Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nigeria. What growth? What prosperity?

Despite Nigeria’s rapid growth in economy, the disparity between the rich and the poor continues to get wider and the country’s poverty level soars up rather than reducing, even with the setting up of Committee for Rural Development Strategies and Poverty Alleviation programmes. Young workers continue to search for employment. Politicians continue to increase their remunerations at the expense of millions of poor Nigerians. It was reported that the salaries and allowances of Nigerian legislators are the highest in the world and yet millions of Nigerians live in abject poverty.

According to the report, the number of poor Nigerians living below the poverty line has increased measurably, even as the growth rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country is flourishing, yet there is no sign of reduction in poverty level. The 2013 World Bank report on Nigeria Economy reads: “Job creation in Nigeria has been inadequate to keep pace with the expanding working age population. The official unemployment rate has steadily increased from 12 per cent of the working age population in 2006 to 24 per cent in 2011. Preliminary indications are that this upward trend will continue if there is no job creation.”

In 2012, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) also reported that not less than 112 million (about 68 percent) of Nigerians live below the poverty line and which the North-East and North-West were ranked highest in poverty rate of 77.7 and 76.3 per cent respectively. “In summary, statistics on poverty and unemployment in Nigeria, together with other direct indicators of welfare, suggest a story that is rather different from the national accounts data. GDP growth has not been sufficient to support levels of poverty reduction and job creation necessary to prevent a growing number of poor and unemployed (underemployed) Nigerians.”
 Growth has not had a corresponding effect on the lives of average Nigerian.

Reforms have failed
The policy of reforms and fixes taken in the past to tackle poverty are all to no avail. Starting  from 1976 when General Olusegun Obasanjo introduced the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) programme which many saw as a programme designed to fool Nigerians rather than feed Nigerians, as it never created any food security as envisaged. Former President Shehu Shagari also introduced Green Revolution programme aimed at producing enough food at reduced cost for the citizens which is expected to alleviate the poverty level of Nigerians. Unfortunately, the programme became a failure due to the hijacking of fertilizers, farming tools and incentives meant for the rural poor farmers by the rich government officials.
Former self imposed military president ,General Ibrahim Babangida  during his  tenure, established National Directorate for Employment  which was aimed at creating employment and by so doing reduce the poverty level riddling the country but like other programmes, it was hijacked by the powers that were in position. The aim or the objective of the programme was defeated. Some other past leaders established one programme or the other to fight poverty but the situation remained same and has become a national threat.

Numerous poverty alleviation agencies established by various administrations both past and president include the Family Support Trust Fund, Federal Department of Rural Development, Family Economic Advancement Programme, National Directorate of Employment Peoples, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation, National Commission for Nomadic Education, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, National Agricultural Land Development Authority, National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education, Federal Agricultural Coordinating Unit Directorate for Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructures, Agricultural Projects Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, Industrial Development Centre Federal Ministries of Agriculture, Water Resources, Power and Steel;  River Basin Development Authorities; National Centre for Women Development and National Economic Reconstruction Fund, among others. After the failure of OFN, President Olusegun Obasanjo’s civilian administration in 1999 under the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) formulated a good number of development policies such as the National Poverty Eradication Programme (Napep) with the aim of eradicating poverty in Nigeria by the year 2010. Nigerians were assured that the programme would stamp out unemployment, poor educational system, lack of portable water, poor power generation and supply, poor health care system, inadequate infrastructure and insecurity of lives and properties but for over 9 years later, the situation remained the same due corruption in high places. Public funds were allocated for the implementation of these programmes

Yet the poverty situation gets worse yearly. What then has happened to the money vested on these said agencies set up to tackle poverty? Poor people have visions but no money to actualize their dreams.

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