THE current grinding poverty across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria that has engendered many negative consequences including all manner of vices and social dislocation for the citizens should be a source of serious concern to all tiers of government and a wake-up call for all concerned. This is totally unacceptable and we demand that no stone should be left unturned in addressing its root causes with a view to achieving better living standard for the vast majority of the people.
According to recent official statistics, over 80 million out of the estimated 180 million Nigerians live below poverty level with the country ranked 26th poorest and the 20th hungriest nation in the world while unemployment and inflation rates have been put at 18.8 and 15.1 percent respectively.The situation, we note is further compounded by the fact that governments at all levels have clearing failed to provide basic needs of citizens such as quality education, housing, potable water supply, healthcare delivery, sanitation and electricity even when the people are ready to pay.
Besides, regrettably too, it is common knowledge that basic amenities are only available to the elites who constitute a tiny fraction of the population and live in choice areas and mostly government reservation areas. It is also a statement of fact that most citizens are forced to pay for energy not consumed through estimated billing by the distribution companies nationwide, a practice we totally condemn.The implications of all these are that more people are daily being driven into the poverty bracket since due to no fault of theirs they can no longer meet the basic necessities of life from legitimate wages and therefore helpless and now require immediate assistance from government perhaps through subsidies to survive which the latter may not be in position to provide owing to dwindling revenues.
We demand that governments particularly the federal and states should take the bull by the horns in providing the needed environment through adequate funding for the execution of public infrastructure such as improved power supply, potable water, quality road network, adequate security among others to enable the organized private sector take the lead in real sector of the economy to generate jobs for the millions of unemployed in the country.
In our view, it should no longer be business as usual for public officials at the saddle in various ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs in the implementation of governments’ policies and programmes and ensure that taxpayers get maximum value for their money in terms of projects delivery.The legislatures at the federal and state levels on their part should redouble efforts in their oversight functions while the civil society organizations and citizens should jettison their hitherto lukewarm attitude to execution of government projects by asking relevant questions such as completion date and adequate funding since citizens can only derive benefits from fully executed projects.
The States and National Assemblies we believe should revisit the cost of governance through relevant amendment of the Constitution to prune the size of government and slash the current jumbo pay of legislators and those in the executive arm of government in order to free more resources for the execution of development programmes that will positively impact the people.We further call for invigoration of various agricultural schemes especially the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme which has given a tremendous boost in food yield over the last few years across the states. States that are yet to embrace the scheme should immediately do the needful to enable tap the full benefits derivable and consolidate on the gains already achieved.The multiplier effects of the scheme, we note cannot be underestimated given the milestones already achieved through tremendous yield especially in rice cultivation and which is why the country may stop the importation of the produce by the end of this year.
We commend this initiative of the CBN which also, should sustain its existing ban on 41items, a policy we observe had reportedly attracted about $10billion foreign investment into the real sector of the country last year alone as well as enable her conserve billions of dollars in foreign reserves that was hitherto spent on the importation of these annually.In other words, the ban apart from encouraging direct foreign investment and boosting industrialization has gone a long way to create jobs thereby reducing the current high rate of unemployment in the land.
We demand adequate funding for small and medium scale enterprises, SMEs by the appropriate agencies of governments. However at the federal level, an immediate establishment of a ministry exclusively charged with the responsibility of ensuring healthy of SMEs has become imperative given the not too pleasant experience of most enterprises under the Bank of Industry, BOI backed finance support programme.Many local manufacturers who ought to have benefited from the arrangement have complained loud about their inability to access BOI loans even after been made to open accounts with their bankers to access the facility. This should no longer be since the SMEs are the engine of sustainable economic growth in major economies of the world and Nigeria shouldn’t be an exemption.
We believe that the full impact associated with the country exiting the recession and accumulating a remarkable $40.4billion in foreign reserves should be felt more by the vast majority of the citizenry through focused and purposeful delivery of socio-economic programmes as well as good governance.In specific terms there is an urgent need for governments to provide reliable power supply, good transportation networks (road, rail and waterways) for movement of goods across the country, potable water, quality healthcare, adequate security and public-private sector partnership for increased job creation as part of overall strategy to lift those within the poverty bracket out of the hardship.
We further encourage both the government, representatives of employers of labour as well as the Nigeria Labour Congress to speedily negotiate a new national minimum wage that will truly address the needs of the low income earners as the existing N18000 monthly take home pay of the least paid worker has become unrealistic and a slave income even as we welcome recent pledge by the labour minister, Dr. Chris Ngige that the federal government would ensure a negotiated new minimum wage this year.
Sadly however, it is a statement of fact that today, there is anger, frustration coupled with rising insecurity in the land even after Nigerians had to celebrate the Yuletide at great pains amid economic hardship which manifested in energy (fuel and electricity) scarcity and high cost of food items transportation fares. We believe that time is of the essence for governments to quickly address these challenges to lift the haves not from poverty as a further delay may be catastrophic for the nation.
For a better society