The onslaught against poverty

By Chijioke Okoronkwo

President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly made avowals to tackle headlong, the menace of poverty.

The president has continually expressed his administration’s determination to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.

On June 22, in consonance with earlier declarations, Buhari inaugurated the National Steering Committee (NSC) of the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS).

NPRGS is a poverty alleviation programme designed to bring to fruition, the target of lifting 100 million people out of poverty within 10 years.

The NSC, chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, is tasked with driving the goal of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years, with a researched framework for implementation and funding.

Other members of NPRGS include Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President, Governor of Ekiti (South- West), Governor of Delta (South-South), Governor of Sokoto State (North-West), Governor of Borno  (North- East), Governor of Nasarawa State (North -Central) and Governor of Ebonyi State (South-East).

Others include, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

Also in the committee are Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments, Minister of Labour and Employment, Minister of Education and Minister of Health.

President Buhari said that the NPRGS had already proposed the establishment of a private equity fund, the Nigeria Investment and Growth Fund (NIG-Fund), to lead resource mobilisation drive and also manage the resources in a sustainable manner.

“This journey began in January 2021, when I directed the Chairman of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Secretary to the Government of the Federation to collaboratively work to articulate what will lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.

“I am happy to note that the process of designing this inclusive poverty reduction strategy, recognised and addressed past mistakes as well as laying the foundation for a sustainable poverty reduction through the wide range consultations held at all levels of government, development partners, the private sector as well as the civil society,’’ he said.

He added that the NPRGS would address the underlying causes of poverty on the basis of which it would develop programmes that would deal with the multi-dimensional nature of poverty, within practical context of comparative advantage of human and natural resources in the various geo-political zones.

According to Buhari, the committee is to positively change the poverty narrative in Nigeria.

“If India can lift 271million people out of poverty between 2006 and 2016, Nigeria can surely lift 100million out of poverty in 10 years. Fortunately, we have already started, but we need to unlock the challenges of slow implementation, inappropriate targeting and absence of adequate resources.’’

Buhari tasked the steering committee to inter alia: “Anchor collaborative efforts; provide oversight for the implementation of the strategy.

“Provide guidance to Technical Working Group and Federal Ministries, Extra Ministerial Departments and Agencies, sub-national governments and other stakeholders on meeting the objectives of the programme as well as monitoring progress and any other effort that would enhance attainment of the objective of lifting 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years.’’

Bracing up to the task, Osinbajo expressed optimism that the NPRGS would consolidate other efforts of the government to reduce poverty, which included N-Power, school feeding and conditional cash transfer.

The vice president said that the president’s position that local, state and  federal governments should work jointly to alleviate poverty in the country would be properly reflected in the framework and implementation.

“Mr President, in your June 12, 2019 address, you made the now famous declaration that it must be the objective of both the federal and state governments to lift 100 million of our people out of poverty within a 10-year period.

“Thereafter, you directed that each ministers’ mandate must contain a deliverable on ensuring that every project and programme yields jobs to support the 100-million target.

“This is the logical culmination of this administration’s transformative commitment to improving the lives of Nigerians, as previously expressed through extant strategies, such as the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the ESP.’’

Osinbajo said that the overall objective of the strategy was shared and inclusive prosperity.

Sharing similar sentiments, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the poverty situation in the country has assumed an enormous proportion, with an increasing population.

He said that the situation was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mustapha said the administration responded to the COVID-19 poverty fallout swiftly, cushioned the impact and ensured a quick exit from recession.

To hit the ground running, the NSC, on July 9, held its inaugural meeting.

The vice president, again, at the maiden meeting, stressed that plans to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years would not be based on a business as usual approach, but a very simple, common sense strategy that would deliver results.

“I really want us to approach this as much as possible, commonsensically, so that we are able to resolve all the issues and focus on the real progress.

“I want us to look beyond all of what we are going to be doing, there is going to be a considerable amount of paper work, but a lot of common sense is what grows economies.

“ It is what other countries have done, not really reinventing the wheel.

“So, I want us to focus on those commonsensical things, so that we can actually move forward.”

He cited the example of Bangladesh where a poverty reduction strategy was also implemented, adding that the country’s manufacturing sector was key.

According to him, Bangladesh exports more garments than Nigeria exports oil.

“Countries that have managed to get out of poverty have created a lot of jobs through industries, and they have developed intentional strategies.

“We must look at what others have done the smart things that other people have done, and adopt.”

“We really have to think smartly about how we are funding agriculture.

“I think we really need to take a deep dive because governments have made several efforts at poverty alleviation but generally speaking, they have not yielded the sort of results they should yield, and I think it is because there is a lot of focus on documentation and paper work and very little commonsense approaches.”

Osinbajo explained that NPRGS was meant to be a national strategy, not just a federal effort and it was aimed at taking 100 million people, nationally, out of poverty within a target time-frame of 10 years.

He emphasised that it was a national strategy as opposed to a federal strategy which was why the steering committee was made up of federal as well as state officials.

“Essentially, this effort must also be directed at how to facilitate private sector creation of jobs.

“The fact is that there is no way that the Federal Government or the state governments can create the number of jobs that we need.

“We need to take a few broad looks at the features of what constitutes our present predicaments in terms of job losses and unemployment,” he said.

Adding a voice to the task, Gov. Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State, said that the whole essence of the committee was to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.

He said that having reviewed the Terms of Reference (TOR), the steering committee constituted the technical working group and the National Social Protection Network and would resume its meeting after the Sallah break.

To give a constitutional impetus to the offensive against poverty, a bill seeking the establishment of  a specialised bank to  avail Nigerian youths the opportunity to secure loans through the bank using their certificates as collateral and by extension, encourage youths to engage in agriculture, has scaled its first reading at the Senate.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Orji Kalu, (APC-Abia-North) who is also the Chief Whip of the Senate is titled, “National Food Bank of Nigeria” (Establishment) Bill 2021 SB(780).

On all accounts, the NPRGS is a propitious agenda, which will, through the instrumentality of the NSC, add the needed zing in the efforts to curb poverty in Nigeria. (NANFeatures)

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