Nigerian authorities have declared a national emergency on food security as record inflation has made basic foods unaffordable for many and has pushed up malnutrition rates.
Food prices jumped after Nigeria controversially removed a long-held, costly fuel subsidy. Officials say they will use those funds instead for the agricultural sector and to provide fertilizers and grains to farmers and households struggling with high prices.
President Bola Tinubu's adviser on special duties, communication and strategy, Dele Alake, announced the emergency during a news conference Thursday in the capital after a meeting with the president.
He said the decision came in response to inflation and the inability of Nigerian citizens to afford basic food items.
Fertilizers, grains made available
The president ordered that all matters pertaining to food and water availability and affordability be included within the scope of the National Security Council.
Authorities also ordered the immediate release of fertilizers and grains to farmers and households to mitigate the effects of the subsidy removal.
Nigeria's president scrapped the expensive subsidy payments in late May, promising to divert the funds to other vital projects.
Alake said authorities would deploy savings from the fuel subsidy removal to revamp the agricultural sector in coming weeks.
"We shall create and support a national commodity exchange board that will review and continuously assess food prices as well as maintain [the] strategic food reserve that will be used as [a] price stabilization mechanism for critical grains and other food items," he said.
The president's spokesperson also said authorities would boost the security architecture to protect farmers. He said the ministries of agriculture and water would work together to guarantee irrigation for farmers to produce food year-round.
Nigeria was already battling its worst inflation in nearly two decades — an annual rate of 22.4% — before the government scrapped the petrol subsidy. The high inflation was triggered by exchange rate volatility, widespread insecurity and the effects of climate change, all of which reduced the supply of agricultural products on the market, driving up food costs.
Isaac Botti, an economist at Social Action Nigeria, which works to promote democracy, social justice and human rights in Nigeria's energy, economic and other sectors, said authorities must consider climate change in their new plans.
"If you want to talk about food sufficiency, how do we address the impact of climate change? How do we also address the issue of insecurity? If you do not have a program around climate change, no matter what idea is being implemented, it will be difficult to really achieve whatever target the federal government sets at achieving," he said.
Risk of more flooding
Last year, Nigeria recorded its worst flooding in a decade, and authorities have been warning citizens of potential risks this year.
Kabiru Ibrahim, president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, welcomed the government's move but said it's late in the year to be giving seeds and fertilizers to farmers.
"It's a very good decision by the president," Ibrahim said, "but we want to see them walk their talk. [But] the question of distribution of fertilizers: it's a bit late for this year. It could be used again [in] the next farming season. When all these things are tackled, we will be on our way to the attainment of food security in Nigeria."
On Thursday, Tinubu asked lawmakers to approve a stipend of $10 monthly to 12 million households using money from an $800 million World Bank loan.
For now, many will be watching to see the impact of the government’s new plan.