AT FAITH LEADERS DIALOGUE: Nutrition Top Priority In Our Food Security Agenda – VP Shettima

AT FAITH LEADERS DIALOGUE: Nutrition Top Priority In Our Food Security Agenda - VP Shettima

……….Seeks faith leaders’ help in building a nourished nation.

Vice President Kashim Shettima has unveiled an ambitious plan to improve nutrition across Nigeria, with a rallying call to faith and traditional leaders to champion the effort in their communities.

Speaking at a high-level dialogue on nutrition at the Presidential Villa Tuesday, VP Shettima stressed that Nigeria’s future readiness hinges not just on food abundance but on the nourishing quality of its food supply.

The one-day dialogue with the theme, “Faith Leaders as Catalysts for Enhanced Human Capital Through Nutrition,” was organized by the National Council on Nutrition and the World Bank-assisted Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria [ANRiN] Project.

“We must proclaim to the world that our commitment to producing food of unparalleled richness is not rhetoric,” Shettima declared, noting that “this gathering is a solemn pledge to safeguard our well-being and preserve the legacy of generations yet to come.”

The Vice President appealed directly to the religious and traditional figures in attendance, calling them “prime cultural influencers” and a “gateway to a Nigeria defined by mutual understanding, peace, unity and social cohesion.”

The VP restated President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s commitment to prioritizing nutrition as part of Nigeria’s food security drive.

“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has demonstrated his commitment to prioritizing nutrition as an integral component of our quest for food sufficiency. This is our inspiration to implement quality, cost-effective nutrition services.

“From providing support to pregnant and lactating women to ensuring the well-being of adolescent girls and children under five years of age, President Tinubu’s vision has propelled us towards a future where every Nigerian has access to the nourishment they need to thrive,” he said.

The Vice President pointed to initiatives like the Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRiN) programme as vital efforts to scale up nutrition interventions nationwide.

Senator Shettima however stressed that the government cannot succeed alone, saying “We depend on the support and guidance of those who wield influence within our communities to drive this change.”

He urged faith and traditional leaders to champion proper nutrition practices in their spheres, integrating nutrition education into places of worship and cultural gatherings.

“Your influence is indispensable. We believe that, regardless of the quality of ideas we bring to the table, our efforts will fall short without your participation and endorsement.

“This is an avenue to reassure you that we are committed to more than just talk; we will take tangible action by reaching out to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, including pregnant women, children, and the elderly,” the Vice President told them.

VP Shettima thanked federal ministries and partners like the World Bank for supporting the nutrition drive in Nigeria, adding that “together, let us stand as beacons of hope, leading the charge towards a healthier and more prosperous tomorrow for all.”

Earlier, the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Senator Atiku Bagudu, said malnutrition and related challenges have over the years negatively impacted human capital development, requiring accelerated interventions.

He said the efforts and interventions of the National Economic Council chaired by the Vice President and the engagement with faith-based leaders, among other initiatives, are testimonies that Nigeria has the institutional mechanism to combat hunger and malnutrition with its associated challenges.

On his part, Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate, said the engagement with faith-based leaders was not just a dialogue but a clarion call for action to address one of society’s most disturbing challenges.

Prof. Pate called on religious and traditional leaders in the country to leverage their network and influence in society to support the government in combating hunger and malnutrition, describing faith-based leaders as the backbone of their communities, hence their importance in improving the nutritional outcomes in their various domains.

In their separate remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Most Rev. Daniel Okoh, pledged the commitment of their communities and congregations to the efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition in the country, stating that their presence at the event underscored their loyalty to the campaign.

While advocating attitudinal change by communities and individuals, the faith leaders assured that campaign messages for improving nutritional outcomes in families and communities will be integrated into messages in the different places of worship, all in the bid to accelerate the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

In a goodwill message on behalf of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, the 14th Emir of Kano and Chair of the Council, His Highness, Khalifa Muhammad Sanusi II, highlighted some of the negative indices of malnutrition and its related issues across the country, advocating a change in attitude and strategies by all stakeholders.

He said providing for the nutritional needs of children and pregnant women has religious implications and must be viewed as a right owed to the child and his or her mother.

Other speakers at the occasion included the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris; out-going World Bank Country Director, Mr Shubham Chaudhri; Managing Director of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, Zouera Youssoufou, and the Chief Imam of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Prof. Mansur Yelwa, among others.

High point of the occasion was the launch of two manuals – the Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRiN) Sermon Guides and Faith Perspectives on Nutrition – by the Vice President.

Stanley Nkwocha
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Communications
(Office of The Vice President)