The holiday season is generally a time of merriment and laughter with family and friends expecting to gather around tables of food and drinks.
For many of our brothers and sisters in Enugu State, this is not the reality. From my trips around the State and the requests I have received online and offline, it is apparent that the majority of people are barely making it through the season. The Nigerian Poverty Map by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reports that 63.1% of our people live in abject poverty. This is heartbreaking. As always, I encourage us to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers at all times, especially now. However, no matter how much we do as private citizens, it cannot cover what can be achieved through the rightful deployment of the resources of the government, which belongs to the people. This is why I am running to become the governor because I understand in clear terms that public resources are meant to improve the lives of our people, and not for a few private pockets.
Reflecting on the economic situation and its impact on the season has further highlighted the need for a multi-sectoral food security strategy with coordinated actions across various sectors from security to agriculture, education, health and nutrition, infrastructure, and social services.
These areas are core to my plan for reigniting the coal city, with clearly articulated steps to implement them. While working to entrench these structural and sustainable changes to improve the State’s Per Capita Income, I also see the need to provide respite for residents in the most underserved communities.
To that end, we will set up an Enugu Strategic Food Reserve (ESFR) for Enugu State when elected into the office of the governor in 2023, God-willing. The primary aim of this initiative is to provide succour to low-income earners and vulnerable communities with one centre in each senatorial zone.
With our goal being to ensure that nobody goes hungry, we will have a robust data-driven plan to place families on a food distribution program for specific durations. However, the Enugu Strategic Food Reserve (ESFR) will not be a purely charitable venture. It will be designed as a social enterprise to serve more than one purpose.
Through the ESFR, we will provide a ready market for thousands of farmers as we purchase and store farm produce from them. It will also serve as a needed storage facility to salvage a portion of the estimated 40% of agricultural produce lost to the unavailability of good storage facilities. Working with the Agricultural innovation Centers that we set up across the six Agricultural zones & Leveraging agricultural co-operatives, we will ensure profitability to our farmers for their improved farm yields.
During the rainy and festive seasons that are notorious for price hikes, we will use the ESFR to moderate food prices by strategically releasing stored grains and other key food items into the market and selling them at affordable rates to indigent communities. This will be done bearing in mind the need for profitability for traders as well.
The creation of a food reserve that is safe and has the capacity to serve our goals will require the involvement of experts, good management and sizeable funding. But with clarity of purpose, transparency, the right stakeholder engagement and the right contractors, it is achievable.
We will begin the process by working with local leaders within selected communities and engaging our Research and Development Institutes, leveraging the academic advantage we have as a State.
Overall, we aim to pursue a holistic economic strategy to significantly improve the quality of life of residents and will always look for innovative ways to achieve this goal, either in the short term or for the long haul.