Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has blamed state governors for the rising poverty rate in Nigeria, saying that they are not doing enough to alleviate poverty in their various states.
The statement, which was issued on Wednesday, comes on the heels of a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which said that 133 million Nigerians (63% of the population) live in multidimensional poverty.
Speaking after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, said that the governors, instead of investing in human capital development that will improve lives, especially in the rural areas of their states where the poverty rate is as high as 72%, are busy building airports and flyovers.
“They would rather build skyscrapers in a city where people will see and clap but the skyscrapers do not put food on the table,” Agba said.
The minister absorbed the federal government of blame, arguing that it has done its best to alleviate poverty. He indicated that federal government’s efforts to reduce poverty have not yielded positive result because the governors are not complementing them.
Agba said for instance, while states are in charge of land for agriculture, they do not invest in them for the desired effect on their rural citizens.
“When you say government, we should be able to specify which government we are talking about. Is it the Federal Government, state government or local government? Because we all have different responsibilities.
“It is for this reason that we last year started some work on the multidimensional poverty index, for which we recently released the report.
“In the past, we’ve always looked at monetary poverty, but poverty has different pieces, different intensity and different causes. And it is for this reason; I went around the 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria, to carry out those surveys and to be able to say specifically, where this hardship is.
“The result clearly shows that 72 per cent of poverty is in rural areas. It also showed clearly, that Sokoto State is leading in poverty with 91 per cent. But the surprising thing is Bayelsa is the second in terms of poverty rating in the country.
“So, you see the issue is not about the availability of money. But it has to do with the application of money.
“At the Federal level, the government is putting out so much money into National Social Investment Programmes, but not seeing so much reflection in terms of alleviating poverty.
“But if the Federal Government puts the entire income that it earns into all of this without some form of complementarity from state governments in playing their part, it will seem as if we are throwing money in the pond because the governors basically are only functioning in their state capitals.
“Democracy that we preach about is delivering the greatest goods to the greatest number of people. And from our demography, it shows that the greatest number of our people live in rural areas, but the governors are not working in the rural areas,” he explained.
The Nigerian poverty rate has risen significantly since 2015 despite intervention programmes by Buhari’s administration. Experts have attributed the increase to the federal government’s economic policies, which they say to be unprogressive.
Despite this backdrop, the federal government has always given itself pass marks while it shifts the blame to others. But the bombshell report by the NBS has discredited every credit the federal government has given itself on poverty alleviation, including that it is working to lift 100 million Nigerians from poverty by 2023.
Critics believe that the federal government’s decision to shift the blame to state governors this time means that it has run out of ideas on how to address the country’s poverty crisis.
Agba said that the state governors should focus on initiatives that can lift the majority of the people out of poverty, rather than building skyscrapers, flyovers and bridges among other gigantic projects in the city centers.