The federal government, yesterday, reviewed the high poverty level in the country, and said the 36 governors of the federation were to blame for not getting their priorities right in their respective states.
But rather than fight poverty headlong by improving the lives of their citizens, the governors, the federal government, claimed, preferred to embark on such projects like airports and flyovers that were unrelated to their welfare.
Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, made the accusation while fielding questions at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the State House, Abuja.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently revealed that no fewer than 133 million Nigerians, representing 63 per cent of the population were living in multi-dimensional poverty.
Of the total, 105.98 million poor Nigerians were reportedly located in rural areas, compared to 16.97 million in urban areas.
According to the Nigeria Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2022 Survey, there were high deprivations in sanitation, time to healthcare, food insecurity, and housing.
It was against this backdrop that the minister said 72 per cent of the poverty level in Nigeria was found in the rural areas, which according to him, had been abandoned by governors.
He reiterated that the governors preferred to function in the state capitals while the federal government, on its part, has done its best on poverty alleviation.
Expressing regrets that there was no reflection of the amount of investment that had been done in that area, Agba accused governors of concentrating on building flyovers, airports and other projects that were visible in the state capitals, rather than investing in areas that could directly uplift the standard of life of the people in the rural areas.
The minister pointed out that while states were in charge of land for agriculture, they did not invest in them for the desired effect on their rural citizens.
He, therefore, advised the state chief executives that rather than concentrate attention on the building of skyscrapers, flyovers and bridges, they should focus of initiatives that could pull the majority of the people out of poverty.
His words: “The question was, what is the Minister of Finance and I doing with regard to hardship in Nigeria, right? So, suggestion is that both of us are the ones creating the hardship for us to resolve it.
“In the first place. I just returned this morning from Brussels, where 106 countries nowadays are 27 countries from Europe and 79 countries from the Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific countries. What was the deliberation on? Basically on how the world over tends to do around food and energy and energy crisis.
“I think that it’s always good for us to put things in the right perspective. Like I say to people, when you say government, we should be able to specify which government we are talking about. Is it a federal government? Is it a state government or is it a local government? Because we all have different responsibilities.
“And it is for this reason that we last year started some work on the multi-dimensional poverty index, for which we recently released the report and it was lunched by Mr. President.
“To say in the past, we’ve always looked at monetary poverty. But poverty like we know, has different pieces, different intensity and different causes. And it is for this reason, I went around the 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria, to carry out those survey and to be able to say specifically, where this hardship is.
“The result clearly showed that 72 per cent of poverty is in the rural areas. It also showed clearly, that Sokoto State is leading in poverty with 91 per cent. But the surprising thing is Bayelsa being the second in terms of poverty rating in the country. So, you see the issue is not about availability of money. But it has to do with the application of money.
“In the course of working on the national development plan, we looked at previous plans and say,why they didn’t do as much as was expected. We also looked at the issues of the National Social Investment Programme.
“At the federal level, government is putting out so much money but not seeing so much reflection, in terms of money that has been put in alleviating poverty, which is one of the reasons the government also put in place the national poverty reduction with growth strategy.
“But if the federal government puts the entire income that it earns into all of this without some form of complementarity from the state governments in playing their part, it will seem as if we are throwing money in the pond.”