Legal Informer: Food Security - The Duty of States Under the Fifth Constitutional Alteration Bill (No. 65)
Food security and the nutrition situation in Nigeria has become a major concern both on the national and international level, especially after the press release and report from UNICEF and IMF. UNICEF in its press release on the 16 January 2023 stated that Nearly 25 million Nigerians are at risk of facing hunger between June and August 2023 (lean season) if urgent action is not taken.
The Government seem to have implored certain mitigating measures in the past three weeks. NiMet’s director-general on the 27 March 2023, disclosed that Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and the CBN signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to increase collaboration dedicated towards food production. The MoU is aimed to improve food security in Nigeria through precise weather forecasts, to guard farmers against issues like the 2022 flooding which adversely affected 32 out of 36 States of the country.
Prior to the MoU, the Present, Muhammadu Buhari on the 17 March 2023 assented to sixteen (16) Constitutional Alteration Bills. The Fifth Constitutional Alteration Bill (No. 65) altered Section 16 of the Nigerian Constitution. Section 16 (2) (d) provided that: “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring- (d) that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, unemployment and sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.”
Following the alteration, the Paragraph will read as follows: “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring-
(d) that suitable and adequate shelter, right to food and food security, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, unemployment and sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.”
The Bill further inserted a new section 16A as below:
16A (1) The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that –
(a) strategies that guarantee food security of the nation regarding availability, accessibility, and affordability of food to the citizens are initiated, undertaken, and implemented.
(b) the means of production, conservation and distribution of food are upgraded and improved upon on a continuous basis; and
(c) adequate measures are provided to ensure that food security of the nation is not compromised by any individual, group, or institution. (2) The State shall promote and sustain activities that enhance food security”.
On 6 April 2023, at the presentation meeting by the KASHA International Agricultural Development Organization, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) disclosed its commitments to transforming agriculture from its current rudimentary level to modern commercial business that will guarantee food security for residents of the Niger Delta Region. The Commission also stated that it will partner with other organizations to promote agricultural practices in the country.
With the constitutional amendment, it is anticipated that State governments shall now make strategic policies to guarantee, promote and sustain food security in the nation. States moribund mills, plantation and agricultural plants will be rehabilitated, and there will be increased private sector investment.