"Speaker Raises Alarm: Over 100 Million Nigerians Facing Hunger Crisis"

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 "Speaker Raises Alarm: Over 100 Million Nigerians Facing Hunger Crisis"

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, has raised an alarm that over 100 million Nigerians are dying of hunger.

He said malnutrition currently impacts 35 million Nigerian children under the age of five, among whom 12 million are stunted, 3 million are wasted, and 23.5 million suffer from anaemia.

Addressing relevant stakeholders at the inauguration of the committee on Nutrition and Food security in Abuja, the Speaker said it was very crucial to the vision of the House to be responsive, results-oriented and effective in performing its constitutional mandate towards the security and welfare of Nigerians.

He said Nigeria, like the rest of the world, is experiencing a food crisis, exacerbated by climate change, rising inflation and pervasive insecurity.

Hence, he said, the decision of the House to set up a Committee that would be dedicated to fashioning legislative measures to tackle the menace of food insecurity and malnutrition affecting the people.

He said according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) about 26.5 million Nigerians would be grappling with high levels of food insecurity in 2024, while the country is said to have the second highest burden of malnutrition in the world, with 32 per cent children under the age of five stunted or chronically malnourished.

An additional 17.7 million individuals are facing hunger, with 2.6 million children confronting severe acute malnutrition in 2024. Among women of childbearing age, 7 per cent experience severe acute malnutrition. These figures may exacerbate due to the current food inflation rate, which stands at about 33.7 per cent (according to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“Furthermore, the World Food Programme’s September 2023 publication of the ‘Nigeria Hunger Map’ estimates that 24.9 million Nigerians are in an acute or critical stage of hunger, categorised as an emergency, while 85.8 million Nigerians have insufficient food consumption. Among this population, 47.7 million Nigerians resort to crisis-level or above-crisis-level food-based coping strategies.

“The above data paints a very gloomy picture requiring urgent legislative action. This is particularly so given that some of the causative factors are issues within the legislative competence of the House to deal with.

“The food and nutrition crisis affecting us as a nation is partly caused by global warming and climate change, pervasive insecurity across the country which prevents farmers and herders from engaging in their various agricultural activities, poor irrigation, outdated land tenure system, crude and traditional farm practices on subsistence levels as well as a myriad of other challenges.

“It is in the light of the foregoing that this Committee finds relevance and becomes very significant. As a committee, you are expected to provide a legislative response to the worsening food insecurity and malnutrition in the country through effective oversight of policies and programmes towards addressing these twin issues especially as the President had declared a state of emergency on food insecurity, review existing legislations and suggest new legislative frameworks that affect agricultural production, the food supply chain, etc.

“Your task becomes more crucial and urgent in the face of rising food prices and high cost of living occasioned by the withdrawal of government subsidies on petroleum products.

“I have no doubt in the capacity of the Chairman and members of the committee to deliver on this onerous task of providing an immediate solution to the growing food and nutrition crisis in the country.

“Let me also re-emphasize the position of the House to improve food and nutrition for our people. In our resolve as a House to tame hunger and malnutrition, pursue food security and sustainable development, we prioritised agricultural development as a key legislative agenda based on our strong belief that the agricultural sector is a critical factor in growing the nation’s economy and scaling down the poverty rate.

“Besides, we are committed to enacting policies and legislative frameworks towards supporting farmers with subsidies, access to credits and modern agricultural equipment to stimulate enhanced agricultural productivity.

“This will also have a far-reaching impact in addressing the multifaceted challenges of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Chike Okafor, said it was the first time in the history of the legislature in Nigeria that the leadership of the House thought it necessary to set up a distinct and exclusive Committee for greater legislative attention to critical interventions in the cross-cutting issues of food and nutrition.

“The creation of this committee would serve as a swift response to the present economic realities, especially the current unaffordability of basic foods Nigeria arising from uncontrolled inflation and scarce means,” he said.

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