Republican congressman Chris Smith, representing New Jersey’s 4th congressional district has raised the spectre of famine in Nigeria caused by the well-known Boko Haram conflict and the less-publicised violence by Fulani herdsmen.
Speaking on Thursday during a House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hearing on “Africa’s current and potential famines”, Smith started by waxing biblical: “The bible in the Book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, Verse 2, tells us that: ‘There is a time to plant and a time to harvest’. That ancient prescription has allowed multitudes to be fed over the millennia, but now ruthless men seeking power have disrupted this cycle, causing man-made famine where none should exist in African countries from South Sudan to Nigeria to Somalia”.
Smith, who has been in Congress since 1982, went on to state: “Nigeria is yet another country close to experiencing famine due to conflict. There are 14 million people in northeast Nigeria who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 8 million children, and almost 6 million people are also facing severe food insecurity. Almost 9 million Nigerians are projected to suffer from food insecurity by August 2017, including more than 3 million people living in the northeast state of Borno.
“We focus on the part Boko Haram has played in creating chaos and near famine in Nigeria, and quite rightly so. More than 30,000 lives have been lost in violence related to Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency, but there is a developing threat that could widen the likelihood of food insecurity there. Attacks by Fulani extremists on farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt [north-central region] are increasing in intensity and could further exacerbate hunger in the region”.
According to a report by SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based consultancy firm, violence from Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt accounted for more deaths than Boko Haram last year.
Smith is a Senior Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is a former human rights lawyer.