Why Right To Food Must Be Enshrined In Constitution, HOMEF Tells NASS

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Nnimmo Bassey

Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has called on the National Assembly’s Committee on Constitution Review to reinstate a clause on the ‘right to food’ which was reportedly deleted in the Constitution’s amendment Bill.

According to a statement released by HOMEF, the amendment Bill which has been pending before the two chambers of the National Assembly seeks to introduce the words ‘right to food and ‘food security’ in two chapters: chapter two and chapter four with the aim to “address the failure of agricultural policies to ensure food security in Nigeria; given the philosophical context that there can be no food security without the right to food.”

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The Senate and House of Representatives Committee who are currently reviewing the 1999 constitution were said to have rejected the clause on the ‘right to food’ based on the premise that passing the Bill with the clause on the ‘right to food’ as proposed could put more financial burden on the government. The clause was also rejected on the ground that it “could be misinterpreted by citizens and might lead to damaging consequences.”

Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey expressed disappointment at this move, noting that the right to adequate food is a long standing fundamental human right, universally accepted for years and thus should not be cherry-picked by legislators. Bassey added that “to remove the clause from the Bill is to reinforce the lack of regard for the people and keep an open door for the purveyors of risky technologies such as genetic modification and gene editing in agriculture as well policies designed against the small holder farmers who are the pillar of Agriculture in the country.”

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According to Mariann Orovwuje, Coordinator, Food Sovereignty Programme at Friends of the Earth Nigeria/Africa, a recognition of the right to food in the constitution will ensure accountability, transparency, better governance and policies to provide a thriving environment for optimum food productivity.

Also, Orovwuje stressed that the right to food is anchored on human rights and is recognized in many international treaties and conventions including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UN Resolution23 on Food Security 1998 and the African Charter on Human Right 1986.

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Nigeria is signatory to these instruments and thus needs to strengthen the legal framework for the realization of the right to food in the country including by strengthening people’s access to and use of resources and informing the public about their human rights; strengthening their ability to participate in development processes and decision making.

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HOMEF’s Programme Manager and Project Lead on Hunger Politics, Joyce Brown, noted that for the nation to address the problem of hunger, having the ‘right to food’ enshrined in the constitution is an expedient first step. “It will engender policy coherence and effectiveness such that the actual needs of the people are addressed from a fundamental rights approach.”

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HOMEF, an ecological think tank added that “the ‘right to food’ is a key component of food sovereignty which beyond food security sees to the right of food producers at every level along the food chain to be in control of what they produce and how. Food sovereignty not only ensures access to food but makes sure that the food is healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate; that the food is produced with ecologically sound means. This is the future of food and farming. It is the direction we must go.”

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The group stressed that the right to adequate and safe food is a fundamental human rights, adding that lawmakers should not legislate against this right in the constitution amendment process. “To do otherwise sends the signal
that the lawmakers wish to set Nigerians on the pathway of starvation and neglect.” HOMEF said.

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