There was a time that the Nigerian government set up an entire office, dedicated to the “eradication of poverty”, even though bureaucratic bottlenecks successfully stifled the achievements of this noble goal.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have dusted up the file from where the moribund National Poverty Eradication Programme left it and has created what he calls social protection plan.
According to a study it conducted, the World Bank found out that it has become more difficult to reach those remaining in extreme poverty.
Access to good schools, healthcare, electricity, safe water and other critical services remain elusive for many people.
Nigeria, being the largest population of black people in the world, is confronting some of the severest cases of systematic and systemic poverty. More Nigerians are becoming extremely poor, even as the educational institutions are not really set up with the correct frame of mind to churn out young graduates who are skilled with the technological knowhow and vocation that would make them gainfully employed.
Capacity building of our younger population is not properly anchored to comply with best global practices. Public primary healthcare is next to zero in most local government areas as there is no functional national health insurance scheme transparently administered.
So, the income disparity between these privileged children educated abroad and the millions of children from deprived homes in Nigeria will keep expanding, except fundamental revolutionary measures are implemented. Income disparity between the rest of Nigerians and the less than one percent of political office holders can at best be described as unacceptably high. For instance, while most States are said to be insolvent to meet up with the statutory obligation of payment of salaries, some political office holders are globetrotting with half a dozen of them spending weeks to learn about vocational trainings.
Moreover, the cost of running government is rather too high in Nigeria, just as income disparity is very worrisome. It is a fact that while a bag of rice, which is a staple food in most homes, has skyrocketed to about twenty-two thousand naira. The average civil servant in Nigeria earns a minimum monthly salary of N18, 000. This, certainly, cannot buy the worker even a bag of rice. And an average civil servant in Nigeria has five or more dependants.
Coupled with the fact that there are less than 15 percent of Nigerians working as civil servants in the public sector, majority of Nigerians of all ages are too poor to feed themselves. The way out of this quagmire is to bridge the income gap between the rich and the poor. We also need to eradicate the high rate of public sector corruption pervading our national life. The current administration needs to fashion out much more effective strategies to empower the army of highly impoverished citizens.
The social welfare scheme being championed by the Buhari administration must be transparently administered so that all segments of the poor population can benefit and become gainfully engaged to reduce the high unemployment rate, especially among the youths.
President Buhari and the relevant committees of the National Assembly must monitor closely the implementation of the strategic plan put in place by the social protection plan office in the presidency.
Let the Presidential Social Protection Plan office be adequately structured with the statutory legal frameworks to make it permanent. This is because fighting poverty requires a much more institutionalized commitment and not just merely an ad-hoc arrangement. Also, Let the Social Protection Directorate of the Presidency be administered in such a way that the criminal disparity of income that exists in Nigeria is addressed, just as the cost of running government should be curtailed.