By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara has said that the poverty in Nigeria was growing at an alarming rate with weak policies that have failed to arrest the situation.
He also highlighted the relationship between poverty and social unrest, saying that the trend needed to be tackled.
The remarks were contained in his speech at a sensitization programme tagged “kick out poverty” organised by Elizabeth Foundation, a non-governmental organization in Abuja on Sunday to commemorate the United Nations Day for Eradication of Poverty on Sunday.
Dogara noted that recent data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics indicate that fewer than 112 million Nigerians (representing 67.1%) of the country’s estimated population of 167 million people) now live below poverty level.
He said: “The global poor is already above the One Billion mark. UNDP sources rate Nigeria’s poverty rate at 62.6% per capita income at $1,280 and human development index at 0.47. These figures are simply unacceptable and challenge all of us to rise to the occasion and vanquish poverty, want, disease and ignorance not only in Nigeria but in the whole world. It is inconsistent with the social objectives set out in Chapter 2 of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in our Constitution.
“I dare say that there is also a nexus between poverty and social unrest and insurgency. Thus, as it is clear from the theme for this year’s International Day for Eradication of Poverty, poverty eradication is a sure path to peace building. A society with more satisfied basic needs is less likely to turn to violence in solving its problems.”
The Speaker cited previous attempts at eradicating poverty through several programmes and policies, including those geared towards providing primary healthcare and developing agriculture, and highlighted some of the challenges which hindered the operations of these agencies.
“Nigeria as a country has evolved several programmes and policies and also set up several institutions to deal with the menace of poverty. These can be identified in the National Rolling Plans. Some of these programmes include: Operation Feed the Nation OFN), Green Revolution, Better Life for Rural Women, Family Economic Advancement Programme and more recently, National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP). They also include Primary Healthcare programme (aimed) at bringing preventive health to the grassroots); Agricultural Development Progrmme (ADP) in all states of the Federation; establishment of the People’s Bank (to extend small credit facilities to small businesses in the formal sector of the economy); National Economic Recovery Fund (to provide easy access to credit by small and medium scale enterprises); National Directorate of Employment (to promote self-employment); SURE-P (a waste to wealth, self-employment programme); SMEDAN; NHIS; Several Agricultural and rural development policies, programmes and institutions are in place. Indeed the entire MDG and now SDG programmes which Nigeria is committed to deals substantially with the question of poverty eradication.
“Some of these programmes have been successful, some have not due to a variety of reasons which include poor funding, lack of proper coordination and commitment, poor design and evaluation mechanisms, lack of continuity occasioned by regime change, corruption, lack of ‘community ownership’ arising from top-bottom approach, etc”, he said.
The Speaker also hinted on some efforts being made by the National Assembly to stem the tide of poverty in the country and the proposed legislation to create the National Poverty Eradication Commission, which he said, would see to the sustainable implementation of poverty eradication programmes.
“The National Assembly of Nigeria has been involved over the year in the fight against poverty. You may wish to note that, the National Assembly is presently processing a Bill which seeks to create a National Poverty Eradication Commission. The objective of the Commission is to among other things, ensure the sustainable implementation of poverty eradication programmes, maintain outreach with International Donor organisations and create social safety nets for the poor.
“Also, both the Legislative Agenda of the 8th House of Representatives and the Senate emphasise the commitment to promotion of pro-people legislative measures and interventions to reduce poverty. In the House of Representatives in particular, there is a standing Committee on Poverty Eradication. Indeed, the National Assembly has either passed or is in the process of passing many laws aimed at building infrastructure and tackling poverty. Indeed government anti poverty programmes and Sovocial Safety Nets policy and programmes like N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers to the poor, School Feeding Programme, has received enthusiastic budgetary support by the National Assembly”, he said.
The Chief Lawmaker at the Green Chamber of the National Assembly however advocated for enhanced focus on integrated human development policies, including income generation, human capital development and capacity building programmes for the poor, an increased role for non-state actors like NGOs and faith-based organisations in the fight against poverty, greater participation and partnership with the media in highlighting the poor and vulnerable in our society as well as opportunities available for exiting poverty, a legislative and legal framework for ensuring the sustainability of pro-poor programs, policies and projects, greater investment by the Executive arm of government in providing opportunities and safety nets for the poor, and greater emphasis on affordable quality education for all.
He further urged all stakeholders to sustain sensitization efforts and called for all hands to be on deck in order to attain the goal of eradicating poverty by 2030.