March 30, 2023

HoR Promise on ‘Right to Food’ Bill Passage Compromised by Rejection of the Clause in Constitutional Amendment

Promise: Passage of the Right to Food Bill (introduced in the House in the 8th Assembly) to create a regime of food security

Abiola Durodola
Last Updated
March 30, 2023
min read

In March 2022 during a joint plenary session of the House of Representatives and Senate to vote on constitutional amendment, the legislators in the lower chamber of the National Assembly supported the passage of the ‘Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999” to require the Government to direct its policy towards ensuring right to food and security in Nigeria, and for related matters. The bill was among the other 68 amendments voted to 1999 constitution by the National Assembly. 

Globally, the right to food has been recognized as part of the right to an adequate standard of living especially in international law. The idea of ‘right to food’ as a human right was first laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), article 25, and in treaties such as the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 27. With a score of 27.3 in the Global Hunger Index, Nigeria is one of the countries with acute hunger and serious food crisis, hence, the importance of the passage and implementation of this bill.

Promise: Passage of the Right to Food Bill (introduced in the House in the 8th Assembly) to create a regime of food security

Stalled in the 8th Assembly, the bill was listed as a priority by the legislators in its revised Legislative Agenda document. However, the before it was passed, there were reports that Senate and House of Representatives committees who were reviewing the constitution during that period “rejected the clause on the ‘right to food’ based on the premise that passing the Bill with the clause on the ‘right to food’ as proposed could put more financial burden on the government.” In the final document released, the doc revealed that Section 16 of the Principal Act was altered “in sub-section 2(d), by substituting the words “right to food and food security” with the words “suitable and adequate food”. This was in stark contrast of the original bill sponsored by Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu in the senate which prioritized the ‘Right of every child to basic nutrition and obligation relating to freedom from hunger” in its Part II.

Mariann Orovwuje, the Coordinator, Food Sovereignty Programme at Friends of the Earth Nigeria/Africa had noted that right to food is anchored on human rights and is recognised in many international treaties and conventions, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UN Resolution23 on Food Security 1998 and the African Charter on Human Right 1986.

When the news about the deletion of the clause which hugely focused on the ‘Right to Food’ was broken by various news outlets, civil society organizations and human right groups protested the decision which many said posed great danger to the fundamental human rights of many citizens of the country, particularly households faced with acute food shortage. According to Joyce Brown- Programme Manager and Project Lead on Hunger Politics at Health of Mother Earth Foundation’s (HOMEF), for the nation to address the problem of hunger, having the ‘right to food’ enshrined in the constitution is an expedient first step.

Despite the passage of this bill, the rejection of the clause on ‘right to food’ in which the Gbajabiamila-led House of Representatives based its pledge on means it’s been compromised. We therefore rate this Promise Compromise.