Nigerian Food Scientists have linked increasing crime rate and insecurity of lives and property in Nigeria to hidden hunger and prevailing poor nutritional habit among Nigerians.
The scientists, who expressed worry over under nutrition index across all the age groups in the country, posited that extreme hunger and consumption of foods with insignificant nutritional value otherwise called hidden hunger can hinder human brain development, leading to psychological deficiencies and irrational behaviour especially among youths who constitute significant segment of the national population.
The assertions were part of mind-boggling nutrition and food security issues of national interest discussed by the participants at the 40th Annual Conference and General Meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) held in Abuja with the theme: “Innovation and Upgrade for Food Value Chain Competitiveness in Nigeria.”
The conference was declared opened by the Executive Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who said Nigeria is endowed with fertile soils that support crop farming including rice which the Government has massively invested in to ensure food security.
The Governor, who was represented by his Deputy, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, added that Nigeria is ready to partner with NIFST in the areas of food processing and safety, packaging and storage that could ensure economic prosperity of the country. The Governor further informed the participants that Kano state has fully sponsored the conference in order to establish lasting mutual relationship with the institute.
In his speech, the Chairman Board of Trustees of the NIFST and a Former Governor of Adamawa State, Real Admiral (rtd.) Murtala Nyako, attributed myriad security challenges facing the nation to inadequate food intake and balance diet among the citizens, adding that lack of proper nutrition for the brain that coordinates sense of reasoning may be the major reason why some Nigerians unconsciously engage in criminal activities especially killing of innocent lives and destruction of property.
Admiral Nyako, further called on Nigerians to actively engage in agricultural practices, saying that the current economic vicious circle “we have found ourselves wouldn’t have arisen if the country has heeded advice of experts on economic diversification to agriculture and solid minerals exploration as alternative sources of the national income aside crude oil.” He further advised the food technologists and scientists to be steadfast in their profession and ensure that inadequate raw material challenges facing the food and beverage manufacturing industry are resolved so that many food processing companies that have closed down may come alive again.
The conference keynote speaker and an expert in food product development, Professor Leslie Nsofor emphasised on the urgent need for Nigerian food processing professionals to add nutritional and packaging value to the locally consumed foods such as Ogi, Gari, Fura, cake beans among others in order to create competition and alternatives for imported foods and beverages flooding food market of the country.
Professor Nsofor advised Nigerians to “let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food.”
While making her paper presentation, Director-General and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), Dr. (Mrs.) Gloria Elemo, said the Institute has conducted research virtually on all the available raw materials in Nigeria – both agro-based and mineral excluding oil and gas. She added that “FIIRO has developed over 250 R & D technologies and have completely packaged 100 of them ready for immediate commercialization. The food and beverage, pulp and paper, textile, cement, paint, soap & cosmetics and engineering industry to mention a few, have benefitted immensely from the Institute’s R&D results.
“The Institute has trained over 500,000 techno-entrepreneurs on its various developed technologies. Numerous entrepreneurs have established production enterprises based on the technologies acquired from the Institute. Millions of jobs have been created through direct and multiplier effects of these entrepreneurs.”
A scientist at FIIRO, Dr. Oluwatoyin Oluwole said, “Undernutrition impairs cognitive and Physical development leading to poor education attainments and poor earnings in adulthood and can easily influence temptations and crimes among the people especially youths.” She added that global Index Hunger score of Nigeria is 32.8. This places us in the serious hunger range.
Oluwole, who sees the national security challenge as multifaceted, said that poverty, poor health and malnutrition are inter-linked, adding that “diseases hinder the uptake and absorption of scarce nutrients, thereby aggravating hunger and micronutrient malnutrition problems – this will further lead to low productivity and earnings for the victims”.
Key speakers at the conference unanimously cautioned the arms of government on current food crisis, saying it is imperative that Nigeria looks inward as a nation to ensure sustainable nutrition security through increased domestic agricultural production, including improving processing techniques and development of relevant technologies and machineries. The recent national nutrition survey conducted by the Nation Population Commission (NPC) shows that in Kano state, 48.3%, of children below 5 years are stunted, 40% are wasted, while 58% are underweight, making the highest in the North-West sub-region.
The conference also featured election of a distinguished biochemist, Dr. Dahiru Jidda Maulud Adamu as new National President of NIFST, taking over the mantle of leadership from Dr. Chijioke Osuji whose tenure expired this year. Adamu, who holds Ph.D. in Food Biochemistry from University of Leeds in 1986, is the first person from Northern Nigeria to hold position of the Institute’s national president since establishment in 1976, forty years ago.
Dr. Adamu, an indigene of Jalingo, Taraba State, holds B.Sc. Biochemistry from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1979 and M.Sc. Food Science and Microbiology from University Strathclyde in 1981. He is a former lecturer at University of Maiduguri and a scientist at Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria. Adamu is the current Head of Department (HOD), Department of Food Science, Bayero University, Kano.