There Is Hunger In Our Land

By Ikenga Chronicles September 2, 2017

There Is Hunger In Our Land

— Victor Abel

It no longer news, neither does it now make banner headlines in our national dailies that there is chronic hunger, starvation and inequality in the land.Only recently, pathetic stories hit various social media platforms about how a hunger-ravished woman exchanged her only son for a few cups of rice. It is also reported that pots of soup now disappear from rich men’s kitchens without a trace. The suicide rate has increased in geometrical proportion, while stomach infrastructure is now the order of the day for prospective political office seekers.

No wonder the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2016 Report–a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally–scored Nigeria 25.5 percent.

This was indirectly confirmed on Friday in a Sallah message delivered by His Royal Highness, the Emir Of Kano, Lamido Sanusi.

Sanusi had called on the powers that be at all levels of government to address the rising cost of living and halt the spate of hunger.

The shocking statistics released by the Global Hunger Index places Nigeria, the self-acclaimed giant of Africa on the same level with Sri Lanka while neighbouring countries like Ghana and Ecuador are far above us,scoring 13.9 percent.

By this report, we do not need rocket science to know that many Nigerians are living below poverty line. Remember hunger has no tribe, religion or political party.

Yet, the mind boggling questions remain: How did we get here in the midst of plenty? Could it be the uneven distribution of wealth that brought us here? Or are there government policies that have aided the gap between the haves and the have nots? Or is it that our political elites are simply being mischievous and playing “Naijabet” with our collective destiny?

Section 16(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “the State shall control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equity of status and opportunity. In (2)(c) “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or a group; and (d) that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.”

If you ask me, I will say these are beautiful provisions in the Constitution but the present situation of things in the land does not in any way come close to this provision. Our problem is that we don’t walk the talk. Our Constitution seems to be made only to be memorised and regurgitated during political rallies and debates.

Nigeria is presently in a festive mood but how many persons can afford what is needed for this celebration?

“Many Rams, No Buyers” was a captivating headline in one of the renowned online media prior to the Sallah celebration. How do we celebrate when we are hungry! A hungry man remains an angry man.

Beyond the hunger, thousands of Nigerians lack suitable and adequate shelter. Nigeria is estimated to be in need of between 17million to 23million new housing to meet its housing challenge.

Relevant statistics indicate that Nigeria is the country with the highest housing deficit in sub-Saharan Africa. The Housing Sector is beset with a plethora of challenges including those arising from extant laws and policies. The issues include those around delay and cost of procurement of Certificates of Occupancy and governor’s consent, simplifying the process of access to and transfer of land title, protracted foreclosure processes etc. In terms of policies, states and federal governments are yet to implement digitalization of land registry, comprehensive land titling which will collateralize land assets in both the rural and urban areas and unleash securities which can be used to access credit in financial institutions. Individual contributors to the National Housing fund cannot access the fund for a mortgage while estate developers do.

On the side of wealth distribution, the gap between the haves and have nots kept increasing on a daily basis. The wealth of the nation is unconsciously skewed to favour but a few due to uneven distribution of wealth.

Now back to the above question, how did we get here in the midst of plenty? When a nation fails to implement policies that will foster equity and equality, the outcome will be the inequality we are facing presently in the country be it in the health sector, education, housing and even the standard of living.

Inequality is not a given; it does not just happen. It is a product of economic, social and political policy decisions and choices made by the state and citizens.

There is, therefore, a call for the deliberate reduction of inequality in the land at least, to reduce hunger, provide suitable shelter, provide affordable healthcare system and give sound education to all citizens just as the constitution rightly stated in section 16. The government should go into the social housing scheme.

The Federal Mortgage bank should give loans to individual contributors and not the artificial individuals that come in the form of Estate Developers. It is on record that the poor have ever accessed any of these houses sold by Estate Developer due to high prices.

There is need to revisit our tax system. The rich should be taxed heavily and income generated used to subsidise healthcare and education. Property tax is a welcome development as we have many properties lying idle without occupants. So much revenue will be generated from these properties to give poor Nigerians a better living. A reasonable national minimum living wage should be paid to workers.

The Federal Government should call on states to give an account of bailout funds given to them to pay salary arrears. Put a stop to any policy that will aid inequality and give a total embrace to such policies that reduce inequality.


* Victor Abel, Is A Public Sector Analyst and Finance Officer At Centre For Social Justice, Abuja