Poverty Is Winning By Yusuf D. Zage
Poverty is the state of one who lacks certain amount of material possession. Absolute poverty is when there is deprivation of basic human needs, which normally include food, water sanitation, clothing, shelter, health care as well as education which is very important to Homo sapiens.
Although poverty is a global issue but without doubt, it varies from one location to the other even though half of the world population, comprising over three billion people (3billion) are said to be extremely poor and living on less than 2.5 U.S dollar a day. According to the World Bank in 2008, 1.29 billion people were living in absolute poverty and in 2010 about 663 million people world-wide moved above the absolute poverty level. Still extreme poverty, is a global challenge.
From the 2008 World Bank statistics, out of the world’s total poverty rate, the Sub- Saharan Africa had the highest incidence of absolute poverty put at the rate of 47% in 2008. Prior to the 1970s, the percentage of Africans in poverty was only 10%, but due to the high flow of foreign aid, poverty level in Africa skyrocketed to 70% and currently at the devastating level of 80%.
I will not also hesitate to express the current trend of poverty in Nigeria. I was vehemently shocked when I discovered that 61% of Nigerians were said to be living in absolute poverty and it pains too much to know that there are 20 million Nigerian youth running on the street seeking for job.
To eliminate poverty in Nigeria is something very impossible, but it can be greatly reduced to a certain percentage if government at all levels stand- up to their responsibilities. To elude from poverty or to eradicate poverty is a mere economic thinking or hypocritical to do so, but it is not elusive or eerie. It is something that can be reduced to minimum percentage as we had noticed in many countries, due to real efforts set by their government. I suggest if our governments are in full of beans to reduce the spread of poverty they could use some economic and social measures that have been used in those countries and achieved their target on cutting the rate to the minimum level because to reduce poverty showering depends on the country’s efforts.
It is obvious that northern part of Nigeria is the hub of poverty compared to the southern Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Sokoto is the number one poorest state in Nigeria with poverty rate put at 81.2% followed by Katsina with 74.5%; Adamawa with 74.2%; Gombe 74.2%; Jigawa, 74.1%; Bauchi, 73%; Kebbi, 72%; Zamfara, 70.8%; Plateau,74.1%; Ebonyi, 73.6%; the state with lowest poverty rate was Niger with 33.8%; followed by Osun with 37.9%; and Ondo 45.7%; others include Bayelsa with 47%; and Lagos state with 48.6%. The average poverty rate for North-West geopolitical zone remain the highest in the country at 71.4% followed by North-East with 69.9% and North central with 60.7%.
It is clear that the rate of poverty is least prevalent in the South West with 49.8% and South -South at the rate of 55.5% and South East at rate of 59.5% which has higher poverty rate than South West and South-South.
However, from the above statistics, it could be understood that the Northern part of Nigeria is in sea of Poverty more especially Sokoto, Katsina and Adamawa.
In a literate society, one may ask about the causes of poverty in Nigeria and what will be its possible solutions? It is proved that the spread of poverty in Nigeria was due to the combination of different factors.
Chief among this is corruption. Corruption is an endemic virus which contributed to a greater level of unemployment and it is evident that it was at robust level like a legal activity, I mean it seems like our leaders legalized corruption. From 1999 to 2003 there were various cases of scams mostly from government officials – Halliburton scam, fuel subsidy scams and pension fund scam to mention a few.
Mr Nuhu Ribadu estimated that between independence and the end of military regime in 1999, Nigeria lost more than $380billion to corruption and mismanagement. In the current administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, N5trillion or $31billion has been stolen, Mrs Farida Waziri former EFCC boss argued that “our political leaders had mental problems and need psychiatric help” Yes! Draining government treasury in Nigeria is not a new phenomenon.
Agriculture over time has proved to be the best sector in provision of human labour in Nigeria but it was seriously neglected. The sector provides the highest percentage of human labour. The most pathetic is that the percentage of budget allocation to this sector is less than 2% of 2013 budget allocation without considering that Nigeria had an agricultural land area of 76,200,00 hectares, which means 83.7% of the land in Nigeria is arable out of which less than half of it is currently under utilised due to negligence from the part of Government, thus putting Nigeria to 5th importer of rice, 10th highest importer of wheat and 18th for sugar even though all these products can be produced in large quantities if Government adjust its attention towards agriculture.
The industrial sector which is also a front line in the provision of labour was also abandoned for several years by government. Most of our industries have turned to a small bush because of the problem of power outage in Nigeria. It is evident that electricity in Nigeria was the very important resource in the development of industrial sector even though billions of naira were ventured to generate electricity but for many years it did not commensurate to our industries.
Politicization – This might be complicated for those that cannot reason as they suppose to. Politicization involves combining Government affairs or introduces government activities into political arena instead of doing it based on how it is suppose to be. For example politicising entrepreneurship training by government officials at both federal and state levels, politicising job vacancies to mention a few. As we already know, entrepreneurship training is among the important measures in reducing the level of poverty but it is being politicised by government officials.
Maladministration, incompetence, and dishonest management in public office is not something complicated in Nigeria rather its normal as we all noticed in our day to day activities. Government’s commitment in Nigeria has lost its fate for years due to the abuse of public office by those in power from federal down to local government level. Offices are administered based on selfish interest of “Oga at the top” instead of using laid down rules of the service.
Social unrest which includes religious and political crisis has also contributed to the rate of poverty in Nigeria. Nigeria experienced several social unrest which resulted to a dramatic rise in the level of unemployment in the country. Note that nothing will be achieved economically if the youth remain unemployed. MEND, Boko Haram, kidnapping and armed robberies were by-products of the high unemployment rate in the country.
Even though the economy of Nigeria was said to have recorded growth but it does not commensurate in reality because it did not change the quality of life of Nigerians.
To reduce the spread of poverty in Nigeria, government has to put serious effort, without paying short term concern about it. Spread of corruption in Nigeria is not a new phenomenon. Those that are accused of corruption are suppose to be properly punished if found guilty irrespective of their positions and connections, and government must see corruption as a culture that hurts the lives of millions Nigerians and widen the gap of inequality.
Office holders should be task to be accountable and transparent in discharging their duties but I am sure if our leaders continue to pay lip service on fighting corruption. the situation will remain unchanged.
Since agriculture provide about 42% of gross domestic product (GDP) and it is the main employer of human labour, at the first instance, government should check the percentage of national budget to the important sector (agricultural sector) from less than 2% to 25%. Moreover, farmers should be supported by government in order to be practicing highly mechanized farming system instead of using traditional system of agriculture. A sustainable system of subsidy and market mechanism should be designed for them. Strategically, these will attract private firms in purchasing the commodity produced.
Economically, both the agricultural and industrial sectors had a serious linkage but the principal problem that circumvented industrial sector was power failure which results to many industries relocating from Nigeria to other African countries like Ghana and South Africa.
Indeed power failure retarded flow of foreign investments into Nigeria. But I am sure if government pays proper attention to address this sole problem, the story will definitely change and job opportunities will increase in a hurry.
It is however mandatory for political office holders to believe that public office and government resources are not their personal income but they are elected by the public to take care of such offices and to be truthful on behalf of the people. They should also give equal chances to the citizens in order to reduce the level of unemployment which has a direct multiplier effect in reducing poverty.
To address the problem of social unrest government and its policy makers should keep aside bigotry and sentiments, show political will in the funding of education and training of young Nigerians with focus in vocational skills.
Government should also put conscious and adequate effort to support our struggling industries so as to provide job opportunities and transition from subsistence to mechanized farming In order to boost rural economy and check rural-urban drift.
On twitter: @Yusouf_Dz