Nigeria: Is there any hope for the poorest of the poor?
Nations, societies and countries in the time past have initiated one pogramme or policy to cushion the challenges being faced among the poorest of the poor in our societies. However, these plans have not assuaged the ever teething aspiration and need of theirs as the impact of poverty is being felt amongst the ordinary man in the street.
This situation therefore, led to the establishment of such bodies like National Directorate of employment (NDE), National Poverty Eradication Programme (NPEP), Poverty Eradication Programme (PEP), and the like aimed at providing employment through acquisition of some basic skills in some areas of endeavour aimed at eliminating poverty in the sub Sahara of which Nigeria is not 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 the country. The initiative was in line with the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MGS). Over a decade since its inception, the body is till grappling with the unending reality of poverty in the country.
The question on the lips of the poor and ordinary Nigerians is has the body to all intends and purpose achieved the aims for which it was established? The question has become imperative in view of past underhand dealings of its handlers or those given the mandate to oversee its operation.
Benedict Ahanonu in a post to The Daily Eagles (Editorial Page), with the title NAPEP: How not to Eradicate Poverty in Nigeria wrote, “Contrary to a recent denial by the leadership of the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), indeed a N417 million scandal has been uncovered. According to reports, the said money got lost or stolen as NAPEP tried to cut corners and at the centre of the raging scandal is the procurement and distribution of the now popular tricycles or Keke NAPEP.
According to the findings of an internally constituted committee, some elements within NAPEP overlooked the laid down procedure for the procurement and sale of poverty eradication tricycles, which was based on a pre-payment arrangement and in the process incurred the staggering N417 million debts”.
The above scenario among others are the reasons well conceived policies, programmes by our policy makers do not exhaustively take care of its targeted public (the poor). This has also buttressed the saying that Nigeriainitiate well research policies but what is lacking is its implementation to the letter without any cutting corners on the part of those charged with the responsibility to ensure that it has positive impact on the targeted audience (the poor).
This writer was an observer to what transpired on the screening day preparatory to day items like generators, clippers, hairdryers, computer system etc were to be given to those that had undergone one form of skill acquisition training or the other under the Skill Acquisition Scheme of the government in Etche local government area during Dr. Peter Odili Administration. On interaction with one of the suspected trainees who do not know the identity of this writer, said him and others were there as ghost trainees to receive the items on behalf of an unnamed coordinator from their village.
Continuing, he said the coordinator has a long list of ghost trainees under her purview as she tried to mobilize youths from neighbuoring villages and state that will represent the names that appeared on the list. No doubt such items if received will be sold to whoever wants to buy them, thereby frustrating the good intentions of the policy makers. But is this the right way to solve the problem of unemployment that gives rise to poverty and social ills.
For me, this is one out of the many clogs in the wheel of progress towards nipping in the bud the rejuvenating harsh realities of the poor and poverty. Little wonder people ask if the leadership of Nigeria is actually eradicating, alleviating or aggravating poverty. Your answer depends on which side of the great divide you are.
The live of my poor Nigerians both in rural areas and urban centers is no where to be compared with our politicians who often time are in the corridors of power.
Akintokunbo Adejumo in one his master piece wrote, “whilst in Abuja just this week, I learnt that each Nigerian Senator had just collected 42 million Naira as their salaries, expenses and whatever.
Each Member of the House 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 the very low quality services they provide to Nigeria, we could hardly say they earned these huge sums of money) 164 million Naira per year – and there are 109 of these parasites.
A simple calculation therefore means 109 Senators X 164 million Naira X 4 years = 71,504,000,000 or 71 Billion Naira for 4 years. In other words, each Senator will take home 656 Million Naira in 4 years. Not a bad little earner, is it?
For the House of Representatives, there are 360 of these parasites. Each gets 36 Million per quarter, which translates to 144 million per year per Member.
The calculation of their drain 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 of Representatives will take home 576 Million Naira after 4 years, laughing all the way to the bank”.
The above quote is real and on record for doubting Thomas to access or see. While the poor hardly come to grips with three square meals a day, their politician counterparts, some with various corruption charges hanging on their neck like the sword of Damocles smile all the way to the apex bank.
Statistics in the past ten years has it that over 69 million Nigerians live below the poverty line due largely to poor leadership which breeds corruption, lack of strong institutions, poor distribution of wealth and resources across the country. The number of people increased from 67 million to 69 million in Nigeria. In addition, Victoria Ojeme citing the 2004 statistics released by the National Bureau of statistics (ABS), National Poverty Eradication Programme said 75 million Nigerians representing 50 percent of the population, still live below a dollar per day. From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that there has been an upsurge 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 look into the type of houses lived by the poor in Nigeria, sends an appalling chill down the spine of a dispassionate investigator. While some have taken accommodation in shelters popularly referred to as 'bachas' and 'shacks' as obtained in the urban areas. Down in the rural areas there are still many poor people who live in huts and thatched houses cohabiting side by side with reptiles, toads etc. And in worst cases, some have taken accommodation under flyovers and bridges at the mercy of night marauders. Such is the lot of the poor. What a melancholic quandary!
In extreme bad weather condition, especially during rainy seasons they had to contend with floods which submerge the shacks and as a result 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 no way to assuage their hopeless situation.
This writer could remember a day it rained heavily; it was twos years ago as my elder brother and I were coming back from a friend's house, we saw a pregnant woman in a 'bacha' that is not even fit for rearing fowls let alone human habitation, as the down pour dealt with the woman and sent cold shivering all over her system. Luckily, my brother had just finished removing the wood (board) he used in decking his building. Moved by their plight, my brother met with the husband of the pregnant woman and told him to come to his house and collect the wood and construct a better shack for his family which the man did.
While they (the poor) try to keep their heads above water by engaging in such ventures like, picking palm kernel in the forest, fetching firewood 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 of menial and degrading jobs have not added value to their lives. For me they merely exist. Formal education for them becomes a sleepless challenge and Herculean task since they hardly afford a square meal. This accounts for the great number 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 a family finds it difficult to come to terms with basic demand of life.
Juxtaposing the plight of the poor and our corrupt military leaders and politicians who contribute in no mean measure to most of the socio-economic, political and religious woes that plagued Nigeria, one will find out a wide gap between, be it in accommodation, cloths, cars, landed properties, health care, education, food etc all these they (corrupt leaders) can afford with ease with plenty to spare while the poorest continue to wallow in eternal penury.
It will not be needless to say that something practical need to be done, and immediately too, to correct this great imbalance between the corruptly haves and the poorly have nots. Genuine, honest and determined efforts should be geared towards bringing scour to the poor by formulating and implementing policies or programmes that will add value to their lives. One of the reasons some great policies of past and present regime fell to bring about the much need impact is lack of exhaustive implementation on the part of those charged to execute it. What do you observe during execution of such policies, cutting of corners and short changing the actual beneficiaries of the programme by the final executors for parochial and selfish ends?
For example, if government plan is to make sure that the poorest of the poor get three square meals a day, none of the officials mandated to distribute the food should be allowed to go home with say bags of such items as garri, rice, beans and so forth or divert, embezzle, steal money meant for the wellbeing of the poor. The same thing should also hold when distributing skill acquisition machines to those who actually participated in the training. But can this be possible in a country where corruption has become endemic. 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, the question begging serious attention and answer is, can there ever be any hope for the poorest of the poor? Time will definitely reveal.
Nwaorgu Faustinus Chilee, writes from Igboetche, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Mobile: +2348035601312. Email: [email protected]