#FALSE: Contrary To Buhari’s Claim, Nigeria Is Food Insecure!

CLAIM: In a statement last Tuesday, Buhari said that Nigeria has achieved food security

CONCLUSION: FALSE, Nigeria has not fulfilled any of the components that make a country food secure: food availability, access, utilization and stability

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, said his administration has achieved food security as he directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop providing foreign exchange (forex) for the importation of food into the country.

A statement issued by Garba Shehu,  senior special adviser to the president on media and publicity quoted President Buhari to have said this in Daura, Katsina State, as he hosted the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors to an Eid-el-Kabir lunch.

Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country,” the statement quoted President Buhari as saying. “We have achieved food security, and for physical security, we are not doing badly.”

The presidential spokesperson also tweeted the statement in a series of tweets via his official Twitter handle. A copy of the statement was also shared on Facebook.

President Buhari was sworn into office for his first term on May 29, 2015, after he defeated former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election. This marked the beginning of his administration as a democratically elected president of Nigeria.


Food security is a concept that has varying definitions. According to the internationally accepted definition established in 1996 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on World Food Security (CFS), food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

To the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food security means that people have access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

No Nigerian agency has a definition for food security. However, based on similarities in the commonly used definitions, food security includes availability, access, utilization, and stability, according to a policy brief by FAO. This implies a country would be considered to have attained food security when it has achieved the four components of food security.

For food security objectives to be realized, all four dimensions must be fulfilled simultaneously,” FAO stated in a note on introduction to basic concepts of food security.

Food availability relates to the supply of food through production, distribution, and exchange, while food access refers to the affordability and allocation of food, as well as the preferences of individuals and households. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), food utilization means food is properly used; proper food processing and storage techniques exist and are applied; and adequate health and sanitation services exists, while food stability ensures all the other three dimensions are maintained over time.

The state of food security In Nigeria:

According to the Global Food Security Index (GFSI), the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, Nigeria’s food security performance worsened in 2018.

The index is a dynamic quantitative and qualitative benchmarking model, constructed from 28 unique indicators, that provides an objective framework for evaluating food security across a wide range of countries worldwide,” GFSI stated in a user guide that accompanied the ranking.

The country’s score deteriorated by 1.1 points across the three core pillars (availability, access and utilization) of food security to 38 points when compared with the previous year. This is below an average of 58.4 points and ranks Nigeria 96 out of 113 countries considered across the globe.

Nigeria ranks 101 in affordability; 100 in availability; and 77 in quality and safety.

Consequently, Nigeria’s overall performance in the Global Food Security Index for 2018 was rated “Weak”, even as its nutritional standards and volatility of agriculture production were “Very Good”.

In fact, an update on the humanitarian situation for North-East Nigeria for the period of June 1 – 30, 2019, which was published in August 2019 by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), shows increased food insecurity in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states.

The new Cadre Harmonisé (CH) analysis exercise was also updated in June. More than 25 Sector partners participated in this assessment, which showed an increase of 300,000 people who are food insecure. As a result, the total number of people facing food insecurity in BAY states went up to 3 million people from 2.7 million previously projected for the same time period (June to August 2019) in the last CH analysis conducted in October 2018,” the report said.


Even though there was an increase in the production of staple foods and cash crops in the three North-East states in the review period, according to the report, FAO’s data show Nigeria has not made significant progress in the supply of food since 2016. 

In 2016, the Nigerian government estimated in its Agricultural Promotion Policy (2016 – 2020) that there were supply gaps in 13 key crops and activities.

Taking rice, a major food crop in Nigeria, for instance; out of 6.3 million tonnes of rice demand, Nigeria was able to supply only 2.3 million tonnes, less than half of what could make rice affordable in the country going by its definitions. 

Demand for wheat was 4.7 million tonnes, but Nigeria could only supply 0.06 million tonnes, while out 2.7 million tonnes of fish demanded, only 0.8 million tonnes were supplied. The trend was similar for other consumables such as yam, tomatoes, cocoa, cotton, sorghum, milk, chicken, soya beans, maize, and oil palm.

The gap between supply and demand is an indication that with Nigeria’s 2.6 percent annual population growth rate, according to USAID, the country’s ability to produce enough food to meet the needs of its rapidly growing population has come under pressure since 2016.

Since there was no significant improvement in the supply of these staple foods coupled with Nigeria’s annual population growth rate put at 2.6 percent, Nigeria fails the availability component of food security.


Using the EIU quantitative score, Nigeria recorded major improvements in access to financing for farmers between 2017 and 2018. However, the length at which this translates to affordability on the side of the consumers is best measured by their food purchasing power. This would be examined using food consumer price index data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

First, data obtained from the World Bank Group show Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita declined steadily from an all-time high of $3,222 in 2014 to $2,028 in 2018, indicating the income of an average Nigerian waned considerably in 2018 when compared with 2014. 

Also, since GDP figures from NBS show Nigeria’s economy slowed in the first three months of 2019 by 2.01 percent, lower than the estimated annual population of 2.6 percent, it is unlikely that Nigeria’s GDP per capita improved in the review period. 

GDP per capita, which also means per capita GDP or GDP per person, is a macroeconomic measure of a nation’s prosperity and provides an estimate to its standard of living by computing the economic output per person. It is calculated by dividing a country’s GDP by its population.

The principles of purchasing power would further give insight into the affordability of food items in Nigeria. According to NBS data, Nigeria’s food Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of the general change in the price of consumer food items purchased by households over a period, stood at 176.3 as at May 2015, while in July 2019, the index was 319.9.

This implies it cost an average Nigerian N1.81 in July 2019 to buy what cost N1 when President Buhari was sworn into office for his first term. That is, while the income of an average Nigerian was falling amid rising food prices, N18,147 could buy in July 2019 the same food item bought with N10,000 at the inception of this current administration. 

Similarly, foreign exchange rate data obtained from CBN show that naira lost 56.6 percent of its value from N196/$ to N306.9/$ within the period under review at the official forex market.

All these show the food purchasing power and income of Nigerians have weakened over time, thereby undermining their capacity to afford the food items as they used to.

Apparently, since all individuals or households in Nigeria cannot afford their food preferences in line with the internationally accepted definition, Nigeria fails the affordability component of food security.


Although there is no available data for the number of Nigerians suffering from malnutrition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

Also, the World Poverty Clock, a web platform designed to provide real-time poverty estimates, shows that 94 million out of 197 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty. This implies about 47.7 percent of the Nigerian population cannot afford $1.90 (N694 at N360/$) a day, reflecting the number of Nigerians at risk of deteriorating nutritional meals.

This further implies each of the extremely poor Nigerians could not afford N21,514 in a month, a far cry from N25,616 required to buy a food basket in the country which comprises 43 major food items, according to June 2019 selected food items statistics obtained from NBS. 

Since there is a paucity of data to support food utilization, about half of Nigerians are most likely to be at risk of malnutrition considering the quality of a 3-square meal 94 million extremely poor inhabitants can afford.


Based on FAO’s definitions, Nigeria cannot attain food stability since food is neither available nor accessible in the country. 


With all the available facts and definitions on food security, Nigeria has not fulfilled any of the components that make a country food secure: food availability, access, utilization and stability. Hence, the claim that Nigeria has achieved food security is INCORRECT!

This fact-check was done by a Dubawa Fact-checking Fellow in collaboration with BusinessDay, the leading medium for up-to-date news and insightful analysis of business, policy and the economy in Nigeria. To see this article and others, check out:

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