The alarm over social unrest

THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has raised the alarm that Nigeria and some other African countries are at risk of social unrest as a result of the prevailing hunger and rising cost of living being experienced by their citizens.


THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has raised the alarm that Nigeria and some other African countries are at risk of social unrest as a result of the prevailing hunger and rising cost of living being experienced by their citizens.

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The other affected African countries include Ethiopia, Angola and Kenya. The alarm was contained in the bank’s 2024 macroeconomic performance and outlook. Specifically, it warned that internal conflicts could arise from increase in energy and commodity prices occasioned by currency depreciation or subsidy removal in the affected countries.
The bank also observed that regional conflicts and political instability occasioned by disruptions in constitutional governments could have deleterious economic costs with resources meant
for development and social support channelled into security and
Prominent citizens and organisations in Nigeria have expressed similar fears as the AfDB. For instance, the Sultan of Sokoto and Chairman of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, had at a recent executive committee
meeting of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council in Kaduna, warned that with millions of Nigerian youths left without jobs and food, the country was sitting on a powder keg.
In the same vein, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, had equally noted that there
was serious hardship in the country. The Emir, who spoke when the First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, visited Kano, urged her to convey the message of the teeming populace about
the hunger in the land to President Bola Tinubu.
Within the same period, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) made a critical
assessment of the country and concluded that Nigerians were experiencing the worst times,
especially in the areas of security and the economy. According to CBCN, the situation was
worsened by the government’s reform agenda as expressed in the withdrawal of fuel subsidy
and the unification of the foreign exchange market, which led to a sharp increase in the pump
price of petroleum products and a steep decline in the value of the naira.
The alarm raised by the AfDB, religious and traditional leaders in the country should not be
dismissed. The alarm is a wake-up call on the government to address the food shortage. The
economic hardship in the country is becoming unbearable. A 50kg bag of rice, which was sold
for N30,000 some months ago, is now selling at over N90,000. Similarly, a bag of cement, which
was hitherto sold for N4,000, is now being sold at over N10,000. A paint bucket of garri which
was sold at N1, 200 is currently selling for N2,500. House rents have been astronomically increased in many urban cities across the country. Transport fares have been hiked. Many companies have left Nigeria while some others have shut down operations as a result of unfriendly
business climate.
Available facts from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that Nigeria’s inflation
rate increased to 29.90 per cent in January 2024 from 28.92 per cent recorded in December
2023. According to the NBS, food inflation for January was put at 35.4 per cent, a figure considered an all-time high.
Recently, hungry Nigerians protested in Niger, Kano and Osun states over the high cost of
food items in the country. Also, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) on February 27 embarked on a nationwide protest over the hardship in the country and called for a living wage
for Nigerian workers.
The situation in the country is clearly getting out of hand. The red flag is everywhere. Hunger
can trigger insurrection. The Federal Government should strive to bring itself to the realities of
the situation and treat the prevailing hunger as a national emergency. Let those in government
understand that this is not the time to live in denial or play the ostrich. Efforts should be made
to arrest the troubling situation before it gets out of control.
Food insecurity is a huge threat to the corporate existence of the country. A hungry population can be manipulated by mischievous individuals or groups for odious ends. In the interim,
the government can embark on massive importation of food items to address the glaring food
shortage. In the long run, there is need to encourage large-scale agriculture and all seasons
farming. Everything humanly possible should be done by the government to ensure that Nigerians are not subjected to extreme hunger and starvation.

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