TOPE Fasua, founder and 2019 presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), has reacted to a fact-check published by The ICIR, referring to it as “nasty reporting” and “nonsense”, and asking that the report be rewritten.
At the first presidential debate held on Tuesday by the Centre for Democracy and Development, with the focus centred on security, Fasua had complained that budgetary expenditures on education, health and agriculture are inadequate.
“So as we are speaking about security,” he added, “remember what is called food security. We have food poverty in Nigeria. 90 million people are food poor in this country, in a country of abundance; and that is why we came with Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party.”
In the fact-check published on Thursday, The ICIR noted that this claim is “grossly exaggerated and contradicts figures from reliable sources”. This is because, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as of 2016, 13 million Nigerians suffered from hunger.
Likewise, the 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World prepared by the same agency of the United Nations states that the prevalence of undernourishment (the traditional FAO indicator used to monitor hunger at the global and regional level) in Nigeria is 11.5 per cent (21.5 million people) and the prevalence of severe food insecurity is 24.8 per cent (46.1 million people).
The ANRP presidential candidate, however, expressed his displeasure with the report on the centre’s Facebook page, and argued that his statistics is correct.
“What kind of nasty reporting are you guys doing at ICIR?” Fasua asked. “If you want to play James Bond, better get your fact right.”
“According to worldpoverty.io, we have 89m people EXTREMELY POOR. What is extremely poor if not food poor? Dudes, get your act right if you want to go to town rubbishing people. I will take this up with the man I met who I believes [sic.] heads ICIR. Already I want you to rewrite the nonsense written about what I said here. Thanks.”
But is food poverty equal to extreme poverty?
In backing up his claim about food poverty, the presidential hopeful, who is a graduate of Economics and the CEO of Global Analytics Consulting Ltd, presented a figure about extreme poverty and suggested it is the same as food poverty. But is there any truth to this assumption?
On one hand, the UN declaration at World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen in 1995 (p. 38) defines absolute poverty (or extreme, abject poverty) as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services.”
Former World Bank president Robert McNamara similarly described extreme poverty as “a condition so limited by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency.”
The World Bank Group and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have today placed a monetary benchmark on extreme poverty, one which is said to be more suitable to third world countries. According to this definition, extremely poor persons are those who “live on less than $1.90 per day”.
On the other hand, food poverty, also called household food insecurity, according to UNICEF, “is the inability to afford, or to have access to, food to make up a healthy diet. It is about the quality of food as well as quantity.” In other words, indices on food poverty are not about income (alone) or quality of health or access to education, but access to adequate and balanced diet.
A 2017 report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), a leading independent consultancy in the United Kingdom, defines “households that have to spend more than 10% of their income on food as being in food poverty.” Buttressing the point that food poverty is not just about how many dollars is earned by a part of the population, this report also concludes that while UK households are spending more on food now compared to five years ago, they are “eating much less”.
Elizabeth Dowler, Emeritus Professor of Food and Social Policy at the University of Warwick, goes further to define food poverty as “the inability to consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.”
It is thus evident that extreme poverty is not the same as food poverty, as it encompasses a wide range of factors including food insecurity and malnutrition. This is corroborated by the Manchester Poverty Action Food Poverty Report which says that food poverty “has to be seen as one aspect of general poverty levels”.
Further reinforcing the point is a 2009 study published by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, which distinguished the concept of “absolute poverty line” from “food poverty line”.
“By definition, the (absolute) poverty line is the income needed to satisfy the minimum basic needs of food and non-food,” it states. “The food component of the poverty line, referred to as the food poverty line (FPL), is augmented by an allowance for non-food needs to yield the (total) poverty line.”
It adds: “The FPL may be thought of as the amount needed for food to sustain normal physical activity and good health, while the non-food component of the poverty line consists of the cost of essential non-food requirements such as clothing, shelter, primary schooling, basic health care, and the like.”
The connection between “hunger” and “food insecurity” is drawn by the World Hunger Education Service (WHES), which said the former is related to both food insecurity and malnutrition, adding that “the focus for global hunger is undernutrition”.
Discrepancy in figures, nonetheless
Under the assumption that Fasua implied food poverty and extreme poverty are one and the same, his figures, The ICIR observes, are still inaccurate.
While at the presidential debate he said 90 million Nigerians are “food poor”, in his later comment on the social media, he reduced this figure to 89 million. However, the figure provided by the authority cited by the presidential candidate, the World Poverty Clock, is: 88, 315,793.
In essence, there is a difference of 1.7 million Nigerians between the figure cited by Fasua and the one cited by the authority he referenced in his Facebook post — still justifying The ICIR‘s original verdict that the statistics quoted by the ANRP flagbearer is exaggerated, and contradicts figures from reliable sources.