ENDEMIC POVERTY IN THE NORTH

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The north should invest massively in education

For the umpteenth time, the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, stirred the hornet’s nest last week while speaking on the endemic poverty and loss of family values that have become prevalent in the North. Against the background that the root of the festering Almajiri system is the production of many children without commensurate economic power to take care of them, the emir called for the arrest of individuals who bring forth children that end up on the streets. But the emir also spoke to the leadership failure that has made the problem to fester.

Sanusi’s warning came following a recent report titled, ‘Advancing Social Protection in a Dynamic Nigeria,’ by the World Bank which painted a gory picture of abject poverty ravaging the North. Based on a study on poverty index in Nigeria from 2011 to 2016, the World Bank reported that poverty in the North has continued to escalate, accounting for 87 per cent of the entire poverty rate in Nigeria. “We have been saying this for 20 to 30 years. If the North does not change, the North will destroy itself. The country is moving on. The quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause,” Sanusi said in Kaduna while advocating a massive investment in education by the northern governors.

Almost a year ago at the 4th edition of the Kaduna Economic and Investment summit, Africa’s richest man and President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote echoed similar sentiment on the frightening scope of poverty in the region. “It is instructive to know that the 19 northern states, which account for over 54 per cent of the country’s population and 70 per cent of its landmass, collectively generated only 21 per cent of the total sub-national internally generated revenue in 2017. Northern Nigeria will continue to fall behind if the respective state governments do not move to close this development gap,” Dangote said.

That the north requires multi-level backing from the private sector to fund the requisite investments to create jobs and eradicate poverty is not in doubt. But it is also true that the economic woes are largely a consequence of failure to substantially develop the human capacity to cope with contemporary challenges. It is alarming, for instance, that the north is lagging behind in the area of literacy as the region accounts for the country’s largest number of out-of-school children.

Without education, these children end up constituting a burden to the society as they are easily influenced and goaded into crimes. We are already reaping the consequence in the insurgency in the north-east that has crippled social- economic activities in the zone and left it poorer. Thousands of lives have also been lost to the crisis which has resulted in the displacement of many communities and millions of our people, who are now sheltered in Internally Displaced Persons’ Camps that dot many parts of the north.

Therefore, we advocate aggressive infrastructure development in the North. Schools in large numbers, from elementary to tertiary levels should be built and funded. Incentives that will motivate children to attend schools and stay in schools should also be provided. Cottage industries and small scale businesses should be encouraged as these will go a long way in reducing poverty. However, there can be no sustainable solution if there are no deliberate moves to address irresponsible procreation. A situation where the number of wives and children a person has is seen as an expression of pride as demonstrated by the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ado Doguwa, recently, will only continue to fuel poverty.