NIGERIA aligned with the world to mark ‘International Day for Eradication of Poverty’ on October 17.
According to Omoniyi Salaudeen, writing on ‘Tinkering on policy options for Nigeria’s worsening poverty index “the anniversary once again brought to the fore Nigeria’s worsening poverty index, which has continued to generate concern among the stakeholders”.
Quoting Oxfam International, “the country’s poverty index has worsened with no fewer than 94,470,535 people living below the poverty threshold of N684 per day, representing an increase of 3.4 million from the previous year’s figure of 91 million”.
The country’s Director, Mr. Constant Tchona, who described the situation as pathetic, said Nigeria was off the tract to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adding that up to 25 per cent of the world’s extreme poor will live in Nigeria by 2030”.
In what has turned out to be a familiar terrain of Nigerian politicians or better still, a somewhat wishful thinking couched in exuberant policy enunciation, President Muhammadu Buhari believed that his government based on the ‘Next Level’ would lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty dungeon over the next 10 years and set them on the path of prosperity “to fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory and place it among the world’s great nations”. Nigerians would have loved to see a well-researched planned poverty alleviation packages by the APC-led federal government through a review of the monthly statutory allocations to make the sub-national governments, especially the state governments which oversees the local government areas to initiate peculiar poverty alleviation measures to be effective and result-oriented.
Curiously, Nigerians were presented the ineffective and ill-digested poverty alleviation programmes named “N-power programme, Trader-moni, and school feeding which are better handled by state governments taking full cognizance of the peculiar milieu. These make-believe programmes have not yielded the expected benefits. It is appalling that a programme like school children feeding should be undertaken by a central government in a federal arrangement. It does not pay to brazenly violate the sacred and sacrosanct principles of federalism as practiced the world over. Principles are made to produce expected outcomes but when they are violated, the outcomes will be distorted leading to wasting of resources and enthroning socio-economic quagmire.
The policy of massive foreign borrowing by the APC-led federal government to fund infrastructures has turned out to be not the ideal and proper management of the economy. In sane and sanitised polities, foreign loans are planned to be taken when sufficient feasibility studies are conducted on viable manufacturing industries that will guarantee massive employments and have products that will have local and international markets and thereby pay back the loans from the huge profits.
Indications are there to show that the rising debt profile of the country further adds to the hardship and privation of the masses. The loans have mortgaged the future of Nigerians who are already suffering and will continue to suffer in future. It does not pay to embrace loan options ostensibly to impress the people that the party is gearing towards fulfilling the bloated campaign promises. It is better to tell the masses the un-vanished truth and as the saying goes, one should “cut his coat according to his cloth”.
Government being a continuum, the next government will initiate another policy that will take due cognizance of the resources available for realistic annual budgets. To make it a habit whereby every year, substantial funds are devoted to recurrent expenditures while lean portion will be for the capital provisions. This needs a paradigm shift in budgetary proposals since good governance is all about realistic planning and optimum deployment of resources in addition to a proper system of government.
What has compounded the socio-economic problems in Nigeria is the brazen distortion of the federal system of government whereby the centre controls preponderant items in the exclusive legislative list while the sub-national governments are left with few, even when the federal government has proved virtually incapable of addressing the enormous responsibilities it has taken.
It is difficult to fathom the rationale whereby a government would talk glibly about poverty alleviation while increasing taxes and especially Value Added Tax (VAT) where the net cashes a preponderant percentage of the masses. Again, higher taxes have been noted to be a disincentive for local and foreign direct investments. Lower tax in the economy encourages saving and spur manufacturing concerns to generate employment and create wealth. A situation where taxes are imposed, there is bound to be job losses and escalation of anti-social gambits and violent criminalities. It is appalling and exasperating that since the takeover of government by civilians from the military regime in 1999, all the yearly budgetary provisions in the social and economic sectors geared towards bettering the lot of people in the low and middle income brackets have not registered significant impact.
It appears that as the years roll by, the fortunes of the hoi polloi have been taking a nose dive. Consequently, Nigeria has been referred to by an international socio-economic watchdog as the “International headquarter of poverty”. It remains a shameful designation and appellation; and the blame should go to the past and present political leaderships at the national and sub-national levels of government in Nigeria.
Anambra state Governor, Dr. Willie Obiano has accorded poverty eradication programmes top priority in the annual budgets through the establishment of poverty alleviating programmes. Commendable steps are being taken to establish skill acquisition centres and acknowledging the efforts of the private individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), geared towards uplifting the welfare of the youths.
Obiano has been ensuring prompt releases of budgetary provisions to ensure that they do not suffer hiccups in the training programmes. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of youths have benefitted from the skill acquisition programmes organised by the relevant ministries and agencies. At the end of the programmes, start-up capital has been given to them which they have to pay back within a reasonable number of years so that the funds would be re-cycled to the benefit of up-coming graduates who have not had the fortune to secure white-collar jobs in the public service or the organised private sector of the economy.
Also worthy of note is the contributions of national and state legislators in the establishment of skill acquisition centres, ostensibly to take the youths out of the streets and reduce to the barest minimum, the social menace since the age-long aphorism maintains that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. Through the constituency projects, the legislators have attracted basic socio-economic infrastructural facilities, in addition to building structures which are equipped for the skill acquisition programmes. These commendable gestures are geared towards making the youths acquire rewarding entrepreneurship learning and artisan skills to be independent of their parents and guardians by earning at least modest living. Stories about how some creative and enterprising ones have perfected what they have learnt and moved a notch higher and expanded their small scale enterprises and became employers of labour abound.
Anambra State indigenes, mainly legislators and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should be commended for assisting the government to alleviate poverty through the establishment of centres for skill acquisition. One of the NGOs, named “Centre For Strategic Leadership and Youth Orientation (CENSTLEYO), organised a 2-day training programme at Senator Uche Ekwunife Event Centre, Awka, for the youths to acquire various kinds of skills to equip them to be self-sustaining and curb the wide-spread of social vices. The founder cum executive director of CENSTLEYO, Mr. Imah Felix Emeka, said that the NGO was established to offer integral human capital development of Anambra State youths in capacity building, re-orientation and re-education which can aid them in proper sustainable empowerment.
He said; “CENSTLEYO is a national organisation championing the struggle for young people to be in the fore-front of accomplishing programmes and policy initiatives targeted at their reformation and empowerment. We have various directorates across critical development priorities; headed by committed citizens across ethnic and religious boundaries of Nigeria. Our 2019 focus is on fostering pragmatic approach to youth development and reforming the political process as part of post-election engagements, where key and relevant stakeholders would listen and lend support to building better Anambra State in particular, and Nigeria in general”.
It was observed that youth participants and the devotion and keen interest of the two-day training programmes which is a fore-runner to an elongated training that spans through the establishment of small scale business enterprises with a start-up capital donated and ware-housed in a financial institution and managed by trustees.
Expatiating further, the founder/executive director, expressed passion to support Governor Willie Obiano to make Anambra State to be ahead of other states in all aspects of socio-economic life. He said: “Anambra State like most other states in Nigeria has a high number of unemployed youths, ravaged by poverty and lack of skills and trainings, albeit, with great intelligence and talent.
“Series of engagement and interaction with them show an evident dearth of innovation, industry, genius, and critical thinking. Our research shows that one in every five youths in Anambra has no job. The number sounds alarming and mindboggling. Entrepreneurial leadership and training have thus emerged as a great need in Anambra, a naturally enterprising state”.
It has become necessary that other NGOs should key into the vision and mission of CENSTLEYO so as to transform the lives of the youths who are brewing with enterprising spirit, zeal and hunger for self-actualisation.
Continuing, Imah Felix said: “Given the above findings, we felt a great need for socio-economic transformation and value re-orientation in Anambra State. The sense of a great duty and a big burden to improve the quality of life of young people, led to the setting up of a Centre for Leadership and Youth Orientation (CENSTLEYO). The idea is to provide young people tools that will improve their quality of life and drastically transform them, such that they become walking blessings to others”.
The goal and objectives of the NGO is to raise 300 young entrepreneurs from Anambra State who will own business within a three-year period, and to train and equip 300 youths from Anambra [100 each year for three years] with vocational skills needed to start and run a sustainable micro-enterprise”.