By Chukwudi Nweje The Nigerian Third Force Movement has rolled out its action plan for the 2019 general elections. Prominent members of the group include former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Charles Soludo, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, Tafawa Balewa, and Prof. Pat Utomi….
IN Nigeria, the number of people living in extreme poverty, that is living on “less than $1.90 per day” poverty ballooned from the number in 1990 to 2013. According to The 2017 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals: A new Visual Guide to Data and Development, The population of Nigeria living in extreme poverty skyrocketed from “51 million in 1990 to 86 million in 2013.”
Similarly, in an article written in the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief by Yomi Kazeem on April 21, 2017 titled, Some of the World’s Biggest countries have managed to reduce Extreme Poverty—Except Nigeria… It further said, “Despite its vast oil riches and impressive economic growth, Nigeria has struggled to lift its people out of poverty over the past three decades.”
Thus, Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is a country full of astonishing contrasts in the midst of its enormous natural and human resources. Besides oil and natural gas, the country is “richly endowed with a variety of solid minerals of various categories ranging from precious metals to various stones and also industrial minerals such as barytes, gypsum, kaolin and marble,” unlike other countries.
Nigeria is equally endowed with tin, columbite, iron ore, coal, limestone, lead, zinc, palm oil, peanuts, cotton, rubber, wood, hides and skins, and materials for textile and cement. Without a doubt, Nigeria is truly endowed with abundant natural and human resources.
Yet poverty ravages the country. According to International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Nigeria is one of the 20 poorest countries in the world. “Over 70 per cent of the population is classified as poor, with 35 per cent living in absolute poverty.” The number seemed to be winching!
Unfortunately, the poverty has been a perennial issue in Nigeria. In 2006, the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo acknowledged staid nature of poverty in our country when he defined it in his speech at the 2006 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP) occasion in Abuja as: lack of healthcare, lack of shelter, lack of education, lack of capital, lack of control over natural resources, lack of public safety, hunger.
He added in his definition the following: no political representation, no freedom, poor environmental conditions, civil conflict, corruption, violence and insecurity, no asset, no job, no money, unclean water, poor sanitation, powerlessness. Obasanjo has been committed and working assiduously to relieving the masses of economic hardship. Without a scruple, the government has tried to tackle the issue of poverty in various ways.
In a somber acknowledgement of the ravaging presence and effects of poverty in Nigeria, these and other headlines abound: ‘UNICEF Condemns Poor Welfare of Nigerian Children’, published in THISDAY on December 26, 2006; ‘UN asks Nigeria to tackle urban poverty’, published in Guardian on December 12, 2006; ‘Nnamani pledges to execute UN goals for health sector’, published in Guardian on October27, 2006; ‘Udenwa bemoans poverty in Nigeria’, published in Vanguard on November 29, 2006; ‘Nigeria: The Poverty Trap’, published in Daily Champion on December 4, 2006; ‘Of Democracy, Poverty And Hunger’, published in Daily Independent on December 11, 2006; ‘AC’ll wipe out poverty’, published in Punch on December 11, 2006; and much more.
In a statement of Lennart Båge, President of IFAD, at Launching of the Nigeria Rural Development Strategy in Abuja on December 11, 2001, he said of President Obasanjo, “Since your election as President of Nigeria, your Government has taken bold steps to strengthen your country’s economy, social development and political stability. Your own personal involvement with development issues, your commitment to democracy and your emphasis on strengthening governance provide a new dynamic to Nigeria’s future, and remind us of the great role that Nigeria could play in leading a renaissance in Africa. The central part you have played in the formulation of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) underlines the importance not only of your country, but the hopes that rest on you personally.”
Grim reality reveals that despite the government’s well-intended poverty eradication programs under National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) and State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS) and other agencies, a large majority of people continue to live in abject squalor while a handful seem to revel and inebriated in wealth. The phenomenon leaves one to conclude that the contraption for poverty alleviation needs immediate retooling.
Indeed, poverty in Nigeria has been an intractable problem in which its effects on the faces of the people could be ineffable. It would be lugubrious for the politicians to politicize a baleful and perennial issue like poverty. Poverty has human faces written all over it. It’s rather callous to pervert the gravity of poverty in Nigeria by politicizing it.
While it appears that 90% of the wealth of the country is controlled by 5% of the population, mostly politicians, who bathe in and profligate wealth the vast majority of the masses seethe in poverty. Most of the improvident wealth is not reinvested in the Nigerian economy thereby making matters worse. As a result, one of the factors the government needs to address in fighting against poverty is the inequality in the distribution of wealth.
Nevertheless, the presence of abundant natural and human resources in Nigeria is not in question. Also, not in question is the knowledge of the ravaging effects of poverty in the country. What’s in question, however, is if the policymakers realize that the programs designed to reduce poverty have little or no effects on the poor. A more productive result could be achieved if synergistic approach was adopted. To make a dent on poverty, local, state, and federal agencies should work in tandem to address all poverty-related issues.
In fact, it requires synergy and not disjointed contraption to genuinely wage war on poverty.