Thought Leadership

The Legislature’s Power in Boosting Nutrition and Food Security in Nigeria

3 Mins read

Tzar Oluigbo [Lead Writer]

In May 2024, the House of Representatives Committee on Nutrition and Food Security organised a retreat with relevant stakeholders. The aim was to reach a consensus on the legislative agenda for Nutrition and Food Security in the 10th Assembly and to develop a comprehensive work plan to drive progress in these crucial areas.

The retreat titled “Galvanising Legislative Agenda for Nutrition and Food Security in Nigeria”, brought together key stakeholders in nutrition and food security, including, speakers of State Houses of Assembly, development partners, relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and civil society in Nigeria.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

Nutrition and food security are fundamental pillars of human development, yet Nigeria continues to face significant challenges with at least 25 million at risk. The legislative branch of government has the authority to create and adopt laws that prioritise nutrition and food security.

One of the legislative branch’s most important tasks is to distribute funds for government programmes and initiatives. By ensuring adequate budgetary allocation for nutrition and food security, the legislative body can provide the necessary resources required to implement interventions targeted at improving access to nutritious food, healthcare services, and social safety nets for vulnerable communities.

Conference participants across diverse sectors including Federal and State Ministries, Departments and Agencies and Developmental organisations. Photo Credit: PoshMedia

Responses to malnutrition in Nigeria so far.
Currently, nutrition and food security in Nigeria are managed by various MDAs, with no central legislation overseeing them and coordinating their initiatives. This fragmentation has had a negative impact on budgetary allocation and local resource mobilisation for programmes that address these challenges.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

However, great progress has been achieved in addressing nutrition and food security challenges, such as the National Multisectoral Plan for Food and Nutrition (NMPFAN), a five-year implementation strategy developed by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.

The plan serves as a blueprint, guiding the coordinated efforts of various sectors to improve nutrition and food security outcomes in Nigeria. This plan provides a road map for nutrition finance in the country, with the goal of preventing malnutrition and expanding access to nutrition interventions by 2025. The entire cost of implementing the nutrition interventions outlined in the blueprint exceeds N262 billion (approximately $584 million), with most of the funding allocated to state governments.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

In addition to the NMPFAN, the Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRiN) project is an important response to Nigeria’s nutrition and food security challenges. Funded by the International Development Association (IDA), ANRiN aims to increase the utilisation of high quality, cost-efficient nutrition services for pregnant and lactating women, adolescent girls, and children under the age of five.

The ANRiN project is now operational in 12 states in Nigeria (Abia, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Plateau, Oyo, Gombe, Kano, Katsina, and Niger), with the primary objective of improving the provision of nutrition services. ANRiN also enables the delivery of critical nutrition interventions such as Vitamin A and multiple micronutrient supplementation, while also promoting social and behavioural change for improved nutrition outcomes.

Promoting the legislative agenda for nutrition and food security in Nigeria
The establishment of nutrition departments at the state level to effectively tackle malnutrition and food insecurity across Nigeria is a step in the right direction. These departments will serve as centralised hubs for coordinating multi-sectoral efforts towards improving nutrition outcomes across various demographics of the population.

One of their primary functions will be to facilitate the development and implementation of comprehensive nutrition strategies and action plans that are tailored to address the specific needs and challenges of each state.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

Recognising the crucial importance of nutrition and food security in health, social, and economic development, the 10th National Assembly must also prioritise legislation that addresses the root causes of malnutrition and food insecurity, such as poverty, access to nutritious food, and healthcare services.

Mrs. Ladidi Kuluwa Bako-Aiyegbusi, Director & Head, Nutrition Department, FMoHSW, in her presentation, emphasised the need to deliberate action against micronutrient deficiency across the country based on the 2021 Micronutrient survey. Photo Credit: PoshMedia

These laws, which may include budgetary provisions, regulatory frameworks, and incentives for agricultural productivity, food safety, and dietary diversity, will create an enabling environment for sustainable solutions to Nigeria’s national security challenges.

Beyond budgetary allocation, legislative bodies must establish regulatory frameworks to safeguard the nutritional health of Nigerians. These regulations may include laws and policies governing food production, processing, and labelling, as well as measures to address food adulteration, contamination, and micronutrient deficiencies. By enacting and enforcing regulations that promote food safety, hygiene, and quality standards, the legislative branch can ensure the availability of nutritious and healthy food for all Nigerians, protecting consumers and protecting their health.

Through the institutionalisation of nutrition governance structures and mechanisms, the legislative branch can ensure sustained commitment to addressing malnutrition and food insecurity, resulting in healthier and more resilient communities across Nigeria.

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