Posted by News Express | 8 September 2018 | 1,407 times
The British Prime Minister, Theresa May’s poverty remark about Nigeria sparked a conversation of conflicting views across the country, but the fact remains that this is not the first time this has happened.
Mr Bill Gates in March this year, at the special and expanded National Economic Council held in Abuja, stated that the execution priorities of the Presidency’s Economic Recovery Plan do not fully reflect the people’s needs, as it prioritised physical capital over human capital. Although a few days later the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Mr Udoma Udo Udoma, in a statement, said the media misunderstood the context of Gates’ stance on Buhari’s economic blueprint; but here again, we are leading the world on the poverty rate.
Poverty, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is multi-dimensional. Therefore, it is not simply a lack of adequate income. Surviving on US$1.90 PPP (purchasing power parity) per day is unlikely to mean the end of the many overlapping deprivations faced by poor people, which includes malnutrition, poor sanitation and a lack of electricity or inadequate education. According to the Global Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 1.6 billion people in 108 countries - that is homes to 78 per cent of the world’s population - are identified as multi-dimensionally poor. UNDP argues that using MPI, the data reflects the combined simultaneous disadvantages poor people experience across different areas of their lives. Over 700 million people worldwide still live below the US$ 1.90 PPP per day extreme poverty line, and over half the global population live at the bottom of the economic pyramid, on less than US$8 per day.
The Nigeria scene is not so far apart, as the National Bureau of Statistics had even painted a worse picture in 2016 when it reported that no fewer than 112 million Nigerians live below the poverty line; preceding year, the World Poverty Clock (WPC) suggested that Nigeria’s struggle with over-population will be a problem in 2017 rather than in 2050, as many people had thought; and that by February 2018 Nigeria will overtake India as the country with the most people in extreme poverty. But corporations, legislators and the electorates never believed nor took it seriously. Well not entirely, because the government at about same time intensified efforts on agricultural diversification programmes and interventions, some state governments even started their own agricultural programmes. And available data shows that the National Assembly passed the 2017 Appropriation Bill of N7.441 trillion, with agriculture receiving an allocation of N103.7 billion, an increment of N12 billion compared to the N92 billion earlier proposed for the sector in 2016. The increase, they argued, is in response to the continuing clamour for more funding to support food security and economic diversification. It is also in realisation of the cardinal position agriculture and agribusiness occupies in the quest to defeat unemployment and its related vices.
However, with lots of intervention programmes and diversification strategies of the government, Nigeria still overtook India to emerge as a country with the highest number of poor people in 2018. Prior to this, the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goal has “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” as goal number one. This goal explicitly recognises that poverty results - not from the lack of just one thing, but - from many different inter-related factors that affect the lives of people. It is proven that living in poverty carefully sets motion for humiliation, exclusion and low participation in most social and civic duties: from education to health and living standards. This representation also confirms the UNDP ideology that poverty is multi-dimensional. Now it even gets scarier, because in order to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030”, there is need to achieve global peace, holistic collaboration and intervention. Putting into practice the system that 90 people has to leave poverty line every minute in other to eradicate poverty totally by 2030. As promising as this sound, there is, nevertheless, a shortage of about 9.5 million people globally per year. Presently, The World Poverty Clock predicts that for the 2030 SDG target to be met in Africa, 57 people have to leave extreme poverty line every minute, but that is not the case. Rather than leaving, people enter extreme poverty every minute. Nigeria needs 11.9 people per minute to escape extreme poverty. But, at the moment, she has a deficit of 6.8 people every minute, that is, 6.8 people enter into poverty line every minute, instead of leaving. The question is: Why would anyone believe what the World Poverty Clock says? The reality remains that WPC is a tool that monitors progress against poverty globally and regionally; it provides real-time poverty data across countries. So, if it was that reliable, why didn’t the government and the people of Nigeria utilise the knowledge, as the report shows how close they were to doomsday?
Some SDGs implementers believe that accumulated debts over the years, gross embezzlement of public funds, neglect of duties, inadequate implementation of set objectives, and personal interest over that of the state, is responsible for landing Nigeria as the leading nation of poor people. Somto Ugwu, a lawyer and the gender and partnership officer at the Society For the Improvement Of Rural People (SIRP), argues that Nigeria became like this through a repeated cycle of corrupt leaders who do not care about the welfare of Nigerians. So, instead of providing various employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed population in this country, they prefer to syphon money and invest it in foreign countries, thereby helping to develop those countries. For Mr Ntienyong Udoh, a broadcast journalist, when a country’s economic blue-print does not address the basic needs of her citizenry, what you get is white elephant projects rather than human resource investment. Developed and developing countries understand the model of human capital, but not in Nigeria. Published documents, according to BudgIt https://bit.ly/2Ov0PiK, show that a Nigerian senator earns N19,982,600.00 a year in salary, while House of Representatives members earn N15,259,440.00. But that's not all, because, for lawmakers, the big pays come in form of generous allowances which when put together displays that each lawmaker cost taxpayers N196,192,800.00 to maintain as of 2017. So, how does a public office-holder in the same Nigeria that has the highest number of poor people take home that much? It is because the concern of Nigerians does not mean anything to the public office-holders. That is why the poor can afford to sell their votes, just to eat today.
We can overcome this by beginning to demand for accountability, reports of projects and follow the trail of earmarked funds, some civil society organisations and concerned Nigerian citizens are already doing this, but more citizens need to be enlightened. Both the electorates and the elected should lay more emphasis on entrepreneurship and skills development. The more people network and patronize each other’s goods and services, the easier it becomes easier to keep one another smiling to the bank. The media has to do more and civil society organisations need to re-strategise their approach, SDGs implementers must adopt the human angle model if at all we must meet Agenda 2030 of the United Nations and meet the aspirations of Agenda 2063 that envision the “Africa We Want”.
The present administration’s anchor of the economy over the long-term investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand-in-hand with investment in people. People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy. Finally, any government that invests in human capital is capable of transforming the financial, environmental, technical and social capital into a viable economy: it is a way to achieve sustainable development goal 1.
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