Dogara’s Reps and the new move against poverty

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During the commemoration of the United Nations’ Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17), the House of Representatives specifically passed a resolution calling on the executive arm of government to take more drastic measures to combat poverty. JOSHUA EGBODO writes on this, and how soon they would become realistic.

Efforts at eradicating poverty in Nigeria have been on for as long as the entity has existed. In fact, successive governments had introduced its self-designed programmes to that effect. The outcomes, however, have so far failed to make the needed impact on the lives of Nigerians. It was, therefore, of great concern to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who on the 15th of October, 2017, during a sensitization programme tagged “Kick Out Poverty”, made known his position.

Dogara took the opportunity offered by the event that was organised to create awareness on the yawning gap between the rich and poor as well as proffered solution to the problem.

Dogara, in his speech at the meeting, cited recent data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which indicated that less than 112 million Nigerians (representing 67.1%) of the country’s estimated population of 167 million people) live below poverty level.

“The global poor is already above the One Billion mark. UNDP sources rate Nigeria’s poverty at 62.6 percent per capita income at $1,280 and human development index at 0.47. These figures are simply unacceptable and challenge all of us to rise to the occasion and vanquish poverty, want, disease and ignorance not only in Nigeria but in the whole world. It is inconsistent with the social objectives set out in Chapter 2 of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in our Constitution”, he stated.

Also, he did not fail to remind Nigerians that there was a link between poverty and social unrest, saying “I dare say that there is also a nexus between poverty and social unrest and insurgency. Thus, as it is clear from the theme for this year’s International Day for Eradication of Poverty, poverty eradication is a sure path to peace building. A society with more satisfied basic needs is less likely to turn to violence in solving its problems”.

Agreed, there have been several intervention programmes and policies of the various governments aimed at addressing poverty and its incidental issues, namely; the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), Green Revolution, Better Life for Rural Women, Family Economic Advancement Programme and National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) amongst others. Even the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has equally designed some social intervention programmes, aimed at addressing abject poverty in the country.

Dogara recalled that “some of these programmes have been successful, some have not due to a variety of reasons including poor funding, lack of proper coordination and commitment, poor design and evaluation mechanisms, lack of continuity occasioned by regime change, corruption, lack of ‘community ownership’ arising from top-bottom approach, etc”.

But on legislative interventions, he said the National Assembly has been involved over the years in the fight against poverty. “You may wish to note that the National Assembly is presently processing a bill which seeks to create a National Poverty Eradication Commission. The objective of the Commission is to, among other things, ensure the sustainable implementation of poverty eradication programmes, maintain outreach with International Donor organisations and create social safety nets for the poor.

“Also, both the Legislative Agenda of the 8th House of Representatives and the Senate emphasise commitment to the promotion of pro-people legislative measures and interventions to reduce poverty. In the House of Representatives in particular, there is a standing Committee on Poverty Eradication. Indeed, the National Assembly has either passed or is in the process of passing many laws aimed at building infrastructure and tackling poverty.

“Indeed, government anti-poverty programmes and social safety nets policy and programmes like N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers to the poor, School Feeding Programme, have received enthusiastic budgetary support by the National Assembly,”Dogara stated.

The Speaker in his concluding remarks said “we all have a duty to work towards eliminating poverty by the year 2030 as enunciated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)…”

Also speaking when he received a delegation from the Conference of Speakers of Nigerian State Legislatures, led by Hon. Ismaila Abdulmumin Kamba, in his office on last week, Dogara, noted that there is the urgent need for governments at all levels to put citizens on the path of prosperity in order to save the country’s democracy.

To achieve this, he said, State Houses of Assembly will have to work hard to improve their monitoring of state funds to ensure that they are properly utilised for the betterment of their people, stressing that doing so will help lift the vast population of Nigerians out of poverty, which he noted was threatening the nation’s democracy.

In commemorating the international day for the eradication of poverty on Tuesday, October 17, the House of Representatives through a resolution called on executive arm of the federal government of Nigeria to tackle the menace of poverty in the country

Chairman of the House Committee on Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Mohammed Ali Wudil had in the motion stressed the need to strengthen the fight against poverty, which the House unanimously adopted, by asking the government to be more pragmatic in implementing various programmes aimed at tackling poverty in the county.

According to the lawmaker, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the declaration of international day for the eradication of poverty by the United Nations General Assembly, but regretted that efforts of the federal government towards eradicating poverty in Nigeria through 2017 budgetary provision for the Special Intervention Fund to cater for unemployed youths, women empowerment and job creation, was yet to produce the expected impact.

“The United Nations report on Nigeria’s Common Country Analysis (CCA), published by the Daily Post on September 5, 2016 described the nation as one of the poorest and most unequal countries in the world with over 80 million or 64 percent of her estimated population of 175 million people living below globally defined poverty line of $1.90 per day”.

The alarming statistics, which according to analysts must be of great concern, and the doubt also being expressed on the sincerity and political will of the current government to tackle the menace headlong, have been raised and it flows from past experiences. Now that the 2018 budget estimates is being awaited, many are of the opinion that it is an opportunity for both the legislature and the executive arms to assure Nigerians beyond the usual rhetorics that government means well for the poor in our country. How soon is the desperate question on the lips of Nigerians!

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