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Nigeria: Is There Any Hope for the Poorest of the Poor?

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Author: Nwaorgu Faustinus
Posted to the web: 4/4/2011 7:06:56 AM

Nigeria:Is there any hope for the poorest of the poor?

ByNwaorgu Faustinus


Nations, societies and countries in the time past haveinitiated one pogramme or policy to cushion the challenges being faced amongthe poorest of the poor in our societies. However, these plans have notassuaged the ever teething aspiration and need of theirs as the impact ofpoverty is being felt amongst the ordinary man in the street.



This situation therefore, led to the establishment of suchbodies like National Directorate of employment (NDE), National Poverty EradicationProgramme (NPEP), Poverty Eradication Programme (PEP), and the like aimed atproviding employment through acquisition of some basic skills in some areas ofendeavour aimed at eliminating poverty in the sub Sahara of which Nigeria isnot an exception.



To begin with, the National Poverty Eradication Programme(NAPEP) was set up in Nigeriaby the current democratic dispensation in 2001 to help eradicate poverty in thecountry. The initiative was in line with the United Nationâ's MillenniumDevelopment Goals (MGS). Over a decade since its inception, the body is tillgrappling with the unending reality of poverty in the country.



The question on the lips of the poor and ordinary Nigeriansis has the body to all intends and purpose achieved the aims for which it wasestablished? The question has become imperative in view of past underhanddealings of its handlers or those given the mandate to oversee its operation.   Benedict Ahanonu in a post to TheDaily Eagles (Editorial Page), withthe title NAPEP: How not to Eradicate Poverty in Nigeria wrote, “Contrary to arecent denial by the leadership of the National Poverty Eradication Programme(NAPEP), indeed a N417 million scandal has been uncovered. According toreports, the said money got lost or stolen as NAPEP tried to cut corners and atthe centre of the raging scandal is the procurement and distribution of the nowpopular tricycles or Keke NAPEP.   According to the findings of aninternally constituted committee, some elements within NAPEP overlooked thelaid down procedure for the procurement and sale of poverty eradicationtricycles, which was based on a pre-payment arrangement and in the processincurred the staggering N417 million debts”.


The above scenario among others are the reasons wellconceived policies, programmes by our policy makers do not exhaustively takecare of its targeted public (the poor). This has also buttressed the sayingthat Nigeriainitiate well research policies but what is lacking is its implementation tothe letter without any cutting corners on the part of those charged with the responsibilityto ensure that it has positive impact on the targeted audience (the poor).



This writer was an observer to what transpired on the screeningday preparatory to day items like generators, clippers, hairdryers, computersystem etc were to be given to those that had undergone one form of skillacquisition training or the other under the Skill Acquisition Scheme of thegovernment in Etche local government area during Dr. Peter Odili Administration.On interaction with one of the suspected trainees who do not know the identityof this writer, said him and others were there as ghost trainees to receive theitems on behalf of an unnamed coordinator from their village.



Continuing, he said the coordinator has a long list of ghosttrainees under her purview as she tried to mobilize youths from neighbuoringvillages and state that will represent the names that appeared on the list. Nodoubt such items if received will be sold to whoever wants to buy them, therebyfrustrating the good intentions of the policy makers. But is this the right wayto solve the problem of unemployment that gives rise to poverty and socialills.



For me, this is one out of the many clogs in the wheel of progresstowards nipping in the bud the rejuvenating harsh realities of the poor andpoverty. Little wonder people ask if the leadership of Nigeria isactually eradicating, alleviating or aggravating poverty. Your answer dependson which side of the great divide you are.



The live of my poor Nigerians both in rural areas and urbancenters is no where to be compared with our politicians who often time are inthe corridors of power.



Akintokunbo Adejumo in one his master piece wrote, “whilst in Abuja just this week, I learnt that eachNigerian Senator had just collected 42 million Naira as their salaries,expenses and whatever.



Each Member of theHouse of Representative had just collected 36 Million Naira.

These are per quarter,which means each Senator gets (I will not say “earn” because judging from thevery low quality services they provide to Nigeria, we could hardly say theyearned these huge sums of money) 164 million Naira per year – and there are 109of these parasites.



A simple calculationtherefore means 109 Senators X 164 million Naira X 4 years = 71,504,000,000 or71 Billion Naira for 4 years. In other words, each Senator will take home 656Million Naira in 4 years. Not a bad little earner, is it?



For the House ofRepresentatives, there are 360 of these parasites.  Each gets 36 Millionper quarter, which translates to 144 million per year per Member.


The calculation of theirdrain on the Nigerian treasury is 360 X 144 million Naira X 4 years =207,360,000,000 or 207 Billion Naira. Each member of the House ofRepresentatives will take home 576 Million Naira after 4 years, laughing allthe way to the bank”.



The above quote is real and on record for doubting Thomas toaccess or see. While the poor hardly come to grips with three square meals aday, their politician counterparts, some with various corruption chargeshanging on their neck like the sword of Damocles smile all the way to the apexbank.



Statistics in the past ten years has it that over 69 millionNigerians live below the poverty line due largely to poor leadership whichbreeds corruption, lack of strong institutions, poor distribution of wealth andresources across the country. The number of people increased from 67 million to69 million in Nigeria.In addition, Victoria Ojeme citing the 2004 statistics released by the NationalBureau of statistics (ABS), National Poverty Eradication Programme said 75million Nigerians representing 50 percent of the population, still live below adollar per day. From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that there has been anupsurge of poverty instead of a decrease.



The situation is manifest in the kind of house the poor live,cloths, shoes or slippers the poor put on, food they eat, etc. A cursory lookinto the type of houses lived by the poor in Nigeria, sends an appalling chilldown the spine of a dispassionate investigator. While some have takenaccommodation in shelters popularly referred to as ‘bachas’ and ‘shacks’ asobtained in the urban areas.  Down in therural areas there are still many poor people who live in huts and thatchedhouses cohabiting side by side with reptiles, toads etc. And in worst cases,some have taken accommodation under flyovers and bridges at the mercy of nightmarauders. Such is the lot of the poor. What a melancholic quandary!



In extreme bad weather condition, especially during rainyseasons they had to contend with floods which submerge the shacks and as aresult lead to loss of property. With it comes agony, gnawing of teeth,pneumonia, malaria, cough, catarrh and life seem unkind to live as there is noway to assuage their hopeless situation.



This writer could remember a day it rained heavily; it wastwos years ago as my elder brother and I were coming back from a friendâ'shouse, we saw a pregnant woman in a ‘bacha’ that is not even fit for rearingfowls let alone human habitation, as the down pour dealt with the woman andsent cold shivering all over her system. Luckily, my brother had just finishedremoving the wood (board) he used in decking his building. Moved by theirplight, my brother met with the husband of the pregnant woman and told him tocome to his house and collect the wood and construct a better shack for hisfamily which the man did.  



While they (the poor) try to keep their heads above water byengaging in such ventures like, picking palm kernel in the forest, fetchingfirewood etc for sale to being hired as labourers in such ventures like,cutting of bush, serving of mortar at building sites, mention them, all kinds ofmenial and degrading jobs have not added value to their lives. For me theymerely exist. Formal education for them becomes a sleepless challenge andHerculean task since they hardly afford a square meal. This accounts for the greatnumber of children and adults who ought to be in school today but they are not.The same holds out in terms of clothing and family responsibilities as many afamily finds it difficult to come to terms with basic demand of life.



Juxtaposing the plight of the poor and our corrupt militaryleaders and politicians who contribute in no mean measure to most of thesocio-economic, political and religious woes that plagued Nigeria, one will findout a wide gap between, be it in accommodation, cloths, cars, landedproperties, health care, education, food etc all these they (corrupt leaders)can afford with ease with plenty to spare while the poorest continue to wallowin eternal penury.



It will not be needless to say that something practical needto be done, and immediately too, to correct this great imbalance between thecorruptly haves and the poorly have nots. Genuine, honest and determinedefforts should be geared towards bringing scour to the poor by formulating andimplementing policies or programmes that will add value to their lives. One ofthe reasons some great policies of past and present regime fell to bring aboutthe much need impact is lack of exhaustive implementation on the part of thosecharged to execute it.  What do youobserve during execution of such policies, cutting of corners and shortchanging the actual beneficiaries of the programme by the final executors forparochial and selfish ends?



For example, if government plan is to make sure that thepoorest of the poor get three square meals a day, none of the officialsmandated to distribute the food should be allowed to go home with say bags ofsuch items as garri, rice, beans and so forth or divert, embezzle, steal moneymeant for the wellbeing of the poor. The same thing should also hold whendistributing skill acquisition machines to those who actually participated inthe training. But can this be possible in a country where corruption has becomeendemic. This is why I look at the present fight against poverty as a mirage –an illusion.    



As this gap between the poorest of the poor and the  rich astronomically continues to widen, thequestion begging serious attention and answer is, can there ever be any hopefor the poorest of the poor? Time will definitely reveal.



Nwaorgu Faustinus Chilee, writes from Igboetche, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.Mobile:+2348035601312. Email: fausteness@yahoo.com

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