By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA — PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has affirmed that the recently developed Economic Sustainability Plan, ESP, aimed at stimulating the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will extend protection to very poor Nigerians and other vulnerable groups through pro-poor spending.
A statement issued on Wednesday in Abuja by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, explained that the President spoke in a recorded video message to a virtual high-level UN meeting on trends, options and strategies in poverty eradication across the world.
Adesina said that the event took place at UN headquarters in New York, Tuesday and that it also served as the official inauguration of the Alliance for Poverty Reduction (APE), an initiative of the President of the General Assembly, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.
Warning that COVID-19 pandemic risks reversing decades of progress achieved in the efforts to eradicate poverty globally, President Buhari apprised the UN meeting on steps to revive the nation’s economy in the wake of the pandemic.
The statement quoted the President as saying: ”It is my conviction that devoting our efforts towards human capital development, efficient management of our resources, greater financial inclusion and transformation of the agricultural sector to ensure food security are crucial to poverty eradication.
”In this regard, Nigeria continues to strengthen its existing social safety net initiative by increasing access to enrollees who fit the various programmes in the scheme.
”Nigeria will also continue to provide easier and increased access to financial services for micro and small-scale businesses through the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme. But we are determined to do more.
”Nigeria holds the view that education is a critical driver of sustainable development and has an immense capacity to eradicate poverty.
”Educating our children, especially the girl-child, contributes significantly to the fight against poverty, environmental sustainability, and improved health, as well as building peace and resilient societies,’’ he said.
President Buhari also used the occasion to reiterate the commitment of his administration to poverty eradication, highlighting the national programme of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
He added: ”Nigeria attaches great importance to poverty eradication. ‘It is, for this reason, that in May 2019, on my inauguration for a second term in office, our Government committed itself to starting a Programme of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within a 10-year period,” he said.
On the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, President Buhari said in Nigeria, as in many other countries, the domestic supply chains and trading corridors have come under enormous strain, bringing to fore the health versus economics debate.
On poor and vulnerable people, the Nigerian leader expressed concern that more than 700 million people or 10% of the world’s population are classified as living in extreme poverty.
‘‘All the while they struggle with the most basic needs like nutrition, shelter, health, education and access to clean water and sanitation.
‘‘In this condition, the number of poor people is estimated to triple as livelihoods across almost all economic sectors have been adversely affected,’’ he said.
President Buhari also told the meeting that with a population of about 200 million; a large percentage of Nigerians live in various stages of poverty, adding that the prospect of the population sliding further into extreme poverty is real, stressing, however, that government was also striving to combat and reverse the trend.