My attention has been drawn to the recent blame game between Nigerian government and state governors with regards to exacerbating artificial multidimensional abject poverty dragging pauperised Nigerians, especially rural communities, deeper into tough row to hoe.
According to a recent survey of the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) disclosed that 63 percent of persons living within Nigeria, approximately 133 million people, are multidimensionally poor. The national MPI is 0.257, indicating that impoverished people in Nigeria experience just over one-quarter of all possible deprivations. It is important to know that these poverty-stricken Nigerians are mostly residing in rural areas. An American economist, academic and public analyst once said, “Extreme poverty is the best breeding ground on earth for disease, political instability and terrorism”.
I absolutely agree with the federal government that the state governors are pushing rural dwellers into multidimensional grinding poverty and severe hunger owing to their closeness to the masses. Governors have refused to pay attention to areas that deserve priority and have instead embarked elitist projects like building of international airports and flyovers.
On his valiant effort to grapple with Nigeria’s abject poverty in the country, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration must be commended for establishing the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) that includes the N-Power the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) and the Cash Transfer Programme (CCT). Billions of naira is budgeted, injected and disbursed each year for the aforementioned four clusters of the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). For instance, the federal government, under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Investment, earmarked and injected N500 billion in 2016, N41 billion in 2017, N30 billion in 2020, N765 billion in 2021 and $1 billion, which is equivalent to N4,439,472,800 in 2022.
Under the CCT, two million poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians, that are mostly rural dwellers, have benefited from the praiseworthy programme by collecting N5,000 monthly stipend across the 36 states of the country and the FCT through table payment. To facilitate the disbursement, the minister, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, had opened bank accounts for the beneficiaries and distributed ATMs to them. Most of the beneficiaries have already set up small businesses and started rearing. Are these not pragmatic ways of alleviating poverty and creating jobs?
In addition, the Buhari government has initiated an agricultural revolution programme known as the Green Alternative (TGA) since inauguration of his first tenure with the aim of hitting a multitude of birds with one stone. It includes creating millions of jobs, diversifying economy, achieving food security and returning the country’s lost position of food basket of the African continent.
Last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) declared that it had disbursed N864 to 4.1 million farmers to cultivate 5.02 million hectares, under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, across the country. But perhaps, the rising insecurity, climate crisis, especially annual catastrophic flooding, COVID-19 pandemic and related matters have thrown a gargantuan spanner in the works of the federal government’s vision. However, the federal government must be commended for its efforts to do its part in alleviating Nigerians’ multidimensional abject poverty. A crucial question here is, what have Nigeria’s state governors so far contributed or are now contributing to alleviate the debilitating consequences of rural absolute poverty?
It is an open secret that federal allocations to state governments turned into a prey being surrounded and shared with predators. The governors look upon their state’s grants including that of local governments as their inherited assets. Instead of giving priority to human development or sinking funds into massive job creation and empowerment programmes with a view to stem unwanted inflated infrastructural projects of building flyovers, headquarters of local government areas, state governments houses, and other frivolous projects.
In fact, the Governor of Bauchi state, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, stands out from the rest on account of having excelled in building many rural roads across 20 local government areas of the state. They include From Itas to Gadau, Warji to Gwaram, Nasaru to Balma, Soro to Miya, Bogoro to Lusa, Boi to Tapshin, Kirfi to Gombe Abba and Yashi to Yuli. These rural roads will definitely play a significant role in creating direct and indirect massive jobs, dry-season commercial agriculture across those regions and bringing back the country’s lost ranking as the food basket of Africa. What is now left for the governor is to invigorate dry-season commercial farming in rural areas via supporting rural farmers in partnership with banks of agriculture.
In this competing era in which governments of oil-producing nations are shifting their mono-product economy to tourism, governors should throw their weight behind the federal government’s agricultural revolution known as the Green Alternative by constructing rural roads and supporting dry-season commercial farmers. This is the preliminary approach and pathway to end multidimensional poverty in rural areas. It is pertinent to note that rural road infrastructure and supporting farmers are indeed inseparable twins for creating jobs.
To sum up, the first president of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist once said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life”. He also said, “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”.
Baba writes from
Azare, Bauchi state via