The global community observed yesterday as International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The day is set aside to raise awareness about thepeople struggling for survival amidst poverty. The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Building Forward Together: Ending Persistent, Respecting all People and Our Planet”.
The day was adopted on December 22, 1992 through a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution. In his remarks to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General of the UN, Dr. Antonio, was of the belief that women are the worst sufferers because of job losses arising from the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic that has left the global economy in a terrible shape since the beginning of the year.
Poverty is universally adjudged as mankind’s greatest foe. It is at the root of all hardships faced by some segments of humanity since primordial times. There is no doubting the fact that the pandemic has come to exacerbate the situations of the victims of poverty across the globe and also deepen their mysteries.
Before the emergence of the pandemic, other factors fueling poverty especially in the Third World nations included corruption, bad governance, insensitive leaderships, global conflicts fueling dislocations of families, insurgency, natural disasters like floods, etc.
A couple of years ago, the federal government told the nation that over one million Nigerians died of poverty-related issues every year. The revelation shocked many Nigerians when viewed against the enormous wealth at the disposal of this country.
The disclosure came through the nation’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, while speaking on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari at the 21st Nigerian Economic Summit (NES) held in Abuja.
Nigeria is, indeed, a paradox. According to available statistics which have subsisted for more than a decade, over 80 per cent of Nigerians live below poverty line. This percentage translates to over 136m people of its 170m citizens that are locked in the
jaws of poverty. The figure could even be higher. It is from this huge figure that the nation loses over a million of its hapless citizens yearly.
In 2000, the Obasanjo administration made a desperate attempt to join the global community in confronting the scourgewhen it introduced the Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP).Its mandate was to monitor, coordinate and intervene in poverty alleviation efforts across Nigeria. Billions of naira were committed to the laudable project which was replicated across the states.A year later, the scheme was renamed as National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP).
However, the schemesuffered the Nigerian syndrome. It was mismanaged by those saddled with the task and had to be scrapped after about a decade and a half of existence.
Corruption is an invidious practice that has impoverished the majority and is endangering the future of over 136m Nigerians that are trapped in the pit of grinding poverty. It is an irony that despite the enormous resources at the disposal of successive governments at all levels, the socio-economic climate has continued to remain harsh. The direct consequences include criminal activities like armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom or ritual purpose, petty stealing and other evils that plague the land today.
The administration of Muhammadu Buhari held a lot of promises for Nigerians when he was voted to power in 2015. In fact, it was his anti-corruption stance that endeared him to the poverty-stricken masses. And they overwhelmingly gave him their mandate to execute the rescue mission. In keeping to his campaign promise to fight corruption and allied crimes that fuel corruption, he set out to plug all leakages and wastages in the system. He has consistently warned that if we don’t kill corruption, the monster will destroy the country.
But the battle against the monster appears unwinnable despite the fact that is endowed with abundant resources. If the resources are harnessed and judiciously utilised, no Nigerian would live far below poverty line. Systemic corruption has been the force that sees to it that the common man perpetually remains in the shackles of poverty. The eradication of NAPEP should not translate to the triumph of poverty in the country. Government at all levels should be committed to working for the wellbeing of its citizens. All Nigerians cannot be rich but no one should lack the basic necessities of life which include affordable food, medicare, shelter, potable water, electricity as well as quality education.