Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Nutrition and Food Security, Hon. Chike Okafor on Thursday warned that the rising inflation rate will worsen the already high level of hunger as well as Food and Nutrition Insecurity (FNI) in Nigeria.

Okafor stated this the warning on in Owerri, Imo State during the opening of a 3-day retreat organized for Speakers of the 36 State Houses of Assembly and Development Partners.

The lawmaker said the summit was organised in recognition of the need for the government, including the legislature at the national and state level to intervene and turn the situation around.

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He, therefore, called for the creation of the Nutrition and Food Security Committee by State Houses of Assembly specifically to domesticate laws geared at promoting food security and ending hunger in the country.

He said: “Malnutrition and Food Insecurity, sometimes referred to as Food and Nutrition Insecurity (FNI) may become an existential threat in Nigeria if not checked.

“The National Bureau of Statistics posits that rising inflation rate has adversely affected the Consumer Price Index, exerting pressure on both food and non-food basic items including services. Consequently, malnutrition and food insecurity affect every part of Nigeria, more so among the urban poor, and rural areas.

“This could partly explain the increase in lawlessness, criminality and lootings as coping strategies that could be adopted by Households in urban areas were limited and most often unavailable compared to Households in rural areas.

“Furthermore, the continuing rise in inflation, if not tamed may lead to increases in cases of criminality in the urban areas, with possible escalations to the rural areas at the peak of the lean (dry) season.”

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He noted that staple prices rose above 185% on average when compared to the same period in 2023 and a 5-year average. This is even as the Food and Agriculture Organization projects that Food and Nutrition Insecurity situation in Nigeria in the period June-August 2024 is expected to worsen and potentially increase the number of vulnerable populations to 31.8 million (15.9%), unless prompt and targeted humanitarian interventions such as food assistance, cash transfers and support for livelihood resilience strengthening in worse-affected areas are put in place to mitigate escalations.

However, Okafor said the 10th National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives understand the primacy of good nutrition and food security as a major determinant of health, and a catalyst for socio-economic development, hence the creation of a committee to superintend the sector and effectively cooperate with the relevant Ministries, States and Department to drastically reduce the level of food insecurity.

In his remarks, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abass, stressed the importance of the retreat, expressing optimism State Houses of Assembly will be better sensitized on the necessity for a Nutrition and Food Security committee in states’ legislature.The Speaker was represented by Hon. Mariam Onuoha observed that the retreat will enable the Parliament to “aggregate and identify the depths of involvements or engagements by the relevant MDAs and our partner organisation on matters of nutrition and food security in Nigeria.

“A desired outcome from this interface will be the need for State Houses of Assembly to commit to replicating the House’ Committee on Nutrition and Food Security in their respective State Assemblies to drive down this would be legislative agenda to the grassroots,” the Speaker said.

Also speaking, Chairman, Conference of Speakers and Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin assured that State Houses of Assembly will key in on the plan to reduce food insecurity and hunger.

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