The first pillar of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims to eradicate poverty in all its forms by 2030. Since the inception of the SDGs in 2015, poverty has been a significant issue worldwide. The persistent gap between the rich and the poor has contributed to this inequality. To bridge this gap, we need to address various factors that perpetuate poverty, such as unequal distribution of resources, limited access to education and healthcare, and systemic barriers that hinder social mobility.
Some experts have suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic, along with factors such as increasing unemployment, rising inflation, and geopolitical tensions, has contributed to an increase in the number of people living in extreme poverty. This has led to a rise in multidimensional poverty in certain countries, including Nigeria, where millions of people are affected.
It seems that the Federal Government has been searching for an honest politician to lead the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
There are several reasons why it is important for individuals to be concerned about those who are poor in society. Firstly, our lives are interconnected, and the well-being of one person can impact the well-being of others. When there is a large number of people living in poverty, it can lead to social and political issues, which in turn can contribute to insecurity. As Robert McNamara, the former US Secretary of Defense, argued, security is closely linked to development. Without security, it becomes difficult to achieve progress and development.
In order to prevent a large number of individuals from falling into poverty, social protection programs have become necessary. Nigeria, like many other countries, has implemented its own social welfare programs. Since 2015, the Federal Government (FG) has introduced social investment schemes aimed at assisting the poor in society. As a result, the FG has allocated hundreds of billions of naira to ensure the successful implementation of these programs, with the goal of lifting millions of multidimensionally poor individuals out of poverty.
It seems that the Federal Government has been searching for an honest politician to lead the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. The primary role of this office holder is to assist individuals who are experiencing hardship and work towards enhancing their quality of life. This task may seem challenging, but it is crucial to support those in poverty. As a result, the government has implemented various measures, including distributing cutlasses, wheelbarrows, and providing cash handouts to those in need.
The intention behind implementing these tactics was to decrease poverty. However, the outcome was the complete opposite. The number of individuals living in poverty barely decreased. One day, we were shocked to read in the newspapers about alleged scandals involving high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, as well as their associates in the Ministry of Interior. It is truly disheartening to see these honourable individuals making a mockery of the commendable programs.
Public analysts believe that the social investment schemes should undergo a complete overhaul, and there should be an investigation into the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and its officials who have been involved in corrupt practices. Both current and immediate past ministers of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation were alleged to have diverted funds meant for humanitarian purposes into private accounts. As a result, the President took swift action and suspended the serving minister, while the immediate past minister is being quizzed by the relevant authority tasked with the responsibility of investigating economic and financial crimes.
The actions of these so-called “humanitarian” ministers seem far from compassionate. They succumbed to the temptation of personal gain. It was also reported in the media that a civil servant was involved in this misconduct. An analyst described this situation as the powerful exploiting the vulnerable. It seems that the accused ministers prioritised short-term gains over long-term benefits of the larger society.
The main question here is: How is it possible to distribute cash to millions of people without incurring any handling charges? What criteria or data was used to determine who would receive the money? In a country with an inadequate database, one can only wonder what the situation is like.
If the federal and state governments were truly committed to alleviating poverty, then distributing cash would be considered the worst strategy by this writer. It is understood that there is no upcoming general election in the country. However, some experts believe that the lack of transparency in the program suggests that it may be a means of embezzlement.
Instead of giving large sums of money to a select few individuals to distribute to the poor, it would have been more suitable to use the funds to create job opportunities for those in need. Sharing money is not the only method of assisting the poor in society. There are alternative approaches that those in authority can explore to alleviate poverty, such as learning from other countries in Asia and around the world.
It’s great to hear that the World Bank has reported a 7 percent reduction in extreme poverty in Nigeria and Tanzania due to the use of internet services. However, despite this decline, there are still approximately 66 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty. This suggests that simply sharing money, wheelbarrows, and cutlasses will not effectively reduce the number of poor individuals.
Recently, it was mentioned in this column that in a country like Nigeria with a high unemployment rate, vocational skill acquisition is the most effective solution to uplift individuals and households out of poverty. Skills are crucial in various aspects of life and play a significant role in unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of a society. Skill acquisition has benefits for all segments of society, especially the underprivileged.
Additionally, implementing policies that promote inclusive economic growth, providing social safety nets, and fostering sustainable development can also contribute to reducing poverty and narrowing the wealth gap. It requires a collective effort from governments, organisations, and individuals to create a more equitable world for all. Thank you.
MA Johnson, Rear Admiral (Rtd