By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE recent report that Nigeria has the highest number of the poorest of the poor globally is a source of concern to well meaning individuals and organisations. It was no surprise that increasing level of poverty was a major issue discussed by members of the governing council of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, at their meeting few days ago in Lagos.
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, President of NECA, Mr. Mohammed Yinusa, lamented that data had shown that for every minute in Nigeria, six persons slip into poverty and six out of 10 Nigerians are also estimated to be living in poverty.
NECA, however, commended the ongoing efforts of the Federal Government to alleviate poverty through pro-poor policies targeted at helping the poor and raising their living conditions, such as the National Social Investment Programme, SIP, anchored on four pillars which include N-Power, National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer, CCT, and Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme, GEEP, under the watch of the Vice-President.
Nigeria home to nearly 760 million of the world’s poor
President of NECA recalled that “In April 2014, a World Bank report showed that Nigeria and four other countries are home to nearly 760 million of the world’s poor with Nigeria rated third among countries with the highest population of extreme poor or people with abject poverty in the world. In this 2014 report, India was rated worst, having 33 per cent of the world’s poor. In 2018, it came as a huge shock as Nigeria overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty.
This recent worrisome development continues to be a huge source of concern to us. Data has shown that for every minute in Nigeria, six people slip into poverty and six out of 10 Nigerians are also estimated to be living in poverty. Poverty is characterised by hunger, malnutrition, ill-health, unsanitary housing and living conditions and often without required education and resources to overcome these afflictions.
“These strides of government by the Poverty Index are still insufficient interventions to rid Nigerians of the poverty blight. Government at all levels can do more to sustain the reduction in the ravaging poverty scourge by paying attention to the development of the critical indices of the Human Development Index, HDI, report by United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, which is indicative of a country’s quality of life. The report measured national achievements in Human Development Index in health, education and income/standard of living in 189 countries. Nigeria’s HDI value for 2017 was 0.532, leaving it in 157th place out of the 189 countries assessed. Adequate and sustained attention to these critical indices: health, education and income/standard of living will ultimately lift the citizens out of the poverty scourge.
“We urge government to prioritise the creation of an enabling environment for large, medium and small enterprises to thrive. This is in view of the recognised long-term solution to poverty, which is job creation, improved standard and quality of education, increased access to finance and policies that encourage investment. Furthermore, in order to complement these efforts of the Federal Government at tackling poverty, we encourage state governments to initiate prototype programmes to these schemes at their level to the very poor and the vulnerable citizens.
While praising government’s avowed commitment to infrastructure renewal as reflected in the various activities across the nation, the voice of business in Nigeria contended that “the dearth of good infrastructure especially power /electricity supply, comatose railway system and poor road network turned death traps are reasons for the mass of unproductive youths in the country. It is recommended that government should see to a logical conclusion, its Power sector reforms to deliver stable power supply to the populace. In the same vein, priority should be given to the rehabilitation of deplorable road networks while constructing additional ones across the nation.