• Thursday, December 07, 2023
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Tinubu and the poverty conundrum: Setting agenda for renewed hope

With his emergence as the 16th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is expected that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his team will bring to fulfilment campaign promises contained in the electioneering manifesto tagged ‘Renewed Hope’.

This slogan which is built on the assumption that hope has been broken and needed to be renewed, can hardly be actualised without addressing the most fundamental development challenge Nigeria is currently faced with and which has assumed a cancerous complication.

The 2022 multidimensional poverty index revealed that 63 per cent of the people living in Nigeria, translating to around 133 million people, live in multidimensional poverty. The figure by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) suggested that 86 million of this number live in the North while about 47 million live in the South of Nigeria.

Back in 2018, the Brookings Institution classified Nigeria as the world poverty capital, overtaking India as the country harbouring the highest number of poor people. In the first quarter of 2023, the World Bank projected that 13 million Nigerians will fall into poverty by the year 2025, and based on a study by the Brookings Institution, noted that by the year 2030, the majority of the poor people will live in fragile states and Nigeria is top among the fragile nations.

Ending poverty is identified as item number one on the global development agenda. The desire to end the menace of poverty is a global goal to which all international development agencies, national and sub-national governments, NGOs, and institutions such as the World Bank have collectively agreed.

With many countries, including Nigeria, as signatories to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are a set of 17 international development goals on which global development efforts are focused, Nigeria has an obligation to the rest of the world to address its poverty problem.

Nigeria’s position on the global poverty scale is painful as it is shameful. In 2018, Nigeria was described as the poverty capital of the world based on data generated from the world poverty clock which showed that poverty in Nigeria surpassed that of India and China, the two most populated countries of the world with population size in the billion range. Between 2018 and 2023, Nigeria’s poverty record has not improved, instead, it has gotten even worse.

Poverty has become Nigeria’s most devastating setback and one which has seen over 133 million people become hopeless and helpless in a country that is one of the largest producers of crude in the world and Africa’s biggest economy by GDP and amongst the most populated country boasting of an abundance of human and material resources.

On the scale of measuring global development, it is regrettable that Nigeria, despite its wealth, ranks lowest amongst all the key indicators of health, life expectancy, infant mortality, access to education, and access to economic opportunities.

Poverty in Nigeria has become a puzzle, another mystery that has become so widespread, over the past decade, despite the number of resources expended through various poverty alleviation programmes aimed at reducing its menace.
One such recently launched programme is the National Social Investment Programmes (NISP) which has failed to achieve any of the key points of measuring its effectiveness.
The initiatives under the NSIP are the TraderMoni scheme which is a part of the Government Enterprise Empowerment Program (GEEP) meant to provide support to entrepreneurs and businesses and low-cost micro-lending to businesses; the N-Power Programme aimed to improve youth employment and enhance social development in the areas of health, education, and agriculture through volunteer scheme; the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme (CCT) targeted at most vulnerable households through cash transfers and the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP).

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All these programmes performed at very minimal levels towards reducing poverty. In fact, despite these various initiatives, several reports showed that poverty had increased at a devastating pace with many citizens not able to access the benefits intended by the government for implementing these programs.

The NSIP is not the only effort at developing institutional frameworks to address poverty in Nigeria. Several others such as the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (1964), the National Accelerated Food Production Project (1972), the Nigerian Agriculture Corporative Bank (1973), Operation Feed the Nation (1965), the National Directorate of Employment (1986), Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (1986), Better Life Programme for Rural Women (1987), and the People’s Bank of Nigeria (1989).
Just in the past two decades, there was the Poverty Alleviation Programme (2000) replaced by the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP 2001), the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN 2003), the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS 2004), Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P 2012) and the Youth Entrepreneurship Support Programme (YES-P) before the National Social Investment programme was eventually launched in 2016 by the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Several studies and sources have identified some of the issues that have led to the failure of these past poverty reduction interventions and these include institutional corruption, lack of a well-structured methodology for identifying target beneficiaries resulting from a lack of an accurate and reliable national database for the country and the lack of political will by the various governments demonstrated in the lack of accountability by the handlers and responsible ministry charged with implementation, amongst several other reasons.

To reverse the ugly prediction and projections by the several development institutions, critical steps must be taken by the new administration to avoid the mistakes and failures of the past. Poverty has largely been identified as responsible for crimes and criminality with a vast number of youths not able to find jobs.
This has also resulted in the wave of young and well-educated Nigerians leaving the country (Japa syndrome) to find better fortunes abroad. It is expected that the new administration will set a clear pathway to reverse the escalating impact of poverty while investing in the critical sectors that will directly improve the lives of the most vulnerable citizens.

Hope cannot be said to have been renewed without a clear part to ending poverty and substantially reversing the World Bank and other gloomy predictions.

.Ikem holds a doctorate in development communication and is an analyst in public policy