Food Crisis in Nigeria: Skyrocketing Prices and Hunger Protests

The Struggles of Nigerians amid Soaring Food Prices

In recent weeks, several cities in central and northern Nigeria have witnessed furious protests by residents who are grappling with the sharp rise in food prices. These protests reflect the dire situation many Nigerians face as their daily lives continue to deteriorate. Last week in Suleja, hundreds of people took to the streets and participated in a march to express their displeasure, holding signs that read, “Nigerians are suffering“. Meanwhile, in Kano, women gathered to denounce high flour prices.

Impact of Policy Changes on Nigerian Citizens

Since taking office last year, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has ended fuel subsidies and currency controls, leading to a tripling of gasoline prices and an increase in the cost of living as the Naira loses value against the dollar. This has forced Nigerians to grapple with numerous challenges such as economic difficulties, hunger, and famine. Influential traditional emir Aminu Ado Bayero from Kano further highlighted this plight on February 12th, when he urged the president to take urgent action.

Videos posted on social media show women from northern Nigeria resorting to digging into the ground in search of seeds stored by ants, just to feed their children. The country’s official figures reveal that at least 63% of Nigeria’s 220 million inhabitants live in extreme poverty.

The Changing Diet of Nigeria’s Poor

Many Nigerians are now unable to afford foods deemed luxury items such as meat, eggs, milk, and potatoes. People in Kano have turned to a cheaper, lower-quality variety of rice called “afafata”, which, as its translation from the Hausa language suggests, signifies “to fight” and alludes to its consumption during trying times.

Moreover, the prices of corn flour, millet, and sorghum have increased; these cereals, accounting for 80% of the nation’s yield, are primarily grown in the northwestern and northeastern regions. However, the rampant insecurity in these areas has put immense pressure on supplies.

Factors Affecting Nigeria’s Food Security

  • Raids into warehouses: Criminal gangs and jihadists conduct deadly raids and demand ransom, displacing many farming communities in northwest Nigeria. Additionally, a jihadist conflict is ongoing in the northeast, further exacerbating the situation.
  • Closure of the border with Niger: Following the military coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum last year, Nigeria closed its border with Niger. Consequently, the supply of millet and cowpeas to northern Nigerian markets has been interrupted.
  • Covid-19 pandemic and floods: According to Agriculture Minister Abubakar Kyari, the country’s food security was seriously threatened by both the Covid-19 pandemic and devastating floods.
  • Hoarding of cereals: Ya’u Tumfafi, the grain market manager at Dawanau, a suburb in Kano, claims that the real problem lies elsewhere: wealthy individuals hoard vast quantities of cereals in warehouses.

Government Measures to Address the Food Crisis

To quell growing discontent, President Tinubu ordered the release of 102,000 metric tons of grains from the strategic reserve, intending to sell them at a subsidized rate and thereby lower prices. Additionally, earlier this month, the Yobe State government banned bulk purchases of cereals in local markets. A similar move transpired in Niger State, where the governor ordered security forces to seize trucks transporting bulk products to distribute food among the population.

Further Challenges and the Need for Long-term Solutions

The recent measures taken by the Nigerian government may provide some temporary relief, but they do not address the underlying issues that continue to exacerbate the country’s food crisis. Persistent insecurity in the northern regions, a struggling economy, inadequate infrastructure, and climate change are all factors further straining Nigeria’s food security. The government will need to develop long-term solutions that tackle these root causes if it is to prevent the situation from deteriorating even further.