NEWLY-APPOINTED as Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, has enunciated a target for herself and President Bola Tinubu to substantially reduce poverty in the country. She said Tinubu’s resolve to lift the 133 million Nigerians reckoned to be multi-dimensionally poor out of penury, prompted the renaming of the ministry and would be a main focus of the administration. They should quickly translate intention to concrete plans and effective programmes.
In Nigeria, poverty has risen phenomenally and poses a significant obstacle to socioeconomic development. It has also played a considerable role in the pervasive insecurity afflicting the country. The United Nations explained that beyond lack of income and productive resources, poverty also manifests in hunger, malnutrition, limited access to education, and exclusion.
All the indices of poverty are present in Nigeria. Though it has the 31st largest economy by nominal GDP by IMF’s ranking, on the United Nations Human Development Index 2021, it ranked 164th of 191 countries. On Hanke’s Misery Index 2023 — this measures a population’s economic distress – Nigeria’s misery temperature rose by 11.9 per cent on the back of higher unemployment, inflation, and lack of access to electricity, clean water, and social services.
Social and economic programmes by successive administrations have failed to stop the march of poverty. Edu and Tinubu should therefore think outside the box. They should scrupulously avoid the failed templates and strategies of their predecessors. The government has already put the wrong foot forward by hasty decisions, accentuated by the ill-advised pattern of releasing money to state governors, politicians and public officials for “palliatives.” It has never worked.
As The PUNCH repeatedly argued, such middling measures cannot stimulate production, recovery or alleviate poverty. While limited cash transfers and consumer goods provision to the most vulnerable can help in a limited way, this cannot sustain recovery and sustainable personal income generation.
While corruption is identified as the primary impediment to the effectiveness of the failed intervention schemes, inadequate understanding of the problem, poor conception of ideas, lack of continuity, and a lack of shared political commitment and vision at all levels also featured.
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Pervasive nationwide, rural dwellers, women and children are however hardest hit by poverty: among children aged 0-17, 67.5 per cent are multidimensionally poor, and overall, 51 per cent of the country’s poor are children. Geographic and regional disparities also vary. In the rural areas, where 70 per cent of the population resides, 90 per cent of children experience poverty. This is not surprising as many hinterland communities lack access to basic amenities, and most children lack the intellectual stimulation necessary for early childhood development.
Some 72 per cent of rural dwellers are poor compared to 42 per cent of urban dwellers, while the intensity of poverty there is also 42 per cent compared to 37 per cent among the urban population, according to a multidimensional poverty index survey released in 2022 by the NBS.
The recent removal of petrol subsidy with no adequate measures to cushion the effects has also pushed more citizens into poverty. More Nigerians have slid into destitution.
The economy needs stimulus above all else to reduce poverty. Efficient, honest and transparent privatisation, radical improvement in the ease of doing business to attract foreign direct investment, implement effective policies to promote start-ups, SMEs, agriculture, mining and ICT, and reform of the revenue/tax collection machinery, will also help.
Corruption must be tamed and emphasis placed on efficient delivery of infrastructure, especially roads, water supply, health and education facilities.
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