• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Varsity don, CSO express concern over high poverty level in A/Ibom

Varsity don, CSO express concern over high poverty level in A/Ibom

Gabriel Umoh, a professor of Agricultural Economist and Tijah Bolton Akpan, director, Policy Alert, a non-governmental organisation, have expressed concerns over the high level of poverty in Akwa Ibom State, despite being an oil producer with huge monthly allocation.

SatiSense, a data tech company, in its recent report, which it drew largely from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2022 report, revealed that Akwa Ibom State tops the index of multi-dimensional poverty in the Niger Delta Region.

The report stated that the state has over 5.08 million multi-dimensionally poor people, followed by Rivers with 4.4 million, while Cross River comes next with 3.44 million people.

Speaking with journalists in Uyo, Umoh said that the statistics about Akwa Ibom being a multi-dimensionally poor state are true and real.

Umoh, who spoke on the poverty level of the state, lamented that the private sector, which is the greatest employer of labour, was still negligible in the state, adding that the situation could be addressed if there were industries for production and for export.

“As a development economist, I can tell you that these statistics coming out are nothing but real. Employment can come from the government and how many government institutions do we have? If Akwa Ibom could post a population of five to seven million, how many can the state employ? It can take only a small proportion.

“And these employment opportunities are not available from the state. The state has not opened up employment. If you go to government offices, some people are redundant. There is under employment.

“So, what will provide employment opportunities is if you have industries–the private sector. And you see that the private sector in Akwa Ibom is very thin. If the real sectors that are producing were very vibrant, they would produce for consumption and for exports and as they produce they expand, then you can employ,” Umoh said.

Read also: Varsity don, Nyitse, backs North- Central Development Commission bill

Speaking on the issue, Tijah Akpan, executive director of Policy Alert, who admitted that Akwa Ibom State was not doing badly in terms of income poverty, said that the state has a lot to do in terms of dimensional poverty, which he noted covers diverse areas including access to sanitations, basic education and average time it takes a sick person to get healthcare, among others.

According to Akpan, “I am unaware of a current assessment of Multidimensional Poverty after the 2022 data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

“Akwa Ibom is not doing that badly if you are just looking at income poverty. But multidimensional poverty goes beyond income, it covers access to sanitation, the average time it takes for a sick citizen to get to a health facility, basic education entry and completion rates, type of housing, and even the type of energy used for household cooking, and we can’t deny that the state has a lot of work to do in some of these areas.

“Granted, the current administration has taken some bold steps to address the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable groups in the state. However, we are concerned that targeting of these groups has often been defective, discretionary and unscientific, making it easy for what the government calls compassionate programmes including palliatives to be hijacked by political interests.

This is one of the reasons we have been demanding a State Statistical Agency. A law was passed sometime ago, but the agency has not yet been established.

“As a state, we cannot continue cherry-picking which statistics we want to accept and reject data when it does not flatter us. Part of the solution is to have a robust agency that routinely collects data in a manner that is subject to international peer verification.”

He added that another solution is to have the poor on the table when designing solutions for them. “You don’t shave a man’s hair in his absence. Community representatives and civil society groups that work closely with them have a keener understanding of the location of the poor, their characteristics and their priorities. Government should work together with such groups. Finally, I think that the government should prioritize the planning function.

“We cannot be budgeting without long term planning and think we will succeed in fighting poverty. Akwa Ibom started its 30-year development plan process but for some time, we haven’t heard a thing about that process.

“This may also be responsible for the kinds of discretional infrastructure projects we have seen in the past few years. The current administration started well by inviting public input into its ARISE agenda but it has to be more open with the outcomes of that process and involve the public especially civil society in tracking its implementation,” he concluded.