Laolu Akande, Abuja: This was established by the Federal Executive Council in May 2007, following the convening of the first Presidential Stakeholders’ Forum on the Child Nutrition Situation in Nigeria, on 22nd February 2007 – is the highest decision-making body on food and nutrition in Nigeria, and is expected to spearhead and oversee our interventions in addressing Nigeria’s nutritional challenges.
The Council has a robust roadmap to work with – the National Food and Nutrition Policy, adopted in April 2016 by a broad coalition of stakeholders, comprising the Federal and State Governments, civil society and international development partners.
The emergence of that Policy is further demonstration of the seriousness with which the Buhari administration takes the issue of improving the nutritional status of all Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable in our midst: infants and children, pregnant women, the elderly, the poor.
That policy, if fully implemented, will ensure significant improvements in several specific national indices, including the reduction of stunting in under-5 children, reduction of wasting in children, reduction of anaemia in pregnant women, reduction in adult obesity rates, and an increase in the rates of exclusive breastfeeding.
More than any other government in Nigeria’s history, this administration has demonstrated its seriousness about catering to the needs of the most vulnerable of our population.
One of the primary manifestations of this commitment to the vulnerable is our Social Investment Programme, comprising a School Feeding Programme for public primary schools, a Micro-credit scheme for small business people, a Conditional Cash Transfer scheme, and a Jobs programme for unemployed graduates.
The School Feeding Programme, which directly seeks to improve the nutrition of primary school children, is now active in 19 States of the country, providing one meal a day to 5million. Our target is 5.5million children before the end of the year. At the beginning of December, we intend to carry out a mass deworming exercise on the back of the School Feeding Programme.
Our Agriculture reform agenda is focusing on achieving self-sufficiency within the shortest possible time. In the Northeast, where Boko Haram’s violence disrupted the farming cycle for years, we are now seeing a remarkable improvement in security, allowing the people to return to their farms, and grow their food. In our healthcare agenda, we are revitalizing our primary health care system, with nutrition at the very heart of it, and promoting optimum breastfeeding and quality of complementary foods.
We are also collaborating with the private sector to ensure Nigerians have year round access to adequately fortified and nutritious foods, and working with both national and International partners to raise awareness and deepen understanding on this issue.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is clear that there is a strong connection between nutrition and economic growth. If we invest in improved nutrition for our people we will see the results not only in improved emotional and psychological satisfaction in our citizens, but also in reduced healthcare costs and increased economic productivity.
We must therefore ensure that we mobilize the resources needed to make these needed investments. The Federal Government has been progressively increasing budgetary allocations to nutrition activities.
But the Government cannot fund this by itself. The private sector, civil society, and international community must all play a key role in helping mobilize financial and logistical resources, and in helping ensure transparency and accountability in the deployment of these resources. Indeed, every resource must be made to count towards the attainment of our goals and ambitions. There is no room for waste.
The National Council on Nutrition has its work cut out, in implementation, collaboration, and communication. We bear the burden of very high expectations – Nigeria must make speedy and visible progress in its fight against hunger, malnutrition and other nutritional challenges. As part of this we must ensure that the new National Food and Nutrition Policy is quickly domesticated at State level in every State of the Federation and the FCT.
Let me reiterate that the work of this Council is an important one. Our success or failure will make a huge difference in how quickly Nigeria is able to achieve not only the Sustainable Development Goals, but also our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
I would also like to express our gratitude to all our partners and stakeholders, local and international, who have demonstrated again and again that they are fully with us on this journey.
In closing, let me express my congratulations to all Council members. This is a great opportunity to serve our nation and its people.
It is now my honour and privilege to formally inaugurate the National Council on Nutrition today. I wish you a successful tenure.
Thank you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.