With about 36.9 million hectares of arable land, representing 40.48 per cent of the country’s total land area as at 2021, and 70 per cent of youth population (151 million youths), Nigerians should have no reason to be hungry.
But unfortunately, there is serious hunger in the land. In the just released 2023 Global Hunger Index, GHI, Nigeria was ranked 109th out of 125 countries, with a score of 28.3 per cent, where countries that scored 20.0-34.9 have serious hunger. It means that Nigeria is the 16th most hungry country in the world amongst countries with sufficient data to calculate the 2023 GHI scores.
Interestingly, Nigeria was ranked below countries like Sudan, Zimbabwe, DR Congo, North Korea and Guinea.
The Global Hunger Index is a peer-reviewed annual report, jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, one of Germany’s biggest private organisations for development and humanitarian aid. The GHI is designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at the global, regional and country levels.
Among Nigeria’s economic activities, agriculture is one of the lowest hanging fruits that could have bailed the country out of its present economic crisis. But the present government appears to have little or no interest in that sector, nor is it able to stop terrorists from chasing farmers away from their farmlands.
As a result, Nigeria is buffeted with a record high inflation rate of 28.92 per cent, a food inflation rate of 33.93 per cent driven by astronomical increases in prices of staple food items, and a foreign exchange rate that is rapidly turning the naira into a currency not worth the paper on which it is printed.
Only last Saturday, Vanguard reported of a woman in Port Harcourt who went into another woman’s plantation and stole her plantain in order to feed her hungry children. When the woman who owned the plantain confronted the thief, an altercation ensued. With a machete, the woman who stole the plantain hacked to death the woman who owned the plantain!
Hunger may not be a justification for stealing, but hunger is fuelling all sorts of crime today in Nigeria. Many who are hungry but cannot steal are resorting to begging. Some Nigerians who have lost their means of livelihood can be seen nowadays scrambling for leftover foods at parties, not for their dogs, but for their hungry children at home.
In the past six years, Nigeria’s hunger statistics has been on the rise. In 2017, 10 per cent of Nigeria’s population suffered severe hunger. In 2018, it rose to 10.40 per cent. By 2019 it became 12 per cent. In 2020 it was 12.70 per cent. Between 2020 and 2022, on average, 21.3 per cent of Nigeria’s population experienced hunger.
According to the World Food Programme, about 26.5 million people across Nigeria are projected to face acute hunger in 2024, a staggering increase from the 18.6 million people that suffered hunger at the end of 2023.
A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. Government at all levels need to sit up. If this level of hunger continues, there is no telling what the people will do.