RECENTLY, the world marked 27th anniversary of the eradication of poverty, and the theme for the year is ‘Acting Together to Achieve Social and Environmental Justice for All’.
Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, observed that people living in extreme poverty, often through sheer necessity, are the first to act decisively within their communities in response to poverty, climate change and environmental challenges.
Stressing further, the UN, agreed that poor people’s effort and experience often go unnoticed and unappreciated, their ability to contribute positively to solutions has been over-looked, they are not recognised as drivers of change and their voices are not heard, especially international bodies”.
According to reports, Nigeria is currently known as the poverty capital of the world, exceeding India with the largest rate of people living in extreme poverty, which about 86.9 million people in Nigeria live in severe poverty, and this is about 50 per cent of its entire population.
Some Nigerians spoke about menace of extreme poverty in the country which led to kidnaping, armed robbery, terrorism, Yahoo business, ritualists, baby factory business, cultism, assassination and lots of other crimes in the society.
Other Nigerians noted that poverty in the country led to unemployment, suicide, frustration, the ongoing EndSARS and EndSWAT Protest that put the economy and the nation into more problems. The people concluded by telling the world the kind of leadership they want saying, “what we need now is the kind of leadership that can lead Nigeria into a new phase of commitment to a nation that works”.
Contributing on eradication of Poverty in Nigeria, an octogenarian, founder, ‘The 3 Meals a Day Programme’, Emma Ezemakam, said, “poverty is the inability of one to earn an income that can support one’s basic or minimum needs like food, shelter, water, health care, clothing. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on $1.90 or less per day, that is about N750.00.”
Stressing further, Ezemakam said, “In June 2018, the World Bank classified Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world taking over from India. According to recent statistics from Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), about 100 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty. This position is very astonishing because India has a population that is seven times that of Nigeria, about 1.3 billion people.
According to Ezemakam, “several factors have brought about the increasing rate of poverty in our country. These factors can be categorised under political, social, economic, environmental, technological, insecurity. The government have not shown much political will to end hunger and poverty. There is no population control. People still marry as many wives as they like and have many children as they can without providing for such children.
It could be recalled that in the 1960s, China was a poverty-stricken nation but enforced population control and encouraged small medium scale industries which formed the basis of its industrial revolution. Today, China is one of the richest nations of the world.
In Nigeria, 60 per cent of the Federal Budget is on personnel costs while only 21 per cent goes to capital expenses like infrastructure, power and electricity, transportation, agriculture, and a whooping 19 per cent goes to dept servicing.”
Lamenting over the poverty rate in Nigeria, Ezemakam said, “there are too many political appointees. Salaries and allowances of members of National Assembly are “outrageous” and should be reduced so that the excesses will be invested in agriculture or infrastructural development. Some of our leaders are selfish, while they are living in affluence, the rest of us are wallowing in poverty.
Ezemakam lamented that “federal government is borrowing too much from foreign countries regardless of the fact that income from oil export is dwindling. The future of our younger generation is thus being mortgaged. Many of our leaders do transfer their ill-gotten wealth outside the country, instead of keeping it in the country, support agriculture, industrialisation and reduce unemployment. The rate of inflation has gone up to 12.8 per cent, thereby reducing the purchasing power of the poor and making the poor poorer.”
Stressing further, Ezemakam said “food prices have also gone up as a result of the activities of the Boko Haram, the Fulani herdsmen, the bandits and kidnappers who kill, maim, rape and force people to flee from their homes and farmlands thereby, reducing food production.
To reduce extreme poverty and get people out of the poverty line, Ezemakam said “federal government should diversify the economy and reduce the almost total dependence on oil as the only export product. It should encourage and get involved in the exploitation of solid minerals which are abundant in the country, such as gypsm, gold, tin ore, kaolin, iron-ore, lead/zinc amongst others.
Still on the eradication of poverty, the octogenarian suggests that there should be steady power. ‘Establishment of skill acquisition and training centres will lead to rapid industrialisation. Federal government should take serious actions to check the growing menace of the Fulani herdsmen which has led to fall in food production, rising cost of food prices and makes the peasant farmer to be poorer.
“In addition, the uncontrolled inflow of herdsmen from outside the country is bound to aggravate poverty problem. The country should move from peasant subsistence farming to large scale agriculture. Governments should increase investment in agriculture by providing machinery, land, inputs, fertilizer and fund, poverty must reduce if farming should be made attractive. Dried season farming should be encouraged especially in the south where it hardly exists through the use of irrigation system.
Rural roads and bridges should be built to facilitate the movement of farm produce to the markets.
Ezemakam called on the three tiers of government to embark on the epicentre strategy, a model that has been introduced by the ‘Hunger Project’ in some countries in Africa to move people from abject poverty to self-reliance within five years.
Epicentre is bringing about 10,000 people together to meet their basic needs. The following programmes are built into the strategy, education, health, food security, income generation, microfinance, water and sanitation, women empowerment. It was successful in Ghana, Malawi, Ethiopia, Benin Republic, it can be replicated in Nigeria.”
Nigeria has never fallen short of attempts at eradicating poverty. Previous government devised several schemes to alleviate poverty but almost all the attempts fell short of expectations.
It could be recalled that the Obasanjo led government announced a N10 billion poverty alleviation programme (PAP) some time in May, 2000, which has been criticised as being used for party patronage and avenue for waste of public funds.
In many states of the federation, it was reported that PAP was abused because of the relations of the party members were being paid N3, 500 without doing any job and the actual poor needy people were denied of the benefit.
The programme was immediately faced with several implementation problems. Top on the list was corruption on the part of the officials charged with the responsibility of the scheme.
Before PAP, the establishment of National Directorate of Employment (NDE), by General Babangida in 1986, meant to promote skill acquisition and self-employment. But the project failed to achieve the set objectives due to inadequate funding and corruption on the part of the officials.
Other programmes like, the People Bank of Nigeria (PBN), Nigeria Agricultural and Co-operative Bank (NACB), Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP), National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA), were all rationalised by the government to form the National Poverty Eradication Commission (NPEC).
In Nigeria, poverty can be more attributed to reckless management of the economy, misappropriation of public fund, embezzlement by top government officials, political instability, poor implementation of plans, technological backwardness, foreign trade orientation, corruption amongst others.
In spite of abundant wealth and resources, hunger and malnutrition is clearly manifested. Presently, there are frequent premature deaths, stress, family unrest, all attributable to the prevalent vicious circle of poverty.