Here's an examination of the current gloomy poverty scenario in Nigeria, with focus on the government’s alleviation programme against the global call for eradication.
Someone once insisted that poverty, in whatever form, can never be alleviated in Nigeria, much less eradicated.
Shoving the first global Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on poverty aside, the fellow declared that as long as corruption thrives in the country, where billionaires take delight in keeping a retinue of poverty-stricken personnel at their beck and call, then poverty will be a constant factor.
He asserted that as long as insincere leaders get into power through whatever means, and as long as the people remain docile in the face of official looting, then poverty cannot be alleviated; a factor which the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) may beg to differ to.
MDG on Poverty Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger Target 1A: Halve the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day Target 1B: Achieve Decent Employment for Women, Men, and Young People Target 1C: Halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
NAPEP versus Poverty
NAPEP, headed by Malam Mukhtar Tafawa-Balewa, has expressed commitment to implement poverty eradication programmes in 2013.
The agency in a statement in Abuja, quoted Tafawa-Balewa, the coordinator, as saying that NAPEP was established in 2001 to improve the skills of the less privileged in the society, which is the basis for eradicating poverty in various communities.
He said NAPEP was established to coordinate the activities of all poverty eradicating agencies in the country, adding that the organisation had remained focused in executing the task. "The programmes are Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (CCT), tricycles, 'Keke' NAPEP Initiative and others, initiated to alleviate poverty and provide stipends to the poor," it said. The coordinator added that the programmes had helped to sharpen the knowledge of participants and provide techniques to improve their performance for effective poverty eradication in 2013. The statement noted that NAPEP had collaborated with state and local government stakeholders to ensure uniformity in the implementation of its programmes, and that the collaboration would enable the agency coordinate the activities of all poverty eradicating agencies in the country. It added that government was striving to tackle poverty and create wealth as part of the President’s transformation agenda.
Speaking on the poverty situation in Nigeria, the Executive Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, highlighted poverty and inequalities as major challenges to achieving the MDGs in Nigeria, on or before 2015.
Ibrahim, popularly known as Jibo, who expressed concern about the country’s plan on the realisation of the MDGs, said "Nigeria has sustained a growth rate of over 5% since 1999 but the rate of poverty has grown over the period from 54% to 69% of the population. The gap between the rich and the poor has been widening and the number of the poor growing.
"Our development agenda must therefore address both the growing incidence of poverty and the significant spatial differentiation in its distribution. Governments and stakeholders in the North must declare a state of economic emergency and allocate significantly more resources to the combat against poverty in their zones," he added.
Recent statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that there is significant spatial differentiation in Nigeria’s poverty profile with the North lagging behind. According to the Bureau in the Nigeria Poverty Profile 2010, the average poverty rate of the states in the North-West geopolitical zone is the highest at 71.4%, followed by North-East 69.1% and North Central, 60.7%.
The records also showed that poverty was least prevalent in the South-West, with an average of 49.8%, followed by South-South, 55.5% and South-East, 59.5%. The body also forecast that in a total population of 168 million citizens in 2011, 71 million individuals would be living in relative poverty; 61.9 million would be wallowing in absolute poverty, while 62.8 million would be living on the global level of one dollar a day.
Responding to inquiries on the poverty situation in the country and his concern about it, an Asaba, Delta State-based building contractor, Mr. Charles Erumebe, said, "The poverty situation in Nigeria is so glaring and it has grown tap roots. Look around you and you would find poverty staring at your face at all corners. Do you know how many households I know that cannot afford a decent meal in a day? It is dis-heartening and to think Nigeria is one of the top oil producing countries in the world.
"There is poverty in the country and it's increasing per second. Breadwinners in homes are losing their jobs, as a result of downsizing, while other companies are packing up and leaving our shores. Graduates are being churned out every year without the hope of a decent job, and these are just a few of the reasons why I am stressing that poverty is increasing per-second.
"The resulting effects of this increasing poverty are definitely an increase in crime rates and other social vices like petty thieves on our busy roads. These classes of thieves are just doing this to feed due to joblessness. My concern is that if nothing is done, this will lead to a total collapse of our society and the country as a whole," Erumebe added.
On her own part, a civil servant, also in Asaba, Mrs. Adaora Ofili, said, "There is poverty in the country; why won’t there be, when there are no jobs for our graduates when they leave school, when our civil servants are not being paid? My sister, who is a teacher, has not been paid in the last 4 months. Cost of food items are going up by the day.
"A lot of families can hardly feed, in all these our so-called leaders don’t even care. They vote a lot of money every year as budget but we the masses only hear these amounts on the television or even see it in the papers, they never reflect in the lives of us the citizens but in their own lives.
"What we have in Nigeria are a few individuals who have the financial muscles to fight their way into government. Eventually when they get there their biggest concern is usually their families, their cronies, their boyfriends and their girlfriends.
"These people are buying over the world while leaving Nigeria to rot. This is why you see them with heavy security and armoured vehicles. They are not ignorant of the fact that they are not doing anything for us the people and are afraid of repercussion from the citizens," Ofili added.
Poverty is increasing in the country, rather than reducing as NAPEP would have surely wished, due to factors like unemployment, widening social gaps, inequality between the rich and the poor, corruption and selfish leadership.
Analysts believe the NAPEP coordinator needs to step up another gear in his activities and plan for 2013, and to carry out far-reaching programmes which turn to success stories themselves, with careful implementation.
The agency left the consciousness of many citizens when the last coordinator, Dr. Magnus Kpakol, left the scene some months ago, leaving to wonder if the individual is bigger than the institution in Nigeria’s governance process.
As the most visible poverty-fighting agency of government, the impact of NAPEP must be felt in every nook and cranny of the nation, as poverty can be found all over the land. The deadline is a harsh reminder of how far away Nigeria has drifted from the global goal of halving poverty in the country by the year 2015.
Either through alleviation or outright eradication of poverty, NAPEP can and must do better. The consequences of any official inaction are best left imagined.