In the grip of poverty
The exertions of the current government led by President Muhammadu Buhari may be paying off in terms of economic growth of the country but, among the people, poverty, sadly, still reigns. This is unacceptable and concerted efforts must be made to address the menace. For some time now, Nigeria has enjoyed a somewhat stable and sustained growth in the context of macroeconomic management, economic stability, democracy, and reforms. Differently from the past, growth has been driven too by the non-oil sector, including solid minerals, agriculture and telecommunications, all of which have contributed to the creation of several new jobs.
However, while the nation’s economy may be growing, the number of Nigerians living in poverty seems to be increasing. Members of the House of Representatives even complained the other day that poverty is biting harder in the country and that everyone is feeling the pangs.
Facts and figures from the United Nations show that 767 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day. The overwhelming majority of those people living below the poverty line, however, belong to two regions: Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with a huge concentration in Nigeria. High poverty rate is often found in fragile and conflict-affected countries and the worsening case of Nigerians may not be totally unconnected with the crises in different parts of the country. It must be noted that the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017 says that countries with higher income inequality suffer from higher levels of violence. The research also found that countries with high levels of income inequality had, on average, a homicide rate that was nine times greater than countries where income was more evenly distributed.
This is why the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted unanimously by world leaders in 2015, is very serious about poverty. This plan recognises that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for the achievement of inclusive and peaceful societies. As a result, having adopted the agenda, Nigeria should take action to end poverty by massively overhauling its current national programmes on social safety nets and make them reach more of the people living below the poverty line. This is against the background that Nigeria’s poverty profile says that poverty goes beyond mere measurement of a household’s expenditure or welfare but includes inadequate access to government utilities and services, environmental issues, poor infrastructure, illiteracy and ignorance, poor health, insecurity, social and political exclusion. In urban areas, absence of access to social services has effects on school enrolment, healthy living and foster the growth of urban slums. Also in rural areas, poverty manifests itself even in the agricultural sector whereby dwellers barely have enough to engage even in subsistence farming and therefore live under the threat of food insecurity.
The question now is: how and why is poverty biting so hard in Nigeria? Although government statistics say that economic growth indices are impressive, living standards are falling, prices are rising, while the states are not paying salaries and people have little or no income. So, poverty in Nigeria appears man-made and is exacerbated by mindless corruption as well as unnecessarily high cost of governance. So, the impoverishment of the people is something of a statecraft. .
So, the legislature should not just lament the poverty by the people but present a road map on ending the scourge. They should get out of their comfort zones, visit the villages and slums to assess the state of education, health care, roads, level of unemployment, under-employment, poor access to land and to loans with a view to having a real understanding of poverty. They should also assess the state of the manufacturing sector, textile industry and construction companies among others and put in policies in place for their growth.
Essentially, for any meaningful economic growth and poverty reduction, there is the need to improve access to social services, including health and education, and unemployment must be addressed. So, achieving poverty reduction requires having the right tools and partnerships such that everyone has a chance to thrive in a more equitable, prosperous and sustainable country.
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