President Bola Tinubu has declared a state of emergency on food security.
Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy, Dele Alake, disclosed this to newsmen on Thursday evening after Tinubu’s consultations with key stakeholders in the agricultural sector at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to Alake, Tinubu also approved that all matters pertaining to food and water availability and affordability, as essential livelihood items, be included within the purview of the National Security Council.
Alake noted that as with most emergencies, there are immediate, medium- and long-term interventions and solutions.
“In the immediate term, we intend to deploy some savings from the fuel subsidy removal into the Agricultural sector focusing on revamping the agricultural sector.
“We will immediately release fertilizers and grains to farmers and households to mitigate the effects of the subsidy removal.
“There must be an urgent synergy between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Water Resources to ensure adequate irrigation of farmlands and to guarantee that food is produced all-year round,” he said.
The presidential aide explained that Tinubu has made it clear that Nigeria cannot be comfortable with seasonal farming and can no longer afford to have farming down times.
“We shall create and support a National Commodity Board that will review and continuously assess food prices as well as maintain a strategic food reserve that will be used as a price stabilisation mechanism for critical grains and other food items.
“We will engage our security architecture to protect the farms and the farmers so that farmers can return to the farmlands without fear of attacks,” he said.
Alake further explained that the Central Bank will continue to play a major role of funding the agricultural value chain, adding that land banks would be activated.
“There is currently 500,000 hectares of already mapped land that will be used to increase availability of arable land for farming which will immediately impact food output.
“The government will also collaborate with mechanization companies to clear more forests & make them available for farming
“There are currently 11 river basins that will ensure planting of crops during the dry season with irrigation schemes that will guarantee continuous farming production all year round, to stem the seasonal glut and scarcity that we usually experience.
“We will deploy concessionary capital/funding to the sector especially towards fertilizer, processing, mechanization, seeds, chemicals, equipment, feed, labour, etc.
“The concessionary funds will ensure food is always available and affordable thereby having a direct impact on Nigeria’s Human Capital Index (HCI). This administration is focused on ensuring the HCI numbers, which currently ranks as the 3rd lowest in the world, are improved for increased productivity.
“The cost of transporting Agricultural products has been a major challenge (due to permits, toll gates, and other associated costs). When the costs of moving farm produce is significantly impacted- it will immediately be passed to the consumers, which will affect the price of food- the government will explore other means of transportation including rail and water transport, to reduce freight costs and in turn impact the food prices.
“As for storage, existing warehouses and tanks will be revamped to cut waste & ensure efficient preservation of food items.
“We will Increase revenue from food and agricultural exports. As we ensure there is sufficient, affordable food for the populace, we will concurrently work on stimulating the export capacity of the Agric sector.
“Transportation, storage and export will be improved by working with the Nigerian Customs, who have assured us that the bottlenecks experienced in exporting and importing food items as well as intra-city transportation through tolling will be removed.
“These are some of the immediate interventions this government will put in place to tackle this crisis,” the presidential aide added.
He said one of the major positive outcomes of these interventions will be a massive boost in employment and job creation.
“Indeed, agriculture already accounts for about 35.21 per cent of employment in Nigeria (as at 2021), the target is to double this percentage to about 70 per cent in the long term.
“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s mandate to create jobs for our teeming youth population will be achieved with between five to 10 million more jobs created within the value chain, working with the current 500,000 hectares of arable land and the several hundreds of thousands more farmlands to be developed in the medium term.
This administration understands that food and water are the bedrock of survival and therefore is calling on all Nigerians to partner us in ensuring the success of this strategic intervention. This administration is working assiduously to ensure that Nigerians do not struggle with their essential needs,” he said.
The president assured Nigerians that his administration will not relent in its efforts until all strategic interventions are deployed efficiently and effectively and until every household is positively impacted.