The escalation in goods and services prices since the removal of petroleum subsidies is both frightening and disturbing. Grain and other important food commodities that were once inexpensive and attainable in local marketplaces have surged beyond the grasp of the average person.
The World Bank has issued a harsh report on the 4 million Nigerians who fell into poverty in the last six months, warning that another 7.1 million are projected to slip into poverty by the end of the year unless the government immediately implements palliatives to mitigate the consequences of subsidy elimination.
Even before the subsidy was removed, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warned that Nigeria would suffer famine this year. The FAO forecast is based on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, banditry, and farmer/herder difficulties in the North-west and North-central zones.
There is no denying that banditry has had a significant impact on Katsina, Zamfara, and Sokoto states. Farmers have been fired or forced to flee their ancestral homes. Worrying bandit activity will have a negative impact on agricultural output, raise food costs, and lead to starvation.
The federal government intends to give poor Nigerians N500 billion in palliatives. The idea calls for N8,000 to be distributed to each of 12 million randomly selected Nigerians over the course of six months. In the near term, the safety net will temporarily alleviate poverty among beneficiaries, but when the payments expire, poverty may rise.
Rather of handing away billions of naira to Nigerians, the government should subsidize farm produce, healthcare, and education.
While the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari opened two crossings to alleviate food shortages, the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should follow suit and open the remaining borders.
The rising cost of staple goods necessitates immediate response. In order to ensure food security, the North’s insecurity must be addressed head on. It is unarguable that millions of Nigerians consume only one square meal every day, let alone three.