Rice and Beans Palliatives Not Sufficient
RingTrue By Yemi Adebowale
Email: [email protected]
The distribution of grains as palliatives to Nigerians negatively impacted by the removal of petrol subsidy is on with fanfare across the country. Rice, beans, gari, millet, maize are the grains going round. Food insufficiency in Nigeria rose sharply in the first three months of the Tinubu government. Sadly, the quantity of grains being dished out in most states is disgusting. Some states are giving out as low as 10kg of rice and 5kg of beans. How will this one-off pittance ease the pain of traumatised Nigerians? Certainly, it wouldn't. This is just scratching the surface. The states should be giving out 50kg bags of grains to challenged households.
Lagos State says it is targeting 500,000 people for the palliatives. This is low in a state with an estimated population of 22 million. The target is much lower in other states in relation to the population in need of food. Statistics from the World Food Programme (WFP) on global food security revealed that 64.3 million Nigerians do not have enough food to consume. Nigeria is in the club of deprived countries like Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Liberia, Central African Republic, Togo and Guinea Bissau, where so many people are not getting sufficient food. In these countries, millions of people struggle for a meal a day.
This is the sad story of beloved Nigeria. Notwithstanding, state governments are making a big show of the delivery of rice and beans targeting 12 million poor people in a country with an estimated 133 million multidimensionally poor people. An estimated 10 million more Nigerians have joined the poverty club in the last 104 days following the removal of petrol subsidy. So, more people are in dire need of food. I expect a serious government to assiduously tackle the supply side. Right now, in this country, many have abandoned their farms because of the activities of terrorists. Government must tackle insecurity so that more people can return to their farms.
The preceding Buhari government spent eight years celebrating false food security achievements and pushing out false figures. There were fairy tales of massive increase in rice production, yet, 50kg bag of local rice rose from about N7000 eight years ago, to N45,000 today. The Buhari government clearly failed to pragmatically address Nigeria's food crisis. At the state level, while Buhari's reign lasted, the governors were also a big disappointment. They did very little on food security. Most of them were living big amid so much suffering in their states. The local governments too don't even know that they should be contributing to food security. This is the tragedy of the country called Nigeria.
Back to this rough Tinubu period. Governments at all levels must go beyond rice and beans palliatives if they truly want to reduce the pains of subsidy removal and raging poverty. Food insufficiency is just one of the existing dearth issues compounded by subsidy removal. Understanding the causes of poverty and knowing how to address them is critical for any country interested in making a difference in the fight against poverty. While aiming at sufficient food support for more people, all indicators of poverty must be holistically tackled by governments at all echelons. I am talking about giving more people access to quality healthcare, job opportunities, education, safe drinking water, cooking fuel, housing, quality sanitation, clean electricity. Pragmatic measures to reduce infant and maternal mortality must likewise be continuous.
The state must provide support to struggling citizens with economic welfare programmes to cut poverty. The poor must be helped to access the necessities of life through a fully-funded social security system. This is the standard in sane societies. Nigeria must join this club.
Let's flip back to the rice and beans palliatives. For me, governments at all levels must quickly introduce palliatives that will touch a greater percentage of traumatised Nigerians further troubled by the removal of petrol subsidy. I'm not saying they should stop the rice and beans palliatives. They should give bigger quantities to people and get to more people. I have a list of other palliatives that should be implemented in order to get the desired result. Clearly, millions of families are experiencing disruptions in their lives arising from petrol price increase which triggered inflation.
Well, the ugly deed has been done by the Tinubu government and it looks like there will be no going back. The federal government must focus on macroeconomic tactics that will bring down the cost of living for all Nigerians. One of the ways to do this is to come up with monetary policies to fight inflation. What can improve the quality of life and purchasing power of Nigerians right now is for inflation, which is now at a record 24.08 percent, to start falling. Rising inflation will make wage increases insignificant.
Government can also bring down the cost of food through import duty waivers and tax waivers on vital inputs in food production and processing.
Another way the federal government can boldly tackle rising inflation is to slash the Value Added Tax on essential goods to 2.5 percent. This means amending Finance Act 2023. It must be done quickly. Import duties on food, medicine, vehicles, building materials and other essential goods must be drastically slashed.
Another pragmatic palliative that will ease the pressure of fuel price increase is for the Nigerian government to work on uninterrupted electricity supply. Nigerians are heavily dependent on petrol for electricity because of erratic public power supply. Many spend a lot to power generators with petrol or diesel. So, if electricity is fairly stable, the huge cash for fueling generators will be put to other use. Improved supply of gas at a reduced price must also be worked on, to reduce electricity price. Signing a new power law is not enough. Multidimensional steps must be taken to improve supply.
A review of the multiple taxes, levies and fees paid by businesses and suspension of recently introduced ones would provide immediate succour to them. Palliatives for businesses would trickle down to consumers.
It is pertinent to put good cash in the hands of a large number of the population. A downward review of the Personal Income Tax will keep more cash in the pockets of Nigerians.
Why Illicit Trading in Hard Drugs Persists
llicit trafficking in hard drugs like Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine, Fentanyl, Morphine, Methadone, Xanax is booming in beloved Nigeria because our law encourages it. How? Why? Well, there is always an option of fine for any trader or drug baron nabbed regardless of the gravity of the offence. Illicit hard drug traders walk out of Nigerian courts laughing with fines as low as N100,000. That is the law and the punishment prescribed i.e. the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency Act, Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
Back on August 22, a 51-year-old widow, Adewunmi Taiwo, who tried to export 5.70 kg of Codeine to the United Kingdom, was sentenced to six months imprisonment by Justice Akintayo Aluko of the Federal High Court, Lagos, with an option of N300, 000 fine. Taiwo playfully paid and walked to freedom.
In another case decided also last month, Justice Aluko sentenced a 37-year-old musician, Femi Saka, to one-year imprisonment with an option of N600,000 fine for dealing in Cannabis Sativa, Methamphetamine and Molly. Saka paid the fine and chuckled to his house. This must be a joke! No, it's not. That is the law in Nigeria. A baron arrested with hard drugs running into billions of Naira gets away with a hopeless fine incapable of serving as a deterrent. It can only happen in Nigeria. When Nigerian hard drug barons meet for drinks, our drug law is always the butt of their jokes.
The current leadership of the NDLEA under Mohamed Marwa has been battling for over two years to have Nigeria's drug law amended to allow for stiffer penalties and end the option of fine madness. The bill to amend the NDLEA Act is before the National Assembly. Unfortunately, the 9th Senate did not pass it.
No doubt, the amendment of the Act will boost the country's fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking. It will strengthen the hand of the agency and discourage trafficking of illicit substances because of the stringent punishment stipulated for drug offences.
Today, I challenge the 10th Senate to pass, without further delay, the NDLEA amendment Act. This is the only way forward for this war against illicit trafficking in hard drugs.
The Tragedy at Wudil Police Academy
The story was that a 100-level Course 9 Cadet, Sulaiman Jika, died at the Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, Kano State, last week. The school was initially silent, but eventually admitted Jika's death, saying “the academy is deeply saddened to announce Jika's passing following a brief and unexpected illness.”
The school's authorities added: “On August 29, 2023, he (Jika) sought medical attention at the academy clinic due to an ailment. Following a diligent course of treatment and his gradual recovery, he was certified fit and discharged by the medical doctor on call the next day and tasked to return at regular intervals for checks which he adhered to. However, fate took an unforeseen turn.
“On September 2, 2023, he was once again admitted to the clinic for further examination and care following a complaint of restlessness. Though his vitals were normal upon examination and all necessary medical steps were taken, we regrettably report his untimely passing.”
Jika's death has again brought to the fore the allegations of maltreatment of cadets by the Commandant of the Academy, AIG Sadiq Abubakar. The major complaints are that cadets have no access to quality healthcare and quality food. Many accuse AIG Abubakar of high-handedness and mismanagement of cadets' feeding allowance. In fact, some are alleging that Jika died of inadequate healthcare, starvation and malnourishment.
“He (Jika) was left untreated because there are no drugs and no medical officer to attend to him at the unconducive clinic environment, before he gave up and died. There is usually a high traffic of sickly cadets at the unequipped clinic on a daily basis. Since the new commandant assumed office, they've been providing very bad and inadequate food for us. The boy wouldn't have died if they'd attended to him.” said a source.
IG Kayode Egbetokun has to step in and overhaul the management of the Wudil Academy. Many things are apparently wrong in the school. Poor leadership, poor management, poor feeding, poor healthcare, diversion of funds, poor training and the rest of them. The Commandant of the Academy has refused to address these disturbing allegations. Honestly, AIG Abubakar has to go before another life is lost. Today, I challenge IG Egbetokun to move into the Wudil academy and do the needful.