Union fumes as National Assembly declines‘right to food’ clause in constitution amendment bill – Nexus News

The National Assembly’s Committees on the review of the 1999 Constitution has declined the moves to make food security a fundamental right of citizens. The Bill, which has been awaiting confirmation before the two chambers, created uproar among stakeholders in the agricultural community, when news was spread that its main objective was weakened by the deletion of the clause ‘right to food’.

Information gathered revealed that both Senate and House of Representatives committees in charge of reviewing the constitution believed that passing the bill, as suggested, could put more financial burden on the government.

A member of the Committee on Constitution Review chaired by the Deputy President of the Senate, Omo-Agege, stated that including that clause in the constitution could be misunderstood by citizens and might lead to damaging consequences. 

A union of civil society and non- governmental organizations on the agriculture sector, displayed displeasure on the development and emphasized that “the Bill neither calls on the government to produce food for people free of charge, nor place any financial burden on the government by any means.” 

Operating under the auspices of Voices for Food Security (VFS) and Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum (NZHF), the union bewailed that “the Constitution Review Committees had dropped the operative words ‘Right to Food’ in both Chapters Two and Four, thereby posing a double jeopardy for the Bill and defeating the original purpose of the Bill.

“ The coalition led by VFS’ Chairman, Prof. Gbolagade Babalola Ayoola, alerted that the Bill’s objective was being weakened by attempts to remove the words: “Right to Food” as originally spelt out in the bill.

Ayoola noted that: “It was introduced to the National Assembly as a policy responsibility and accountability Bill, seeking amendments of the Constitution to introduce the words Right to Food and Food Security in two chapters: Chapter Two and Chapter Four.

Omo Agege

He stated that the aim of the Bill is “to address the successive 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. 

“Thus, the Bill is geared towards a policy and practice change, from the traditional notion of food as a mere human need to the contemporary notion of food as a basic human right.”

Ayoola said “food security is an end in itself but right to food is the means to reach that end.” 

“Hence, as contained in the title of the Bill, the purpose is “to make provision for Right to Food and Food Security”, both together, in Chapter 2 (where it is not justiciable) and Chapter 4 (where it is justiciable)” .

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According to him, “the Right to Food flows directly from the Charter of the United Nations and runs through the various conventions and protocols, all that Nigeria is a signatory to.”

Ayoola pointed out more statutes of the United Nations for upholding the concept of food as a right .They include the following:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 

Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition (1974) 

Declaration on the Rights of Disabled persons (1975) 

General Comment on the Right to Life (1982) 

Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) 

Voluntary Guidelines to support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security

The Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development (1995) 

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