The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, recently released another frightening figure indicating that the current inflation rate in the country is on the rise, and that Nigerians are in for tougher times.
The current figure, 18.3 per cent, is the highest Nigeria has ever witnessed in 11 years, and one of the highest in the country’s history.
According to the NBS, the rate of price increases rose to 18.3 per cent, the highest in 11 years, from 17.9 per cent in September.
The NBS report also indicated that the prices of food items were some of the most affected as they have hit the roof.
Nigerians were still trying to come to terms with the stark reality contained in the NBS report, when the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, warned Nigerians that the nation may be faced with acute food shortage from January 2017.
Shehu, who spoke on a radio programme hinged his warning of impending food shortage and starvation on the rate at which cereals and grains were being exported out of the country.
“Huge demand for our grains in the global market is creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian grains.
“Unless this is curtailed, Nigerian markets will be bereft of food by January next year,’’ Garba said”.
According to him “exporters also have moral obligation to make their produce available to Nigerians who live within our country’s borders, to ensure that our citizens have access to food.”
The picture painted by the NBS report and the statement credited to Garba portends danger and only points to the direction of starvation.
However, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government has always spoken about food security and agriculture as some of the areas government was keen about focusing on.
Also, a lot has been about excess food production in country, with Garba Shehu also admitting that the nation has been able to produce cereals and grains in excess of what is needed, necessitating their export.
Despite the reported excess production of these food items, the prices are still way too high with the ordinary man on the street finding it difficult to afford them, going by the NBS report.
It is also curious that the Nigerian situation has defied the simple laws of demand and supply as shown in that report. Prices are expected to fall when there is excess supply over demand. But the current situation in Nigeria is that prices keep going up despite excess supply, assuming government is right that we have produced in excess.
The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, in its efforts at ensuring food security, built silos all over the country, where excess grains and cereals could be stored for the rainy day after government, as part of its food security interventions, had bought them off farmers.
Though Garba had hinted on the present government doing something similar, many are of the opinion that the government in what has become its characteristic may just be setting the stage for another blame game; to shift the blame of an impending further jump in prices of foodstuff, and its attendant hardship on ‘saboteurs’.
A number of Nigerians wonder how a government which boasted of a bumper harvest, will in the same breath within a very short time, warn of impending famine. The question Nigerians are asking is; Can you be hit be a moving truck you see coming from a distance? Or, does a stitch in time not save nine anymore?
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Analyst contend that it is high time the current administration stops playing politics with Nigerians, and show that they are not bereft of ideas as have been said by its critics. They suggest that government can do this by coming up with well thought out policies, and strategies to address issues, rather than being comfortable at throwing blames around.
The thinking among stakeholders presently, is that prices of food items which are already way above the roof, may just skyrocket even further, but government appears handicapped and lacking in ideas on how to intervene and safe Nigerians, especially the poor, from starvation.
Scores of Nigerians, who have lost their jobs because of the current economic challenges in the country find it difficult to provide for themselves and their families, while the spending power of those still under employment keeps waning on a daily basis.
If assertions by the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, is anything to go by, then Nigerians have no business being hungry, but the reality is that many go to bed daily on empty stomachs, and if the gloomy picture painted by the NBS report and Garba are not immediately reversed, then Nigerians may just be in for tougher times.
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