STATE GOVERNORS AND RURAL POVERTY
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently released a damning report on the worsening poverty in the country. The agency has reported that133 million Nigerians are living below poverty line. The reports came after the survey on multi-dimensional poverty across the country placed some states as abysmally poor. In its ranking, Sokoto State from North-West became the first state with highest rate of poverty followed by Bayelsa in South-South. Disturbed by this unfortunate report, the state minister of finance, budget and national planning, Clem Agba, blamed state governors for the rising cases of poverty in the country.
The minister stated that state governors preferred to concentrate building projects within the states’ capital, instead of channeling the resources to the rural areas. Most of the state governors prioritised building flyovers and airports than building of bridges and roads in the rural areas. He further said, “With lack of storage facilities and poor bad road network, farmers lost their food products”. The minister may be right. Looking at the huge amount of resources the federal government earmarked and disbursed through its social investment programs such as N-Power, Trader-moni and school feeding programs, the CBN Anchor Borrowers program, the federal government has indeed paid its own dues.
If the state governors have complemented the federal government’s efforts on war against poverty through good policies and programes, the report of alarming rate of poverty will not have cropped up, let alone become the topic of discussion. Before the NBS’s scaring reports, the Global Poverty Clock in 2021, put 87 million Nigerians to have lived below the poverty line. It went ahead to describe Nigeria as the poverty headquarters of the world, having overtaken India. However, the reports did not go down well with our policymakers. It attracted condemnations and denials. Now, NBS has reaffirmed the reports of Global Poverty Clock. Can we still live in denial? Another shocking revelation came from the minister of finance, budget and national planning, Zainab Ahmed, who stated that since 2015, state governors have collected a whopping N5.4 trillion as statutory allocation and other payments from the federation account. If these facts are not enough, then the release of over N625billion to nine oil producing states as arrears of derivation and Sure-P funds is enough evidence to show states governments are not cash-starved.
Local governments which are closer to the people and are supposed to perform local functions such as construction of feeder roads, building of schools and hospitals only exist by name. State governments, through the joint-account, have rendered them financially handicapped. President Muhammadu Buhari, during the just concluded NIPSS graduation ceremony in Kuru, Jos, blamed state governors for tampering with the local governments funds. He cited an example that if N100 million is allocated to a particular local government, the governor will give the chairman N50million and order him to sign that he collected 100 million. The remaining 50 million belongs to the governor who will spend it the way he likes. President Buhari has stated the obvious facts. Local governments in Nigeria have been relegated to background by the state governments. When they pay staff salaries at the end of the month, the remaining funds are not enough to carry out capital projects.
There is no gainsaying the facts, corruption and lack of priority among the state governments fuel poverty in the rural areas. The alarming rate of rural poverty will be squarely tackled if state and local governments are responsive to the yearnings and expectations of the rural populace.
Ibrahim Mustapha, Pambegua, Kaduna State