Press spotlights warning by FAO that 25m Nigerians risk severe hunger, others

The warning by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that some 25 million Nigerians risk severe hunger between June and…

The warning by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that some 25 million Nigerians risk severe hunger between June and August this year is one of the trending stories in Nigerian newspapers on Tuesday.The Guardian reports that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that some 25 million Nigerians risk severe hunger between June and August this year.

An October 22 report by the United Nations agency, which confirmed existing 17 million famished Nigerians, cautioned that the figure would hit the 25 million mark in the predicted period if urgent efforts are not taken to stem the tide.

FAO identified drivers of the unsavoury development to include persistent conflicts, climate change, inflation and rising food prices.

It noted that access to food has been affected by unrelenting terrorism in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY), as well as banditry and abductions in Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Benue and Niger states.

It recalled that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that last year’s flooding claimed more than 676,000 hectares of farmland, diminished harvests and increased food insecurity across Nigeria.

The UN agency said more extreme weather patterns affecting starvation are anticipated in the future.

FAO noted that of the 17 million people currently facing famine, three million are in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, stating that without immediate action, the figure might rise to 4.4 million in the lean season. They include vulnerable displaced populations and returnees, who are already struggling to survive a large-scale humanitarian crisis in which 8.3 million people need assistance.

The newspaper says that notwithstanding proposals and campaign promises to end fuel subsidy, Organised labour have insisted that until the Federal Government provides buffers and alternatives for subsidy removal to work, plans against the removal would be kicked against.

The Organised labour said putting some of these measures in place, would serve as an alternative to fuel subsidy removal.

The Federal Government has allocated N3.36 trillion for fuel subsidy in 2023, even as the country’s debt profile hits $102 billion.

The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, who said the 2023 budget proposal has a budget deficit of N10.78 trillion, said it would be funded through domestic and multilateral borrowings and proceeds from privatisation.

With about N11 trillion spent so far on fuel subsidy in seven years, the Federal Government admitted the facility was no longer sustainable, therefore, advocating its removal.

A few months to the proposed removal, the labour movement has threatened to embark on national protest, expressing opposition to the proposal by the Federal Government to increase the pump price of petrol, otherwise known as premium motor spirit (PMS).

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, at a meeting with critical stakeholders had said that with heightened inflation, the removal of subsidy would further worsen the situation and impose more difficulties on the citizenry.

However, with the Dangote refinery, he said the facility would have significant impact on the fuel supply dynamics, including easing pressure on the economy, especially when combined with the ongoing revamping of the three refineries in the country.

Minister of Finance, Ahmed also told the meeting that the Federal Government would soon unfold the palliative being prepared to cushion the adverse effects of subsidy removal whenever it was implemented.

The Guardian also reports that notwithstanding the Christmas seasonal impacts on prices, Nigeria’s headline inflation slowed mildly to 21.34 per cent, suggesting a peak could be on the horizon.

December Consumer Price Index (CPI) reading shows the slight improvement comes from 0.4 percentage point ease in the troubling food basket.

According to the data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), yesterday, year-on-year (y/y) food inflation climbed down from 24.13 per cent recorded in November to 23.75 per cent at the end of the year. But the month-on-month (m/m) change remains elevated at 1.89 per cent – 0.49 percentage points higher than the November figure.

A part of the gain in the food segment was wiped by a 0.25 percentage point uptick in the core inflation, which measures the real inflationary pressure. The core, a measure of other segments of less volatile items such as food, rose from 18.24 to 18.49 per cent y/y.

But the m/m movement, a more realistic measure of the current inflation character, slowed to 1.33 per cent (from 1.67 per cent recorded the previous month.

In Nigeria, December marks the beginning of harvest in many farming communities across the country. With a poor storage system, some farmers dump their produce, hence the price of food items are low.

NBS attributed the high m/m inflation to “the sharp increase in demand usually experienced during the festive season, increase in the cost of production such as an increase in energy cost, transportation cost, exchange and rate depreciation.”

The 2023 elections are seen as a major variable that could trigger fresh inflation concern. Nigeria’s elections are highly monetised with efforts to end vote-buying stopping at the level of advocacy.

The Punch says that the Nigeria LNG Limited has said its plant on Bonny Island is still active despite a force majeure declared in October 2022 and feed gas supply challenges.

The General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, NLNG, Mr Andy Odeh, confirmed this in a statement on Monday in Lagos.

Odeh said the plant continued to produce LNG and Liquefied Petroleum Gas commensurate with the feed gas it received from its upstream suppliers.

“In addition to ensuring steady operation, NLNG remains committed to its culture of transparency and maintains consistent communication with key stakeholders on developments in the upstream sector.

“The company is closely monitoring the resolution of supply challenges by all relevant parties,” he added.

The newspaper reports that the Central Bank of Nigeria has injected $15.3bn into the economy to stabilise the value of the naira from January to October, 2022.

This was obtained in the banking sector regulator’s monthly and quarterly economic reports on foreign exchange market developments.

The reports noted that $4.86bn, $4.81bn and $4.18bn were injected into the economy during the first, second and third quarters, respectively, while $1.46bn was injected in October.

The CBN stated, “Total foreign exchange sales to authorised dealers by the bank, at $4.86bn, decreased by 5.8 per cent, compared with the previous quarter’s level.

“Disaggregation shows that foreign exchange sales at interbank/invisibles and SMIS windows declined by 16.9 per cent and 10.8 per cent to $0.46bn and $1.79bn, respectively, relative to the levels in the preceding quarter.

“Similarly, SME interventions and sales at the Investors & Exporters window, decreased by 2.0 per cent and 26.7 per cent to $0.38bn and $1.41bn, compared with the amounts in the preceding quarter.”

It added that matured swap contracts rose by 187.33 per cent to $0.82bn, relative to the previous quarter’s level.

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