Professor Gbolagade Ayola, Chairman, Voices for Food Security (VFS), in an exclusive interview CHIBUZOR EMEJORstresses the need for the government to ensure food security as the basic human right of citizens enshrined in the Constitution, the need to pass the “Right to Food” bill before the National Assembly, among other issues in the agricultural sector. Excerpts:
How would you rate the attendance of the National Agricultural Exhibition this year?
Thank. We need to activate all the departments of this agricultural show so that the show does not die. This is a remarkable legacy of the past administration to ensure the results of agriculture the status of a national show. It is very impressive and encouraging. Unfortunately, the show this year does not fall into the harvest season.
Therefore, we have not seen several agricultural products that we have seen. We have seen the software component of agriculture in terms of intellectual and technological manifestations. We would like the organizers to continue to do this. With Nigeria very well.
Considering the theme of World Food Day this year: “Our actions are our future: a world of zero hunger by 2030 is possible,” do you think it is possible to achieve zero hunger in Nigeria?
Why not? This is implemented in developed countries around the world. This is simply because they have given priority to agriculture, in particular food security, which allows them to realize this. If we do the same, we will understand.
What are the proper policies and priorities that allowed these countries to implement zero hunger?
First of all, you cannot achieve zero hunger without a political environment that does not recognize food as a human right. This is my first criterion. When you recognize nutrition policy as the fundamental right of people to people, you help them create demand.
So this is a demand management strategy. Demand for all types of food, trace elements, macroproducts, vitamins and minerals that we do not consciously demand, we come to the game, because people will put a demand on it. And since you demand certain products on the market, farmers will respond to your pressure of demand, increasing the things you have called for. They will grow what people really need. This will lead to improved incomes and livelihoods for people, which will also lead to the development of the human capital of the whole nation. People develop a nation.
The body of people is a machine. The fuel for this machine for work is food. When you give priority to food, you are actually developing the base of the human capital of this country in order to catapult yourself to a high level of gross domestic products (GDP). This is what we are looking for. Thus, we were unhappy with how to grow the food sector.
For the development of the agricultural sector there are two essential elements: one of them is the basis of technology. We seem to emphasize and overestimate technology.
The other pillar is the political environment. What the government does, what the government does not do, how well it does it, regulates the efficient use of machines. Therefore, for everything to work, they must balance each other. Thus, he will work to make this country get out of hunger.
This morning I was listening to you on a radio program where you talked about the “Right to Food” bill, what does Bill want to do?
The name of the bill is the bill on the right to food. In 2010, in the House of Representatives, a change or amendment was made to the chapter of the second Constitution, which does not give any recognition of World Food Security as a right.
Unfortunately, at the end of this Assembly, which was the sixth Assembly, we did not move more than the first stage of reading.
So at the 7th Assembly, we moved to the Senate. We re-introduced it. Now we are aiming at amending the fourth part of the Constitution, which lists all the fundamental human rights. We want food to be a part of them. We want to insert it there as a special offer. Unfortunately, we have not advanced beyond the first reading. Then we rebuilt the strategy, combining the two bills and moving into the two chambers of the National Assembly. And we have advanced far enough. Within six months, the bill passed the first and second stages of reading. I heard that the National Assembly is missing public hearings because we have generated greater public awareness and support for the bill.
He is currently under consideration by the Senate Human Rights Committee and the Human Rights Committee. They must pass this bill to this 8th Assembly.
When this bill is eventually passed into law, can a government or any institution be brought to justice for violating the provisions of this Food Safety Act?
Yes, the right is the right. If someone’s right is violated, he has that right to use it in any way. That is why we carry him from the second chapter of the Constitution, where her position is not justice, capable of the fourth chapter, where everything is fair. This is a strategy.
Sir, is it implied that citizens can sue the government in case of any violations?
Citizens have the right to sue. We made some provisions with checks and balances to avoid unreasonable legal proceedings.
We put it in such a way that the bill is a policy that encourages the bill. Not a bill that can be used to fight. We want the government to be afraid of people's rights, so that the government can do the right thing.
This does not necessarily give people the opportunity to continue bringing the government to justice. Look at the freedom of information bill (FoI), how many people took the government to court, it was fear. Because as soon as you say that now it is a right, the government itself becomes self-monitoring. And the government will be afraid to be prosecuted. If you go to any ministry and say that you need any information, even if they do not have such information, they will treat you with respect so that you are not annoyed and do not go to court.
With the exception of lawyers who will discuss their cases in court, we have not heard about who took the government to court for violating FoI. This is what we intend to achieve.
We want to establish the right to food in the proper context of chapter four of the Constitution. The government, regardless of what they do, will strive to respect the right of the people. They will not only respect the law, they will fulfill and protect it according to the law. When they respect, fulfill and protect it, no one has any reason to bring the government to court. If you look at the societies that have grown, they have grown up by applying the right approach to food security and agricultural management, in the context of the law that makes it work in other countries.
Professor, do you think the current administration is doing enough to guarantee food security for Nigerian citizens?
Yes and no. Yes, every government, every minister does what is right in his own eyes. What could be wrong in the eyes of other people?
Just let's confine ourselves to this. Therefore, you cannot blame the government for not doing what you consider insufficient. To this extent they are doing something. No, because given the limitations they face, they do not do enough.
Financial constraints, labor constraints, foreign currency restrictions and other competing needs of the nation under which they operate are not enough.
We should encourage the government in this way. We create a policy that will prepare them. Otherwise, every government will do what is right in their eyes.
Earlier this year, especially in May of this year in the media group, talking about food security, you said that 75% of Nigerians are critically hungry, can you figure this out, sir?
Yes, when you look at the World Hunger Index published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in 2017, with an index of 25.5, Nigeria takes 84th place among 119 countries in the category “Serious prevalence of hunger”, it is obvious that my The statement can not be contrived. “This means that about three-quarters of the country's population suffers from malnutrition among the adult population, delays with children, loss of children and infant mortality, which is due to the lack of food security in the country.
During the celebration of World Food Day, you said that farmers decided to involve politicians looking for the votes of farmers in 2019 to draw their attention to issues of interest and gain their commitment to solving these problems. What problems in the agricultural sector, in particular, do you want politicians to seek the benefits of farmers?
First of all, we are considering a question-oriented election campaign that recognizes the importance of farmers for national development. We would like farmers to be involved in the policy development process.
Farmers would like to see politicians who have everything they need to contribute to the rapid adoption of the Law on the Right to Food.
In what other areas do you look at politicians?
Others are good agricultural management, ending the fight against farmers and pastoralists, setting priorities for food security in the budget and providing rural infrastructure, including, among others, feeder roads, water supply in rural areas.
How do you intend to achieve this?
Voice for Food Security (VFS) intends to establish appropriate criteria for monitoring the effectiveness of successful presidential candidates after the elections in 2019, thereby comparing their actions and ensuring that they comply with the aspirations of farmers.
Again, a number of events were held to attract the attention of people, such as organizing public mobilization events (show your rallies on PVC), advertising visits in the period before and after the elections.
The purpose of this conference is to draw the attention of the general public to the need to give a voice and vote to those who are committed to supporting farmers in the country.
You have confirmed for the tenth time that Nigeria is far from zero hunger. What solutions do you mean to save Nigeria from such a situation?
Solutions can be proposed only in the case of political will for the implementation of decisions.
The only way to achieve zero hunger is to help the government ease the efforts of the people.
There can be no zero hunger in a country without promoting the right of people to food, which is inalienable, indisputable and justified.
In fact, every Nigerian must have an irreducible minimum degree of freedom from hunger, so that citizens can live a healthy, dignified and productive life.
Again, it is necessary to provide agricultural support for all states so that they can increase and diversify food production, while increasing food consumption by people.
It should be necessary to initiate food and nutrition activities in areas where many households have depleted their livelihoods and undernourished people.
What is your attitude to the peasants / victims in the country?
Repeated clashes in various parts of the country undoubtedly affect food production and agricultural growth.
In fact, if people cannot go to farms, there will definitely be a shortage of food. This is already happening, as you know.
The reason can not be contrived, because farmers are already afraid to go to the farm. Remember that agriculture is not only a harvest, but the raising of cattle is also part of agriculture; therefore, both crop and livestock are affected back and forth. And agriculture is a big part of our GDP.