Hunger and Poverty: Key pathways to melancholy and Insecurity in Nigeria – By Nuraddeen Danjuma, PhD
Hunger and Poverty: Key pathways to melancholy and Insecurity in Nigeria – By Nuraddeen Danjuma, PhD
Not until the past few weeks, I never realized that there aren’t reasons to be hopeful in Nigeria. If not for the believe that “Verily, with every difficulty there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” (Qur’an 94:5–6) one would say that trajectories for the future in Nigeria which showed nuanced but actual portrait of doomsday, a diminishing economy and scenarios (or conditions) of induced hunger and starvation.
However, ‘In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” (Lee Iacocca). In view of that, I write to express my pain on the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria including lockdowns, curfews, and interstate border closures, the drama behind the curtains, game of numbers and loans disbursements mostly fake and few true which brought associated impacts to the poor households especially those affected by conflicts in various parts of the country and pushed people struggling to survive just as the country is struggling with many issues. Winston Churchill said “Never give in. never, never, never”. We also will never give up!
The following outlook can also show that “No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience” (John Locke said). Corona pandemic is indeed a big blessing to Nigeria, anyway. The country’s economy is expected to fall, which is connected to a fall in oil prices due to the outbreak of coronavirus while her inflation rate is expected to rise. We should know by now that “It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed.” – Doe Zantamata.
Other countries appreciates that problem is a chance for them to do their best while at the end of June 2019, our total public debt continues to snowball to about $83.9 billion (domestic public debt amounted to $56.7 billion and external public debt was $27.2 billion) which 14.6% higher than the year before. Nigeria spent a whopping $1.31 billion to cover external debt obligations in 2019. In January 2020, an estimated N2.45 trillion is earmarked for debt servicing and to cater for interest payments of $83.88 billion worth of obligations. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reviewed its projected GDP for Nigeria from 2.5% to 2% in 2020.
The only solution we know is to increase VAT from 5% to 7.5% to shore up domestic non-oil revenues and help source money for financing projects and ‘paying salaries’. We focused on the snake and miss the scorpion hence the country suffers always when there is a disaster that affects oil production. In the beginning of May, the crude oil production quota decreased by 400,000 barrels/day to about 1.83 million barrels/day per the OPEC quota. The decline in oil production quota in combination with the decline in oil prices has resulted in a significant decrease in government revenue and projected revenue.
Similarly, the interbank exchange rate of the Naira has depreciated to 360 NGN/USD from 306 NGN/USD in the early months of 2020. The year on year inflation rate has increased from 12.26 percent in March to 12.34 percent in April. Additionally, foreign investors have started de-investing in business, which has further increased demand for FOREX and pressure on foreign exchange reserves. As a result, the economy is likely to deteriorate at least in the medium term. Indeed we must wake up from the slumber and prep for the doomsday as it is not unclear to all Nigerians that we are almost at the ‘point of no return’.
This year’s farming season is on since March in some parts of Nigeria. Farmers are at home, idle and ‘washing hands’ instead of working in the farm. Most of them are hopeless and displaced from their livelihood. And one is not sure he/she could still work because he/she couldn’t find job, and to find one he/she must eat. Last year’s harvest is finished now, prices of food items have touched the ‘Himalayas’ and both the public and private sectors are affected by desiccation that even the N-POWER is a hot cake. Marketers have entered a levirate marriage to keep their heads up and confirm to the world that in Nigeria “in everything, there is a share of everything” (Anaxagoras).
The Government is not to be blamed alone though it is coated with slime too. This man to man’s injustice have undoubted ruin the poor man’s life. One thing I maintained is that the riffle effects of covid-19 lockdown and hike in price of essential commodities will lead to more hunger and poverty which are key drivers of insecurity in any society.
Take a look as hunger profile in Nigeria by Global Hunger Index (a peer-reviewed annual report) which indicated that Nigeria ranks 93rd out of 117 qualifying countries. With a score of 27.9, Nigeria suffers from a level of hunger that is serious. Isn’t this a heart-arching figure?. UNICEF published in its website front page that Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent of children under five. An estimated 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only two out of every 10 children affected is currently reached with treatment. Seven percent of women of childbearing age also suffer from acute malnutrition.
In November 2019 over 1,577 million people received food assistance across Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states but in December 2019, the level of assistance declined to 1.397 million people across the three states. The figures of the latest Cadre Harmonisé (November 2019) analysis for three northeastern states (Borno, Yobe and Adamawa) estimates around 3.6 million people in the region are projected to be in severe acute food insecurity from June to August 2020. Are “we are too weak to discover the truth by reason alone” (St. Augustine).
Hunger can contribute to conflict, especially in vulnerable and food-insecure regions, creating a double vulnerability for communities, which are pushed beyond their ability to cope. Did we ever thought that most conflicts especially in the northeast and northwest are as a result of increased poverty, hunger and displacement?. Could we keep dazzling when “problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” According to Oxfam the combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men – $29.9 billion could end extreme poverty at a national level yet 5 million face hunger.
On poverty, no matter the size of your camera lens it cannot view the entire horizon. Poverty remains widespread in recent years especially in areas where the population is estimated to consist of 70 percent mostly rural dwellers. According to a 2018 report by the World Bank, almost half the population of Nigeria is living below the international poverty line ($2 per day) (Gabriel, 2020).
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in a report about poverty and inequality from September 2018 to October 2019, said 40 percent of people in the continent’s most populous country lived below its poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) a year. That represents 82.9 million people. The statistics office said 52 percent of people in rural areas live in poverty, compared with 18 percent in urban parts of the country. It said further revealed that the highest poverty levels were in the northwest state of Sokoto where 87.7 percent of people live under the poverty line compared with 4.5 percent in commercial hub Lagos state, which had the lowest rate. As of 2018, population growth rate is higher than economic growth rate, leading to a slow rise in poverty. As a result of extreme corruption, even the poverty reduction programs suffer from no funding and have failed to give the needed remedy to this country.
Poverty is not violence in itself; but is potent enough to lead to agitations that can result to violence. A person that is faced with severe hunger can do anything to put food on his table, it therefore becomes less surprising if he resorts to violence just to gain access to his needs, survive or cause his envied person some pains to be sure that it isn’t just him who is in a pitiful situation. Poverty is the main cause of hunger in the world but the largest groups of people in extreme poverty are smallholder farmers in developing countries. And they cannot go to farm courtesy of insecurity. Hence there is going to be idleness and possible melancholy!!.
The causes of poverty are partly adverse developments on the international scene, world economic recession, foreign debt burden and a series of economic reforms undertaken by developing countries, which make them not to carry out poverty prevention programmes. But the far-reaching causes are domestically based (Okuneye, 2001). Mashona Dhliwayo said“if you wear a mask for too long, there will come a time when you cannot remove it without removing your face”. So I said my own.
Poverty is the main cause of hunger and malnutrition, which are aggravated by rapid population growth, policy inadequacies and inconsistencies or weak administrative capabilities, unhealthy food storage and processing techniques (Sanni, 2000).The pathways to melancholy: a condition when a person is in great sadness or severe depression is indeed hunger and poverty. Hunger begets anger and anger begets adversity. The latest figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that Nigeria has 7,079,815 sufferers of depression. That is 3.9 percent of the nation’s population. With an additional 4,894,557 Nigerians (2.7 per cent of the population), suffering from anxiety disorders is one of the highest. There has been an increasing rate of suicide over the years, which can be traced to mental illness (such as Depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) that has likely gone undetected or untreated.
In developing countries like Nigeria, the prevalence rates of depression are higher because factors that contribute to the genesis of depressive disorders such as high rates of poverty, a lack of social welfare and high rates of endemic infectious diseases are preponderant (Afolabi et al., 2008). With high poverty rate in the country and the difficulties faced by Nigerians every day, it is likely that the prevalence of depression among Nigerians will continue to increase (WHO, 2017).
According to Bamigboye Olurotimi “Nobody will ever take you serious in life, until they know that your yes is yes and your no is no”. Although evidence suggests that some positive steps are taken for agricultural sustainability and increased food production in Nigerian, we groan that country is still a net food importer. Hence there is always arbitrary hike in price of basic food commodities. In fact, last year’s lean season was better to the common man because the price of essential food items were fair at least. One would expect that though times are hard with Covid 19, the government’s poverty reduction mechanisms: such as access to credit and reduction of food imports will help the Nigeria inflationary economy. And considering that basic food is most essential in the hierarchy of wants, the inflation rate which skyrocketed should not confound and put excruciating pain to the populace. A little survey showed that imported rice is sold at around N20,000 – N 28,000 now as opposed N14,000- N16,000 in 2019 while measure of maize which was sold at about N250 to N300 in the lean season of 2019 is now N500 to N600.
It is high time for both state and federal governments to resurrect the ‘lower castes’ and allow farmers to move to the farms, live with the virus and liberate the economy once more otherwise the country will remain in shamble and insecurity will reign. The capitalists informed economy cannot provide tranquility!. According to Karl Marx “if you decide to hang the capitalists, a capitalist will sell you a rope”.
Tranquility and well-being of a society naturally come when citizens overcome basic needs. Thus it is vital for the government to enter a social contract with the masses because in order rebuild, restore, and renew all that is broken.
The Quran made it categorically clear that the fundamental duty of a state is eradication of hunger and ensuring security of lives and properties (Q106:V04).The food insecurity ravaging the country demands a fresh impetus. The rains have arrived in Nigeria since March and people are now ready for planting season but cannot and Nigeria has entered it’s lean season; if belts are not tightened to bridge the gap between last year’s produce running out, and this year’s cropping season there is going to be widespread food shortages and millions more will live at risk.
The wide-scale poverty and hunger could also lead to frustration and resentment with leaders thus government should encourage farmers and deal decisively with the anything that disrupts this year’s season. It should step up strong security mechanisms to restore farming activities in the north to avert crises facing millions of Nigerians. It should also should enact and enforce regulatory frameworks to ensure that food prices are harmonized to tackle food crises and for easy access to healthy and sustainable diets.
The capitalists (marketers) should be decisively handled by the government to restore its credibility with the ‘lower caste’ that voted it to power and are still struggling to eat today not even dreaming of tomorrow. Jeremy Gove said “Credibility and dishonesty are polar opposites, not just in motion, but also in motive. Credibility is driven by a selfless spirit of mutual respect. Dishonesty is driven by a selfish spirit of self-preservation.”
Nuraddeen Danjuma, PhD
Bayero University, Kano