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Food security: Set up taskforce to protect farmers, Atiku tells FG

Former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar has called on the federal government to set up a “food security military taskforce” to provide security for the nation’s farmers.

According to the ex-vice president, the taskforce should provide the security in clusters.

Abubakar added that this will give farmworkers the confidence to return to their farms and produce the needed food to feed the country.

The 2019 presidential candidate’s advice comes against the backdrop of a report released by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) on Wednesday.

In the report, FAO warned that about 13 million people in northern Nigeria may face the risk of acute food insecurity in the next few months.

But in a statement he personally signed on Friday, Atiku said the north is the food basket of Nigeria and famine in the area will affect the entire nation.

“That dire warning should be seen and heard as a whistleblowing moment that ought to draw the focus of the federal government, being that northern Nigeria is the food basket of the nation, and any famine there will have a national impact on the rest of the country and cross border impacts in the West African sub-region,” the statement reads.

“The laissez-faire approach taken by the federal government to this most important issue is regrettable. Food security is a vital part of national security, and where this issue is not resolved, the resultant crisis may unsettle the nation and her immediate neighbours.

“Now is the time to proffer solutions, so that our countrymen and women do not starve in a land with so much prospective abundance. So, how do we avoid this looming crisis?

“The major cause of the present and looming dearth of food is insecurity. Farmers and other agricultural value chain workers cannot go to their farms due to the crisis of insecurity. I should know. I am heavily invested in large scale farming and employ a workforce of over 10,000 in the endeavour.

“What ought to happen is that the federal and state governments should establish a Food Security Military Taskforce to work in farming clusters, to provide security for the nation’s farmers. We must give confidence to our agriculture workers so that the sector can get on with the job of feeding the nation.

Atiku asked the federal and state governments to place a moratorium on all agricultural loans repayment in the affected areas.

“We cannot expect small, medium and large scale farmers to service debts when they are not even able to access their farms and other businesses in the agricultural value chain,” he said.

“Thirdly, the federal government has to intervene by providing free seedlings and fertilisers to the end-users. This is a policy that worked to reduce hunger levels in Nigeria when Dr Akinwumi Adesina introduced the e-wallet policy. Perhaps it is time to reintroduce and ramp up that scheme.

“If we cannot feed ourselves as a nation, we do not survive. This is the textbook definition of an emergency.”

Atiku said politics should be set aside to address this “vital area of our national life and address this crisis before it becomes a calamity”.

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