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Buhari’s Eight Years Fight Against Poverty: A Jamboree

President Muhammadu Buhari has spent more money fighting poverty than any Nigerian leader from 1960 till date.

Yet the impact of the president's Social Intervention programs, such as the Conditional Cash Transfer CCT to the vulnerable, the NPower scheme, the Covid survival fund and others, leaves more to be desired.

A person is said to be in a state of poverty if they earn less than one dollar and ninety cents daily. That’s about nine hundred naira a day. According to the latest poverty index released by IMF, Nigeria has effectively retained its spot as the world’s poverty capital despite millions of dollars sunk into alleviating poverty by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

According to Seattle, Washington — Nigeria has exceeded India with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty. In Nigeria, about 86.9 million live in severe poverty, about 50% of its entire population. While the nation is smaller geographically and in terms of population, it is failing at lowering poverty rates. This is partly due to the mismanagement of the oil business and the presence of corruption.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s spending on Social Intervention funds from 2016 to 2022.

Since its inception, the Buhari administration has spent a whooping sum of N1.3 trillion naira fighting poverty in its National Social Investment Programs NSIP in the last seven years. These social programmes include N-power, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), National Home-grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), Conditional Cash Transfers and Independent Monitors (IM).

The Outgoing Minster of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mrs Sadiyya Umar Farouk, at the 23rd edition of President Muhamadu Buhari Score card series organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in Abuja, stated emphatically that this outgoing administration had spent N890.7 billion on N-power with N246 billion on CCT, N17.6 billion on GEEP, N2.7 million on IM. At the same time, school feeding programmes gulped N200.9 billion, respectively.

During the event to mark the curtailed fall of activities in the ministry, she further stated that  the Ministry has directly touched the lives of over 15 million individuals and their families. Giving a further analysis, the minister opined that 9.9 million pupils were fed in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); over 3 million youths have benefitted from the N-power programme, out of which one million are receiving N30,000 monthly stipend; a total of 185,919 persons are beneficiaries under GEEP; while CCT has paid 1.9 million vulnerable persons N5,000 monthly, and 355,000 persons have received grants of N20,000.

“We have impacted lives; people who before could not feed themselves can now afford to feed themselves and members of their families. People who did not have any form of business to do have been supported with some form of capital for them to be productive members of society.

When this administration came on board in 2015, the statistics showed that over 75 per cent of our populace lived below the poverty line. The story is different now, it is about 45 to 58 per cent, so we have made significant progress in this regard,” she said.

The question on the lips of most Nigerians is how has President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration spending over a trillion, lifted the targeted groups out of poverty?

To most Nigerians, however, the federal government's broad claims stink of falsehoods. The various programs they avow have neither aided vulnerable populations significantly nor tackled poverty and hunger across the country.

On the contrary, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and other international bodies show that despite seven years of implementing the NSIPs, the poverty level in the country has significantly increased, leading to widespread hunger and under-five deaths. NBS data of March 2023 shows that the Urban Poverty rate was 18.04 per cent while the Rural Poverty rate was 52.10 per cent.

In its poverty and inequality report from September 2018 to October 2019, released in May 2021, NBS said 40 per cent of Nigerians live below its poverty line of N137,430 ($381.75) per year. This represents 82.9 million people out of a population of about 200 million.

How can you tackle poverty by paying the poor and vulnerable Five Thousand Naira? To live above the poverty line, one needs to earn at least $1.80, which is eight hundred Naira daily; multiply it by thirty, and it gives you Twenty-Four Thousand Naira monthly. Then how can you match the five Thousand Naira given to lift people out of poverty with the minimum of twenty-four thousand required monthly? 

Another question is, after six months, the conditional cash transfer ends. Where do the beneficiaries run to? After collecting Thirty Thousand Naira for two years, what’s next for the    N- Power beneficiaries? The Ten Thousand Trader Moni that was shared with traders to tacitly buy votes in 2019, what can it do to uplift the trading capital of market women considering the inflation in the market? What modalities have been implemented to ensure beneficiaries pay back these loans? The Next Administration must stop this jamboree and develop clear programs and policies to fight poverty.

Way Forward…

The approach the presidency of Muhamadu Buhari has taken in the fight against poverty is a transactional approach borrowed from Mexico. Mexico has been giving out cash transfers to millions of its Citizens. Still, in Mexico, the rural communities have access to microfinance, and the monies are distributed to this microfinance to handle. The government only supervises. Their economy is stronger than ours, and there is access to power and government policies are friendly, unlike in Nigeria.

On the contrary, you cannot give people monies as freebies and expect such freebies to lift them above the poverty line. The government should support existing microfinance banks like Lapo and others to expand their operations to rural communities. Domicile funds with these microfinance banks and spell out the loan conditions. The banks will be able to know those who need these loans for businesses and individuals who are credit-worthy. Not politicians junketing from market to market and sharing money as if we are in a Banana Republic.

Secondly, poverty thrives mostly in rural communities because of poor access to affordable education, health care, and other social amenities. The Ministry of Agriculture, if we have any, needs to deploy agricultural extension workers to our rural communities to teach them modern farming techniques. Agriculture, with its long value chain, has the potential to empower millions of rural dwellers and stop the negative trend of rural-to-urban migration.

In the same vein, cutting down on recurrent government spending and diverting such funds to create innovation hubs for young entrepreneurs can reduce unemployment drastically. Over one hundred and fifty federal government agencies, departments and parastatals have duplicative functions. The next administration must put mechanisms in place to reduce them in phases to not affect thousands of civil servants working there.

In these MDAs, there are over one thousand directors and CEOs. Averagely every four years, these individuals are given brand new vehicles just like our legislators, millions as estacodes, expend millions of naira organising workshops and seminars that made us the capital poverty of the world. From the analysis of the 2019 budget, over N200 Billion naira was spent on the purchase of cars for this group of people. If you follow this trend from 2015 to 2022, over N500 Billion have been budgeted for vehicle purchases, maintenance and sundry. If we spend this much on frivolities, we are not serious about ending poverty.

Lifting people out of poverty is not done by speaking eloquently on national television.

When we try to fight poverty genuinely, the results will speak out. The people on the streets will feel it, Nigerians will say it, and there will be no need for validation from the government. When you send a child to school, everything shows in his results if he fails to study. 

The results as regards the level of poverty in Nigeria are mindboggling. The incoming government must scrutinise its proposed policies and programs of poverty alleviation from the transactional approach of President Buhari to a more wholistic one, such as providing power for small businesses, encouraging financial institutions to extend their services to the villages and giving them funds to loan to rural businesses at a low-interest rate.

The new administration must improve security to boost agricultural production and set up a special-purpose vehicle (not Atiku’s type) for agro-processors to acquire the necessary support to set up agro-industries. We can not afford to export our jobs abroad by exporting unrefined agro products. 

The Central Bank should be Sanitised. It has no business dishing out loans to farmers, manufacturers and others. The bureaucracy created by their application processes is killing. The bank should instead capitalise the Bank of Industries BOI, Bank of Agriculture and even deposit money banks to carry out such functions and set out the interest rate as applicable to these special funds.

Lastly, fighting poverty requires excellent administration in finance, fiscal and monetary policies, agriculture, security, and a robust policy plan, including foreign policy. As a matter of patriotism, the next president must ensure that qualified and experienced professionals are appointed as Ministers and appointees in these positions. Using juicy positions to reward party leaders to the nation’s detriment must stop.