This Day (Lagos)

11 October 2012

Nigeria: 'Poverty, Still a Threat to National Security'

A non-governmental organisation, with special interest in poverty eradication, ActionAid Nigeria, has asserted that Nigerians deserve to begin to feel the impact of governance in a much improved way.

In a recent statement issued by the organisation in commemoration of Nigeria's 52 years of independence, the anti-poverty agency observed that the country, which has one of the greatest potential of becoming a leading economy in the world, is yet to attain the dream many Nigerians had at independence 52 years ago.

"The month of October was the most significant month in the history of the Nigeria nation. The month had for several years signified for many Nigerians the period of celebration of freedom from foreign rule and a rekindling of hope of a virile nation with capacity for taking care of her citizens," the organisation added.

According to the Country director of ActionAid Nigeria, Dr. Hussaini Abdu, "These potentials are still achievable with focused planning and a pro-people agenda". Nigeria, as Abdu pointed out, has enormous resources, human and materials that very few nations have.

"Not many nations have such space, blue and green, as Nigeria. Its creeks, waterways, rivers, streams and arable land are such that without mineral resources the country would remain one of the most solvent nations in the world. The nation's potential to be one of the biggest economies in the world is further enhanced with its large deposits of solid mineral resources, almost all of them at the high commercial quality.

"The icing on the cake was the discovery of oil which has since the beginning of its exploration thrown up the country as one of the highest income earning nations. And the country has continued to discover more oil deposits in locations within its territory," Abdu commented.

According to the statement issued by the Policy Advocacy and Campaigns Manager, ActionAid Nigeria, Mr. Tunde Aremu, Abdu demanded that these resources be put to better use for not just the economic development of the country, but the liberation of the mass of people who still live in abject poverty.

"That Nigeria has such huge potentials is enough reason to conclude that there is no justifiable reason for as many as 61.9 per cent of the citizenry to continue to live in absolute poverty as revealed by government's owned national Bureau of Statistics", he lamented.

While acknowledging that some efforts have been made at addressing poverty situation in Nigeria at different times through the introduction of such structures as NAPEP, NDE, SMEDAN, NDDC, he said that such agencies still have more to do in addressing the state of poverty in Nigeria.

Noting with dismay the recent loss of lives and property in parts of the country as a result of flood, Abdu commented that these incidences are preventable as admitted by the Minister for Water resources, Sarah Ochekpe, who revealed that successive governments have failed to respond appropriately to the threat of flood by building buffer dams.

He commented that "It is common knowledge that the most vulnerable and invariably the worst affected people are poor people who live in underdeveloped and neglected communities."

Abdu demanded that "the federal government owe it as an obligation to ensure that relevant agencies have make relevant preparations to protect the people and ensure their rights to life, right to health, right to livelihood and right to a dignified life. It is the responsibility of government and its agencies to ensure these rights as enshrined in the country's constitution."

The anti-poverty agency boss expressed concern that the situation of poverty has further aggravated state of insecurity in the nation. "Incidences of bomb blasts, killings, robbery, kidnaps, road accidents and floods have been the leading news in recent times.

"This poverty situation has turned many Nigerians, especially the youths from poor background who have been neglected by the state into desperate persons who in extreme situation take to the sometimes only available option of crime and violent forms of protest as evident in the militancy in the Niger Delta and recently the Boko Haram menace. The latent anger among certain youths in the country has also made many of them vulnerable recruits into sectional and communal violent incidents," he added.

He demanded that "the government needs to review it poverty intervention project, involve people and their agencies in their redesign and make people the centre of development plans in the country. More importantly, there is an urgent need for a properly thought out social safety net plan which must necessarily come with a realistic implementation plan if the cases of poverty and attendant insecurity would be addressed".

The current armed response to security situation, Abdu advised, should not be viewed by the federal government as the only response to the increasing state of insecurity. "It is also important to include a decisive strategy and action to address issues of poverty and exclusion. This way we can ensure that these crises do not erupt in other parts of the country or resurface in same places after a while", Abdu advised.

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