 Naira for the popular 12.5kg cylinder.

We are worried that most middle to upper-class homes, especially in the urban areas, are feeling the pinch. The poorer families are going through harrowing experiences trying to cope, more so as the price of kerosene had long taken flight in addition to being scarce in many places. Despite Nigeria sitting on one of the largest gas reserves in the world, we still depend largely on imported gas. Up to 70 per cent of the gas we consume in the country is imported.

Some of the reasons attributable to this skyrocket increment is the devaluation of the Naira against major currencies and the introduction of a value-added tax of 7.5% on imported gas, an increase in the international price of gas, etc. We hereby call on the President to immediately abolish the VAT on gas importation, prevent further slide of the Naira, channel some of the exported gas to domestic use, and provide some form of verifiable palliatives for the lower-class citizens.

  1. DEREGULATION OF PMS

The history of deregulating the downstream oil sector through gradual or total subsidy removal has engendered intense debates between PENGASSAN, successive Governments, stakeholders, and experts in the oil and gas sector with each claiming that it will guarantee long term stability in product supply and price. And that it will lead to an advance and well-developed economic transformation in the country.

PENGASSAN as an Association and a major stakeholder in the industry do not have issues with all the advantages, they claim that deregulations will usher into the economy because we understand the workings within the industry and therefore stand in a pole position on issues that border it. While maintaining our support for the full deregulation of the sector, we however reiterate that we will only support a deregulation exercise based on domestic refining and not import-dependent.

Therefore, effort should be made to increase the pace of the current Refinery rehabilitation and support the continuous strengthening of the Naira. Conclusively, we wish to admonish the Government at all levels to quickly come together and find urgent solutions in the short and long term to the myriad of issues plaguing the Nation to reduce the difficulties faced by the citizens.

A stitch in time saves nine.

For: PETROLEUM AND NATURAL GAS SENIOR STAFF ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (PENGASSAN).

Comrade Lumumba .I. Okugbawa, MINM                              Comrade Festus Osifo

General Secretary, PENGASSAN                                                 President, PENGASSAN

More Than Half Of Afghans Face ‘Acute’ Food Crisis, Says UN Agencies

Afghan people sit besides sacks of food grains distributed as an aid by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Kandahar on October 19, 2021. (Photo by Javed TANVEER / AFP)

 

Afghanistan is on the brink of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, UN agencies warned Monday, with more than half the country facing “acute” food shortages.

More than 22 million Afghans will suffer food insecurity this winter, they said, as a drought driven by climate change adds to the disruption caused by the chaotic Taliban takeover of the country.

“This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we can step up our life-saving assistance,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme.

The crisis is already bigger in scale than the shortages facing war-torn Yemen or Syria, and worse than any food insecurity emergency apart from the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials told AFP.

“Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises — if not the worst — and food security has all but collapsed,” Beasley said in a statement.

“We are on a countdown to catastrophe and if we don’t act now, we will have a total disaster on our hands.”

According to the statement issued by the World Food Programme and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, one in two Afghans faces Phase 3 “crisis” or Phase 4 “emergency” food shortages.

Phase 4 is one step below a famine, and officials told AFP that Afghanistan — already struggling to emerge from a 20-year civil war — is facing its worst winter in a decade.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said: “It is urgent that we act efficiently and effectively to speed up and scale up our delivery in Afghanistan before winter cuts off a large part of the country, with millions of people -– including farmers, women, young children and the elderly — going hungry in the freezing winter.”

In August, the hardline Islamist Taliban overthrew the US-backed regime and declared an interim government, vowing to restore stability.

But the Taliban still face a range of international sanctions and a campaign of bloody attacks by rival hardliners the Islamic State — while climate change has made Afghanistan’s droughts more frequent and intense.

– Hopes for ‘wet winter’ –

In the west of the country, thousands of poor families have already sold their flocks and fled, seeking shelter and assistance in packed temporary camps near major cities.

A visit by AFP journalists to the provinces of Herat and Badghis found families forces to sell their daughters into early marriage to cover debts and secure enough food to survive.

On Sunday, the Taliban announced a plan to pay 40,000 labourers in grain in the Kabul region, employing them to dig holes to trap the winter snow and provide moisture for barren hills.

Asked about the humanitarian crisis, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP on Sunday: “We are trying to get our people out of the current situation and help them. Global humanitarian aid has also arrived.”

“We are trying to arrange and distribute, including food and clothing. All worries will be resolved,” he added.

“Regarding the drought, we hope to have a wet winter. But if the drought continues we will take appropriate measures in the spring.”

The UN agencies warned that their humanitarian response plan is only a third funded as it stands.

The FAO is seeking $11.4 million in urgent funding and a further $200 million for the agricultural season into 2022.

Fearing new refugee outflows from Afghanistan, international donors have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for the country but they do not want to work with the Taliban directly.

“Hunger is rising and children are dying. We can’t feed people on promises –- funding commitments must turn into hard cash,” Beasley said.

“The international community must come together to address this crisis, which is fast spinning out of control.”

Security Crisis Drives Up Nigeria’s Food Worries

A file photo of a food trader at a market in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television
A file photo of a food trader at a market in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television

Rice farmer Donald Amokaha spends his days weeding a temporary plot outside the city of Makurdi, on the fringes of the Benue river in Nigeria’s agricultural heartland.

Two hours drive away into the countryside, Amokaha has a swathe of prime farmland, but it lies abandoned. Fear of attacks forced him to leave earlier this year.

“I usually cultivate rice, millet and sesame seeds on 100 hectares (250 acres) of land in Guma… but this year, I ran,” Amokaha told AFP. “I ploughed 40 hectares but was unable to plant.”

Amokaha is only one of a growing number of farmers who are fleeing violence in Nigeria’s crop-growing Middle Belt.

The agricultural heartland, like Nigeria’s northwestern states, is in the grip of years-long tit-for-tat violence between nomadic herders and farmers — a feud that has sharpened as climate change intensifies competition for water and land.

While insecurity is rooted in that herder-farmer conflict, the crisis in northwest Nigeria has spiralled into broader criminality with mass abductions for ransom, cattle theft and banditry.

The rural exodus is a key factor in driving up the cost of food in Africa’s most populous country, hitting its tens of millions of poor.

The government’s statistics bureau says inflation in June was around 17 percent compared with a year earlier.

The rise has been fuelled by the fallout from the global pandemic, which has triggered a slump in petroleum demand, badly hitting revenues in oil-producing Nigeria.

But within the index lies even worse news: food inflation of 22 percent.

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Worries 

A file photo of a resident at a market in Akure, Ondo State. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun
A file photo of a resident at a market in Akure, Ondo State. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun

 

In Nasawara state, on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital Abuja, vegetable seller Badamasi Bello is anxious.

He said he loses customers daily because of the spiralling price of commodities. The high cost of transportation is also contributing to rising prices.

“I used to sell tomatoes and peppers, but things are now costly. I sold 10 bags of these items daily, but customers are no longer coming like before. I now sell only two bags in a day.”

Last month, the local State Emergency Management Agency chief warned about food scarcity, saying that many farmers living in camps for the internally displaced would struggle to return to the land.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported in May that Benue had more than 200,000 displaced people, although local government estimates put that figure much higher.

Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, a fierce government critic from the opposition PDP party, said he fears the repercussions of rural flight on food output and the overall economy.

“This crisis portends a great danger to the growth and development of Nigeria,” Ortom told AFP.

“Without adequate security, there can’t be farming to produce food for our people.”

In May, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned at least 9.2 million Nigerians face a crisis or worse levels of food insecurity this year because of the country’s conflicts.

Import Calls

Benue produces food staples such as yam, rice, beans, and maize. It supplies 70 percent of Nigeria’s soybean, according to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission.

Nigeria’s central bank said it recently released 791 billion naira ($1.92 billion / 1.7 million euros) to farmers and reduced interest rates on loans in a bid to stimulate food production.

Chijioke Ekechukwu, chief executive at Dignity Finance & Investment, said farmers were producing far less than was needed to meet Nigeria’s food demand.

“The current situation is affecting prices. Government needs to open borders for import of food shortfalls. When this is done, there will be enough for the local market and prices will be forced to go down,” Chijioke told AFP.

“In the long run, government should tackle insecurity.”

Nigeria closed parts of its borders in August 2019 in an attempt to battle smuggling of rice and other goods as the government tried to improve food self-sufficiency.

The frontiers were also closed in March last year to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, although four borders were reopened in December.

Amokaha, a former agriculture commissioner and now farmer, said food prices would rise inexorably until growers were able to return to their land.

“Rather than importing food, the government should fight insecurity in order to encourage farmers go into more production,” he said.

AFP

Eid El-Adha: Why There Is Food Inflation – Buhari

File photo of a market

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has blamed the increase in the prices of food on flooding, middlemen, and insecurity, pledging to tackle the ravaging hardship in the country.

The President stated this on Monday while felicitating with Muslims on the occasion of the Eid El-Adha, calling for more patience among Nigerians.

Buhari in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, noted that these, as well as the COVID-19, have ballooned the prices of food items in Nigeria.

“Apart from the destruction caused to rice farms by floods, middlemen have also taken advantage of the local rice production to exploit fellow Nigerians, thereby undermining our goal of supporting local food production at affordable prices,” the President was quoted as saying.

“COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the economies of all countries, including Nigeria, in addition to the fact that floods have caused large scale destruction to agricultural farmlands, thereby impacting negatively on our efforts to boost local production in line with our policy to drastically reduce food importation.

“No government in our recent history has invested as heavily as we are doing to promote local production of about 20 other commodities, through the provision of loans and several other forms of support to our farmers.”

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Inflation Rate Declines To 17.75%

President Muhammadu Buhari speaks in Katsina State on July 19, 2021. Credit: State House

 

The Nigerian leader assured that as an elected President who enjoys the goodwill of the ordinary people, he would continue “to bring relief to Nigerians, including making fertilizer available at affordable prices to our farmers.”

While lamenting the deteriorating insecurity in the country,  Buhari lamented that it “has produced severe and adverse effects on agriculture because farmers are prevented from accessing their farms by bandits and terrorists.

“Let me also use this opportunity to reassure Nigerians that we are taking measures to address our security challenges. We have started taking delivery of fighter aircraft and other necessary military equipment and hardware to improve the capacity of our security forces to confront terrorism and banditry.”

 

 

In Lagos, Families Struggle To Survive As Food Prices Soar

A file photo of a resident at a market in Akure, Ondo State. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun
A file photo of a resident at a market in Akure, Ondo State. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun

 

 

Nigerian nutritionist Emiolo Ogunsola stands in front of a dozen new mothers in a Lagos public hospital, listing the basic foods they need to keep their children well-nourished: Eggs, vegetables, and beans among them.

Her pitch is abruptly interrupted. For the mothers listening, even those essentials are increasingly beyond their reach.

“Ma, how can you expect us to buy that, everything is so expensive, there is no money to buy all that,” says one young mother with a child cradled in her arms.

Inflation is rising around the world as the global economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, and while Western central bankers say it is only temporary, the soaring prices are having dramatic consequences in countries like Nigeria.

Africa’s most populous nation with 210 million inhabitants, Nigeria competes with India for the largest number of poor in the world.

But battered by the double economic impact of low global oil prices and the pandemic, the World Bank estimates Nigeria’s soaring inflation and food prices pushed another seven million people into poverty in 2020.

Food prices have increased more than 22 percent since the start of the coronavirus crisis, according to official statistics.

For many people feeding the family has become a daily challenge.

“Every day, during a consultation, there are five or seven children that suffer from malnutrition,” says Ogunsola, head of the nutrition department at Massey Street children’s hospital in a district in Lagos Island.

“I bet in a few months or a year, more children will be malnourished.”

Even before the pandemic and the surge in food costs, Nigeria’s nutrition figures were alarming: One in three Nigerian children suffered stunted growth due to a bad diet; one in 10 is wasted.

As a result, close to 17 million children in Nigeria are undernourished, giving the country the highest level of malnutrition in Africa and the second highest in the world.

‘Can’t stand anymore’

Edith Obatuga has six dependents: two of her own as well as four nephews and nieces.

Twenty kilometres (12 miles) from Lagos Island, in Bariga Market, another popular area of Nigeria’s sprawling economic capital, this single mother shops around the stalls, hoping to find an affordable package of spaghetti.

She has already given up on beans, with the price per kilo already up by 60 percent in one year. She also cut portions of rice after a 15 percent rise in prices.

“During the lockdown last year, prices started to go up, and never stopped since. We cannot stand anymore,” says the 43-year-old mother who earns around 50,000 naira or $120 a month selling wood planks.

Obatuga has made adjustments to delay having to cut portions of food from the family meals. First, she left their apartment because she could no longer afford the rent and moved into her late mother’s old house.

“You should come when it’s raining, there is water everywhere, every night we fight mosquitos,” she says.

When her children fall ill, from malaria or typhoid, there is no longer any question of going to the hospital.

“Too expensive,” says the head of the household who now favours traditional remedies: a herbal juice prepared in a plastic container.

Endless cycle

Before the pandemic, Nigerians were already spending 60 percent of their income on food, says Tunde Leye, an economist at SBM Intelligence risk consultancy. But inflation has pushed that higher on average.

“You can bet that today on average people spend more than 60 percent, maybe around 70 or 80 percent of their income on food,” the economist says.

“When people spend that much amount on food they cannot do nothing else, paying for a rent, health care, education.”

Indeed, after giving up on the rent for her house, Obatuga has also been forced to give up paying rent on her shop. She now sells her planks outside her house, far from commercial streets, and her turnover has fallen sharply as she drifts into the endless cycle of poverty.

Nigeria’s inflation is not driven by global factors alone. Each year 40 percent of Nigeria’s total food production is lost or wasted, according to the World Bank.

In Africa’s largest oil producer, corruption is endemic, roads are in dire condition, Lagos port is totally congested, and faulty electricity supplies do not allow food to be stored properly, economist Leye says.

Widespread bandit attacks, ethnic clashes, and kidnappings for ransom in rural areas have added to a sense of “creeping insecurity”, which experts say has kept people from working in the fields in many agricultural regions of the country.

In the centre and the northwest, heavily armed criminal gangs terrorise local populations, looting villages, stealing livestock and kidnappings for ransom — even targeting schools and colleges for mass abductions.

Nigeria’s northeast has been at the heart of a deadly conflict between the army and jihadist groups for more than 10 years, forcing more than two million from their homes.

In these regions, the number of severely malnourished children is peaking, and in some areas has almost doubled in one year.

Lagos, the economic heart of the country, is hundreds of kilometres away.

But at traffic lights in the megalopolis, more and more children are from the north, clinging to car windows, their right hand outstretched towards the passenger. And the other brought to their mouths.