Looked at from whichever angle, Nanono’s claim is not true. There’s hunger – terrible hunger – in Nigeria, and we need not travel to Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Benin Republic or some other countries to confirm this. While the issue of Nigeria’s porous borders is a subject on its own that comes with challenges, it is more a question of leadership than anything else that they remain the way they are…


Every now and again, there emerges a Nigerian big man seeking to rewrite reality. The latest in my opinion is Muhammad Sabo Nanono, the Agriculture and Rural Development minister, who was recently quoted in the media as saying that there’s no hunger in Nigeria.

For the sake of clarity, it is important to establish the context within which the comment was made.

The minister reportedly made the remark at a press conference to mark the 2019 World Food Day, in Abuja, during which he also spoke about the closure of Nigeria’s borders with the neighbouring countries, a decision criticised by some people who feel that it imposes hardship on Nigerians, one of which is food scarcity. Nanono does not think so, as his remarks at the press conference shows. “I think so long as these bordering countries do not respect our protocols on these very important issues of bringing food into Nigeria, border closure will remain. I think we are producing enough food to feed ourselves. There is no hunger in the country and when people talk about hunger, I just laugh because they do not know hunger. They need to go to other countries to know what hunger is all about,” explained Nanono.

Mr. minister, your claim is outrageous! It is as outrageous as Olusegun Obasanjo’s claim, when he was in power as a civilian leader, which I watched on television, that there’s no “abject poverty” in Nigeria.

Looked at from whichever angle, Nanono’s claim is not true. There’s hunger – terrible hunger – in Nigeria, and we need not travel to Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Benin Republic or some other countries to confirm this. While the issue of Nigeria’s porous borders is a subject on its own that comes with challenges, it is more a question of leadership than anything else that they remain the way they are, with nothing seriously done about smuggling and the security challenges they pose.

There’s terrible hunger and misery in Nigeria and one does not need any agency’s statistics to buttress or draw a conclusion on that. It’s a self evident fact! All anyone needs do to get a sense or feel of the situation, is to walk the streets of just about any Nigerian town or community and look at people’s faces as one does so.


But to hunger now. Nanono’s view came a few days after I spoke with a Minna, Niger State based friend of mine on the phone. We spoke about the challenges of life in Nigeria and here’s part of what I said: ‘When I walked along the streets in Lagos, I occasionally looked at faces of passers-by and what I often saw was pain and hunger. People wear their frustration on their faces. You could tell just by looking at people’s faces their states of mind; how happy, hungry or frustrated they are.’

While my assertion may not be true in every instance, it’s not an exaggerated claim, I dare say. Socio-economic factors, which I am familiar with in my country, have, over the years, affected many lives, leaving a significant number of an estimated 200 million population poor, hungry and dejected. Misery cuts across the land, and Lagos, from where I draw my conclusion, is just one of countless Nigerian cities, towns or communities. There’s terrible hunger and misery in Nigeria and one does not need any agency’s statistics to buttress or draw a conclusion on that. It’s a self evident fact! All anyone needs do to get a sense or feel of the situation, is to walk the streets of just about any Nigerian town or community and look at people’s faces as one does so.

What is hunger? One of the dictionaries describes it as “A need or compelling desire for food.” Most people need money to buy food. But in a country with a terribly high unemployment rate, where governors like Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State assume power and embark on the mass sack of workers employed by his predecessor (to talk of just Delta State), thereby throwing people and their dependants into a state of penury and want; where workers in both government and private sectors are owed salaries for many months at a stretch; where government agencies and departments, like the agriculture ministry which Nanono heads, have little or no idea of alleviating poverty and hunger beyond talk, many people lack the means to not just buy food but the kind they love and enjoy eating.

Endless claims about Nigeria’s agricultural potential, which government officials like Nanono proclaim when it suits them, is just one part of the story. You may have the arable land, fertile soil and temperate climate but what if the support in form of an enabling environment is largely lacking for the farmer in Abakaliki, Birnin Kebbi and elsewhere? Where are the industries to turn the raw materials into something of greater value for the people and churn out food at will, and make this available to the masses at affordable prices?

When, for instance, Buhari’s government officials and the administration’s hailers talk of how local rice now flood the Nigerian market, courtesy of the government’s rice policy, do they ponder the fact that millions of Nigerians are not able to afford this rice due to their penurious state?


Where are government managed food programmes to fill the gaps or bellies, as we see in serious countries? Where are the jobs to provide the income for the teeming youth to spend and enjoy themselves as they may please? Where are the welfare packages to make life tolerable for the people?

I watched a debate by some American politicians some years ago, where one of them sought to impress his fellow citizens about his plans to put more money in the pockets of Americans if elected into office. How much money has the Muhammadu Buhari administration and others before it put in the pockets of ordinary Nigerians over the decades? Is it the much advertised N5000 monthly payment to “poor and vulnerable Nigerians” through the current government’s National Social Investment Programme? Co’mon!

When, for instance, Buhari’s government officials and the administration’s hailers talk of how local rice now flood the Nigerian market, courtesy of the government’s rice policy, do they ponder the fact that millions of Nigerians are not able to afford this rice due to their penurious state?

Do they pretend not to know that millions of Nigerians daily go to bed hungry because they lack money to buy food?

Anthony Akaeze is an award-winning freelance investigative journalist and author.