Towards “Curing” Poverty in Nigeria

Towards “Curing” Poverty in Nigeria

One global change I would like to see solved is the eradication of poverty across Africa especially in Nigeria. In the five minutes you’d have spent reading this article, six people would have fallen into extreme poverty. Think about that for a second, these six people are not just random numbers, they are actual humans who used to be comfortable; they are your cook, your cleaner, the bus conductor and your gateman Musa.

Musa earns a monthly wage of 20,000 Naira and out of that money he’s expected to take care of himself, his wife and four kids in faraway Jigawa State.  The derica of rice they used to buy for 600 is now sold for 2000, climate change has affected the yield they get from their farm, and they spend most of their income on malaria and typhoid drugs. Hence Musa can no longer afford basic provisions and now feeds from hand to mouth while going hungry for most days as various things ebb away his little income. His salary can no longer take care of him and his family. Tick tock, Musa is one of the six people that has just fallen into extreme poverty as we speak because their resilience is gone.

About 600 million people across the world live in extreme poverty, more than 70% of that number live in Africa (427 million people) of which 93 million live in Nigeria. I have been very fortunate to work with both the government and international development agencies in creating policies and initiatives that would help us take people like Musa out of poverty so I know first hand what an intentional policy can achieve in helping us reduce our poverty numbers. Last year, the Government approved a National Social Protection Policy that clearly address these challenges. 

This policy lays out specific steps to provide Musa’s wife and kids with free healthcare so Musa spends less money on drugs, monthly cash stipends to cater for her and the kids, free education for the kids, Agric inputs for farming to increase their yield and skill acquisition programmes for Musa so he can learn a skill and get a better job asides being a gateman and encourages state governments to set aside a portion of their budget for their poor and vulnerable population. All these through a combination of coordinated efforts from both Public and Private sector. Currently, only two states have adopted the policy (note: adoption does not equal implementation as you still require the appropriate budgetary allocation). Meanwhile, we have seen this same strategy work in Cambodia, Vietnam and India specifically where they lift about 44 people out of poverty every minute.

Hence, I won’t waste time on this article preferring solutions to our poverty malaise when experts have spent time doing justice to this. But in Nigeria, most policies waste away as mere documents if properly implemented, so I was part of a team that carefully designed a policy implementation roadmap for the Nigerian Govt that has been validated by key players across the social development space. I spent time with the poor men of Jigawa, the malnourished children of Taraba, sick women of Zamfara and I saw how targeted social protection programmes improved their lives over time. I know this because I have been involved but so many don’t due to a lack of awareness, education and execution. 

In Nigeria, our politics is short-term, this is why governors would rather build roads and empty buildings instead of investing in things like policy or education which take much longer term before the impact can be felt.

If Nigeria is serious about poverty, then it must be looked at as a National Crisis, one whose solution is apolitical. Poverty knows no party delineation, it is not APC or PDP, and if we don’t solve this looming crisis, history will not be kind on us.

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