By Charles Amechi
A report of a meeting between governors of the six states in the North-East region of Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari was published on August 11, 2020.
The report revealed that the governors had decried the troubling state of insecurity in the region and identified poverty as the major factor responsible.
It also stated that the governors requested for more bailout funds from the Federal Government to combat these social ails.
If the statement credited to the governors is true, we may have been told the solution to the insecurity in Nigeria and not just the North-East.
Available statistics show that poverty has risen in Nigeria, with almost 100 million people living on less than $1 (£0.63) a day, despite economic growth.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in a report about poverty and inequality from September 2018 to October 2019, said 40 percent of people in the continent’s most populous country live below its poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) a year. It said that represents 82.9 million people. This is about half of our population.
The population of poor Nigerians spread across the North and South, with majority in the northern part of the country. This is to say, if Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world, the north is the poverty capital of Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari who is from northern Nigeria has followers in the North who have continued to give him their votes in all elections. These followers are his teaming supporters at the grassroots, majority of who engage in menial jobs.
If we peep into the details of the Buhari followers, you might discover that majority of them are young people who fall within the poverty line and are finding it difficult to get their daily bread. Majority of them are not even educated or skilled.
Unfortunately, this demography has been tactically deprived of benefitting from most programmes of the Buhari-led administration which are designed to fight poverty, because of the ways the implementation strategy of the programmes was designed and structured.
The N-power programme, the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme GEEP, the National Directorate of Employment Enrollment and even the various soft loan platforms designed to cushion the effect of COVID -19 pandemic on business owners, were all designed and applied for electronically.
Today, Nigeria faces insecurity challenges ranging from Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping, headers/farmers clashes, arm robbery and cattle rustling. Most of these challenges are predominantly in northern Nigeria.
Looking at the kind of people recorded among the repentant Boko Haram militants, majority are the uneducated and unskilled people in the north.
Speaking in a video message to a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on poverty eradication, President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated his commitment to eradicating poverty in Nigeria.
Successive administrations had deployed several strategies on poverty alleviation. The analysis of previous programmes shows that lack of strong political will, weak implementation structure, poor strategy, corruption and poor monitoring and evaluation are major setbacks.
Assessment of the various social intervention programmes under the Buhari administration does not look different from the previous administration. It does not reflect the President’s commitment to fighting poverty and corruption.
The Social Investment Programme has seemingly been put on hold since it was transferred to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
In the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) the Managing Director was fingered in corruption.
There are also administrative blunders and policy inadequacies in the implementation of the recruitment of special public works recently introduced by government through the National Directorate of Employment under the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
There are also several discrepancies in available data and in some cases like the National Social Register. There is no data to show to the public.
However, the insecurity in the country and the revelation of the North-East Governors to President Buhari is pointing to the fact that we can’t fight insecurity without fighting poverty holistically.
If the Buhari led- administration wants to make headway on poverty alleviation, there must be a strong political will beyond rhetoric.
There must be harmonisation of various poverty alleviation programmes in budgetary, implementation strategy and supervision. There must be a unified data record that would lead the way to progress assessment. Above all, the implementation strategy must be localised to fit the targeted population according to their peculiarities in their states.
Amechi, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos