Nigeria: I Went Below Poverty Line in 2020
“… CBN must not give money to import food. Already about seven states are producing all the rice we need.” – President Buhari, December 2020
God knows I want Buhari to remain President until 2023 because, unsettling as that might be for some people, it is the best of all options before us. It is difficult to live with a leader who has lost the followers. That is why some talk of failed nation. We have not failed totally and there is still hope. That is why this article was not titled, ‘Famine is imminent this year’.
Buhari, like every President, is hostage to his Ministers and Advisers who conspire to avoid telling him the truth if it will hurt his feelings.
Consequently, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, have impressed upon Buhari that Nigeria now produces all the rice we need. This is a lie and the current price tells the truth about rice. There was never a time we produced all the rice we need. We came close but we never achieved self-sufficiency.
At any rate we are faced with three grim realities today which render it irrelevant whether we are capable of producing sufficient rice to feed ourselves. An old customer and friend during my rice business days with whom I have kept in touch till now, called me early in December and after the usual pleasantries declared: “Dele, I went below the poverty line in my adult life in 2020. Two of my wives have left me and, right now, I don’t know where four daughters are.” He then went on to tell me a story about what happened to him — which would melt anybody’s heart.
He operates three farms in the Yelwa Yauri and Koko marshland as well as one in Jega Local Government of Kebbi state. By any measure he was a successful rice farmer – until 2020 when three calamities intruded into his life.
First, Fulani herdsmen destroyed much of his farm in Koko and Jega areas. Second, armed bandits and kidnappers invaded the area – sending most of his farm labourers (mostly women) scampering for safety. Third, the great flood which covered the farms in the region left him with next to nothing to harvest. And, if harvested, he ran the risk of bandits seizing most of it. So, he gathered as much as he could to feed his family and left what is left for the invaders – humans and flood.
Nigerian Farmers in Dilemma in 2021
So, as we enter 2021, he is faced with a serious dilemma: to farm or to walk away.