NWACHUKWU, LAMBERT CHIDI
Department Of Public Administration,
Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State
Department of Public Administration,
Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Owerri, Imo state
Poverty no doubt is a global problem. In Nigeria, the need to avert the negative effects and consequences of poverty has made its tackling to feature very prominently on the development policies and objectives of successive government. In spite of such efforts, poverty remains a grave and serious problem in the country. It is the contention of this paper that successive governments in Nigeria have failed dismally to tackle the high incidence of poverty in the country through efficient and consistent policy choices. Rather, their efforts have done more in exacerbating the menace of poverty in the country. This in turn has hampered productivity, social progress and the overall development of the country. This paper therefore, postulates that efficient, effective and consistent policy choices could mitigate the poverty problem in Nigeria.
Key words: Poverty, Poverty Alleviation, Policy, Policy Problem.
The concern about poverty worldwide dates back to 1944 when the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its historic Philadelphia declaration drawn up after the Second World War, stated that “poverty anywhere constitutes a threat to prosperity”. It was this declaration that necessitated the crusade for poverty alleviation worldwide especially in the United States of America, where some segments of the society were identified as being in generally poor states of health and suffering from inadequate diet and poverty (Dennis and Williams 1973). Overtime, it has been discovered that reducing the menace of poverty remains one of the most difficult challenges facing most countries of the world especially the developing countries, where on the average about 67,000 people join the legion of the poor on a daily basis, representing about 25 million every year (Okonwo, 1998:24). This situation made the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) report on the state of the world rural poverty to observe that, “no where in the third world countries have the poverty alleviation programmes as originally conceived, realized their objectives, namely, poverty amelioration and redistributive justice. Instead, rural poverty continued to rise, except in the new industrialized countries of South East Asia (cited in Obembe, 2006:24).
Nigeria just like many other Sub-Saharan African countries is neck deep in poverty. The country is characterized by declining per capita incomes, increasing hunger, rising unemployment and environmental degradation. Despite all the efforts made by various governments in Nigeria to improve the lots of the people through the various poverty alleviation/eradication/reduction policies and programmes, it is evident that the proportion of people at poverty level has continued to increase. For example, the figure increased from 27% in 1980 to 46% in 1985, it declined slightly to 42% in 1992 and increased very sharply to 66% in 1996. By 1999, estimate had it that more than 70% of Nigerians were living below the poverty line (National Planning Commission, 2004:28).
This article is of the opinion that Nigeria’s potential for growth and poverty alleviation is greatly constrained by the inconsistent and ineffective nature of poverty alleviation policies and programmes in the country. In other words, this paper argues that successive Nigerian government has failed to tackle the endemic poverty problem in the country through efficient and effective policy choices. This in turn has impacted negatively on productivity, social progress and the overall development of the country. Basically, the objectives of the article are threefold:
i. To ascertain why successive Nigerian government has failed to
tackle the endemic poverty in the country through efficient policy
ii. To examine the causes and problems of poverty in Nigeria, and
iii. To suggest strategies and ways by which poverty can be efficiently
tackled to enhance the overall progress and development of
CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATIONS: POVERTY, POVERTY ALLEVIATION, POLICY, POLICYPROBLEM
Poverty: The concept of poverty means different things to different people or groups of people. This is why the concept has been variously defined. However, scholars have come to categorize the definition of poverty into two: absolute and relative poverty. Absolute poverty refers to a situation where an individual lacks the resources necessary to sustain himself or herself. Such an individual lacks the basic human needs of food, shelter, and clothing. This definition of poverty in terms of subsistence is predominantly used by scholars in the analysis of poverty in Africa and in the developing countries in general. On the other hand, relative poverty refers to a situation where an individual lacks the necessary resources when compared with other members of the society such that this limits or prevents him from partaking in the normal and desirable activities of life that exists in such a society. In all these two perspectives, poverty portrays a situation of precarious living that subjects one to human, material and physical deprivations (Obi et al, 2003: 169). However, the analysis of poverty situation and efforts towards its alleviation in Nigeria tilt toward the absolute definition of the concept hence our operational definition as provided by the World Bank (1999:10) is that:
Poverty is a state where an individual is not able to cater adequately for his/her basic needs of food, clothing and shelter; is unable to meet social and economic obligations; lacks gainful employment, skills, assets and self-esteem; and has limited access to social and economic infrastructure such as education, health, potable water and sanitation; and consequently, has limited chance of advancing his/her welfare to the limit of his/her capacities.
Obadan (cited in Eminue, 2005:505) has similarly defined poverty as referring to “lack of physical necessities, assets and income, a condition which results in deprivation, social inferiority, isolation, physical wideness (disillusionment), vulnerability, seasonality, powerlessness and humiliation”. According to Obi et al (2008:170), poverty is a reflection of some glaring defects in a state and its economy and it normally manifests itself in the form of mass penury, mass unemployment, poor welfare services, lack of basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, social inferiority, disempowerment, deprivation, isolation, humiliation, and vulnerability to ill-health, drought, economic decline, crime and other societal conflicts.
The concept of poverty has been subjected to various quantitative scientific measurements by scholars, analysts and organisations. The aim is to better the understanding of the concept of poverty and how to tackle it.
The most frequently used measurements are:
i. The head count poverty index (measure) which is applied by counting the number of people below the poverty line income. According to this measure, a person is considered to be in poverty if his consumption of income level falls below some minimum level necessary to meet his basic needs. This minimum level is what is usually referred to as the “poverty line”. This traditional approach of measuring poverty is based mainly on income and consumption levels. However, it is important to point out here that poverty lines vary in time and place and from country to country.
ii. The use of Human Development Index (HDI) to measure human progress or retrogression. This is done by utilizing data on life expectancy, adult literacy rate and Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) or real GDP per capital adjusted for the local cost of living. As of 1997, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), using the HDI ranked Nigeria 146 out of 174 countries in its HDI. This shows that the level of poverty is very high in the country (UNDP, 1997:3).
iii. The use of Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI) composed from three social indicators: life expectancy, infant mortality and literacy rate. A country is rated on each of the three indicators, from 1 to 100 with a grade of 100 being the lowest rating; and a simple average for the three is calculated for each country. The lower the PQLI, the poorer the country and vice versa (Eminue, 2005:507).
iv. The use of the Human Poverty Index (HPI), which is a multidimensional device for measuring the “extent of depreciation, the proportion of people in the community who are left out of progress”. To this end, some people have relied on measuring the intensity of poverty, where the deviations of the incomes of the poor from the poverty line are average and divided by the poverty line or expressed as a percentage of the poverty line. Others have however used the Gini Index, which measures the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest as a useful indicator of a contrary’s national wealth (UNDP, 1997:25; Eminue, 2005:507).
v. Lastly, the use of Capability Poverty Measure (CPM). The CPM focuses on the average capabilities of the people by reflecting on the percentage of those who lack basic essential human capabilities which, as end in themselves, are needed to rise from a position of income poverty to one of sustained human development.
Poverty Alleviation: In this work, “poverty alleviation”, “poverty reduction”, and “poverty eradication”, will be used interchangeably. According to Karaosmanglu (cited in Obembe, 2006:276), poverty alleviation is generally considered synonymous with development. Poverty alleviation is a means through which an individual, community, country, etc, is relieved of the hardships that come from poverty and accordingly provided with the necessities for good living/higher standards of living.
A key challenge to poverty which poverty alleviation seeks to attack is to penetrate the institutional web of the poor, which encompasses legal and religious practice, the role of the family and its effects on child rearing and education in order to assist the poor in achieving what they consider to be a better life. The goal of the poverty oriented institutional development is also to release the energies of ordinary people by enabling them to take control over their lives (World Bank, 1989).
According to the African Development Bank Report (1998), progress in poverty reduction can only come about through sustained and broad-based economic growth, complemented by efficient provision of social services, such as education, health care, clean water, sanitation and nutrition. The study tries to suggest (and justifiably too) that human capital development is an essential means for sustained economic growth and poverty reduction as well as an end in itself.
Policy: Policy as a concept defies a specific definition, just as is the case with most concepts in the social sciences. Akpan (1982:32), defines policy as a “form of law made by the governing bodies or organisations to govern, direct, control, and regulate members of the organisations”. This according to him “may take legal form of laws passed by the legislature, decisions of a government cabinet, or boards of directors of public corporations or departmental authorities, and so on”. Jenkins (1978:15), had earlier seen the notion of “policy” as incorporating a concern with “the selection of goals, and the means of achieving them within a given situation”. Chambers (1985:38-49), on the other hand defines a policy “as a deliberate action in any sphere of human activity (which is) accomplished by some notion of the outcome of that action”. Thus, a policy typically involves what Eastern (1953) refers to as “the allocation of values” which has distributional consequences for a society.
From the foregoing, one can see that a policy is simply a deliberate statement of the goals and objectives of an entity with regards to a particular subject matter and the description of the strategies by which such goals and objectives are to be realized. Policies therefore form the intentionality of human activity. They are purposive, deliberate, thought about, planned for and put into action by planers and organisations for particular reasons. This deliberate and intention oriented nature of a policy is normally based on policy makers’ belief that human beings and organisation can control or alter situation in desirable ways and by so doing, shape or determine their destiny. This is the main reason why successive Nigerian government has over the years initiated various policies to tackle poverty in the country. But as we shall be seeing shortly, most of such polices failed because of the incoherent nature of their formulation and implementation.
Policy Problem: A Policy problem according to Finsterbusch et al (1980:75), “is a social situation, which many people consider adverse or intolerable in its effect on a large number of people over a long period of time. Therefore, people consider that such situation needs a constructive change”. Eminue (2005:25) sees it as an unpalatable or unsatisfactory situation which affects a large number of people in some adverse ways and causes them to cry out to government for some kind of remedy. Many people must, for long, suffer a deprivation, which compels them to cry out for help. A policy problem thus generates a policy demand. Apart from poverty which is a policy problem in Nigeria, other policy problems in the country include armed robbery, pollution, inflation, unemployment, examination malpractice, corruption, flooding, traffic congestion, etc.
This work will adopt the political economy approach as its theoretical framework. The political economy approach evolved in the foundation of classical political economy and derives its roots from the works of Karl Marx. It was Marx, who building on the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and James Mill, first attempted to re-establish political economy as a comprehensive area of study concerned with not only management and distribution of social wealth but also the class relation including class conflict which evolves from such, as well as, the impact of these on the development of society from one stage to the other. To him, political economy is a science not only for understanding society but also fundamentally for changing it (Nna, 2000:169-170).
The political economy approach tires to understand the social relations into which human beings enter in the process of production, exchange and consumption. This point is strongly made by Kuznetsov, et al (1988:11) when they stated that “every society has a definite system of production relations or the economic system of the society which rests on property relations. Political economy studies the relations of production in interconnection with the productive forces. Thus, political economy is the science of the relations of production in all the economic and social formations”. The political economy approach gives primacy to material conditions, particularly economic factors, in the explanation of social life. This according to Ake (2005:1) is because economic need is man’s most fundamental need. Unless man is able to meet this need he cannot exist in the first place. Man must eat before he can do anything else before he can worship, pursue culture or become an economist. This approach therefore, sees materialism as the prime mover of human society and its history. Claude Ake went on to explain that:
Once we understand what the material assets and constraints of a society are, how the society produces goods to meet its material needs, how the goods are distributed and what types of social relations arise from the organisation of production, we have come a long way to understanding the culture of that society, its laws, its religious system, its political system and even its modes of thought (Ake 2005:1 2).
Political economy approach therefore, probes into the depth of issues, the interconnection of phenomena, programmes, policies, etc, with a view to knowing their class origin, character and composition and the logic of their existence and future. It does not therefore; examine issues superficially (Momoh and Hundeyin, 1999:53). It should also be emphasized that the essence of political economy is “to penetrate deep into processes and policies, lay bare their essence and then explain concrete forms of their manifestation in everyday life”. Political economy approach therefore, relates the macroscopic to the microscopic and the objective to the subjective. It comes to terms with the complexity of relations or forms that characterize society in a self-consistent manner. Thus, the approach is a science of the study of society and it reveals the basis for change and development in society (see Ryndina, 1985; Momoh and Hundeyin, 1999).
The above framework forms a good take off point in our analysis of the problems of poverty and the various policies, programmes and strategies adopted over the years to alleviate it in Nigeria.
CAUSES OF POVERTY IN NIGERIA
The causes of poverty in Nigeria, just like in any other nation are varied, myriad and complex. However, Jones (1986:61), has explained that the causes of poverty in any nation are association more with the sociopolitical and economic settings of such a nation and not necessarily the people. The implication here is that the type of leadership available in any particular state has a direct bearing or linkage with the many causes of poverty in such a nation. Accordingly, Obi et al (2008:183 189), have identified the following as the causes of poverty in Nigeria. They are: economic underdevelopment; low productivity; the existence of market imperfections; physical or environment degradation; unwholesome structural shift in the economy; inadequate commitment to programme implementation; political instability and social conflict; weak governance; corruption and other forms of economic mismanagement; and unemployment. For Obadan (1996), the main factors that causes poverty in sub-Saharan Africa include: inadequate access to employment opportunities, inadequate physical assets such as land and capital, inadequate access to the means of supporting rural development in poor regions, poor access to markets where goods and services can be sold, low endowment of human capital, degradation and reduced productivity, inadequate access to assistance for those living at the margin and the victims of transitory poverty, and finally failure to involve people in the design of development programmes that affect them.
Enahoro and lkpefan (cited in Joseph, 2006:94), identify the causes of poverty as large family size; low level of human capital; lack of access to cultivable land; absence of or inadequate access to all weather roads and markets. Other factors are low farm productivity; poor health status of an individual; culture and social values which have unfavourable bearing on work ethic; drug and alcohol abuse and certain types of family structure (polygamy, single parent households, etc). The Economic Policy Research Centre identifies the main causes of poverty to be civil strife, economic crisis and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For Ukwu, the causes of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa include:
i. Inadequate access to employment opportunities
ii. Inadequate physical assets, such as land and capital and minimal
access by the poor to credit even on a small scale,
iii. Inadequate access to the means of supporting rural development
iv. Inadequate access to markets where the poor can sell goods and
v. Low endowment of human capital
vi. Destruction of natural resources, leading to environmental
degradation and reduced productivity,
vii. Inadequate access to assistance for those victimized by transitory poverty,
viii. Lack of participation in poverty alleviation programmes (see
Joseph, 2006:94 95).
OBJECTIVES OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION PROGRAMMES IN NIGERIA
Chinsman (cited in Eminue, 2005:509) has provided seven objectives of poverty alleviation programmes in Nigeria. The objectives are as follows:
i. Eradication of absolute poverty and reduction of general poverty;
ii. Integration of goals and targets for combating poverty into overall
economic and social policies and plans at the local and national levels;
iii. Fighting of urban and rural poverty;
iv. Enhancement of opportunities for income generation, diversification of activities, and increase of productivity in low income and poor communities;
v. Improving access to loans by women and other disadvantaged and vulnerable groups;
vi. Seeking of international assistance to meet the commitments;
vii. Undertaking to address the basic needs of all.
NIGERIA’S EFFORTS AT POVERTY ALLEVIATION
Poverty has always been around in Nigeria even before independence in 1960. Its alleviation has therefore, come to remain one of the most important goals of development in post independent Nigeria. This has however proved difficult over the years as a result of the country’s rapid population growth, slow economic growth, corruption and misuse of the nation’s resources by her leaders. According to Eminue (2005:508-509), poverty alleviation programmes which had been introduced by the respective Nigerian governments, could be classified into two types, namely, core poverty alleviation programmes that were aimed at increasing access of the poor to micro-credit facilities and employment opportunities; and programmes with mandates relevant to poverty alleviation, that is, non targeted programmes designed to provide various services for purposes of enhancing the productivity, income and welfare of the poorest segment of the society.
a. Core Poverty Alleviation Programmes
1. Better Life for Rural Women (BLRW)
2. Family Support Programme (FSP)
3. Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP)
4. National Directorate of Employment (NDE)
5. The People’s Bank of Nigeria
6. National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), formerly
Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP).
b. Other Programmes with Mandate for Poverty Alleviation
1. Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs)
2. National Agricultural Land Development Authorities (NALDAS).
3. Strategic Grains Reserve Programme
4. River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs)
5. Nigerian Agricultural and Co-operative Bank (NACB), now the Nigeria Agricultural Cooperative and Rural Development Bank (NACRDB).
6. Community Bank Programme
7. National Primary Health Care Development Agency
8. Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI)
9. The Nomadic Education Programme
10. The Adult Non-Formal Education Programme
11. Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC)
12. National Centre for Women Development (NCWD)
13. Federal Urban Mass Transit Agency
14. National Programme on Immunization (NPI)
15. Petroleum (special) Trust Fund (PTF)
16. Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), now replaced by the Niger Delta Development Comission(NDDC).
17. Directorate for Food, Roads, and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI).
18. Programmes under Social Development Policy for Disadvantage Groups.
19. Federal Agricultural Coordinating Unit (FACU)
20. National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP).
21. Operation Feed the Nation (OFN).
22. Green Revolution Programme
23. Back to Land Programme
Despite the foregoing poverty alleviation policies and programmes initiated over the years by Successive Nigerian governments, the incidence of poverty remains high in the country. The implication here is that successive Nigerian governments have found it difficult to tackle poverty in the country through efficient policy choices. Poverty reduction or alleviation is therefore, the most difficult challenge facing Nigeria and its people and the greatest obstacle to the pursuit of sustainable socioeconomic growth and development in the country. The poverty rate in Nigeria increased from 27% in 1980 to 66% in 1996. By 1999, it was estimated that more than 70% of Nigerians lived in poverty. Life expectancy is a mere 54 years, infant mortality (77 per 1,000) and maternal mortality (704 per 100,000 live Births). These are among the highest in the world. Other social indicators of poverty (from 1999) still persist till date and they include:
i. Only about 10% of the population has access to essential drugs;
ii. There are fewer than 30 physicians per 100,000 people;
iii. More than 5 million adults are estimated to be living with HIV AIDS;
iv. Among children under five, almost 30% are underweight
v. Only 17% of children are fully immunized down from 30% in1990 and almost 40% has never been vaccinated;
vi. Only about half the population has access to safe drinking water
(40% in rural areas, 80% in urban areas).
vii. Some 29% of the total population live at risk from annual floods;
viii. More than 90% of the rural population depend on forests for livelihood and domestic energy sources; and
ix. Rural households spend an average of 1.5 hours a day collecting water and fuel wood with household members walking an average of one kilometre a day to collect water and fuel wood (National Planning Commission, 2004:29 30).
Also, trends in poverty level in Nigeria between 2000 and 2005 shows that the various policies and programmes initiated by successive governments to curb poverty has not been successful. Here we made use of some poverty social indicators in Nigeria between 2000 and 2005. The indicators support the view that poverty in Nigeria has being on the increase. See tables 1 and 2.
Table 1: Selected Social Indicators in Nigeria (2000 2005)
|GDP per capita (N)||39851||44228||45317||5800||67137||80350|
|Population Growth Rate (%)||2.8||2.8||2.8||2.8||2.8||2.8|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||52.0||54.0||54.0||54.0||54.0||54.0|
|c/o of population with access||40||40||35||32||30||30|
|to safe water||57||57||57||62||62||62|
|Adult Literacy Rate||11.5||19.86||9.22||14.68||9.05||9.05|
|Government Budget to||111,098||112,000||122,710||201,000||402,282||405,250|
|c/o of Inflation Rate (12|
|months moving average)|
Source: Central Bank of Nigeria Annual Report and statement of Accounts for the years ended 31st December 2004 and 2005.
Table 2: Trend in poverty level in Nigeria (2000 2005)
|Year||Incidence of poverty (%)||Estimated population||Population in poverty (estimated)|
|2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005||70.0 – – – 54.4 54.4||115m 118m 122m 125m 130m 134m||80.5m 70.7m – – – 72.9m|
Source: Central Bank of Nigeria Annual Report and statement of Accounts for the years ended 31st December 2004 and 2005.
Evidence from tables 1 and 2 above collaborate our earlier assertion that the incidence of poverty is high in the country. It is however unfortunate that despite the country’s abundant natural resources, successive government in the country has found it difficult to tackle the poverty problem through efficient policy choices.
PRINCIPAL FEATURES OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION PROGRAMMES IN NIGERIA
Over the years in Nigeria, poverty alleviation programmes have continued to exhibit certain features. Highlighted below are some of the general characteristics of poverty alleviation programmes in the country.
i. Poverty alleviation efforts in the country are mostly based on a “top-down” rather than “bottom-up” or participatory process approach. This most often entails the establishment of a hierarchical and decentralized implementation structure. The Federal capital has always served as the centre with state and Local Government co-coordinating and implementation committees carrying out review, monitoring and evaluation activities.
ii. There has always been the articulation of implementation strategies such as agricultural production, rural development, employment creation, provision of micro-credit facilities, forming of cooperative societies by loan beneficiaries, disbursement of loans to beneficiaries in order to ensure proper management of enterprises, encouraging the use of local materials and resources so as to minimize overheads, providing secondary raw materials to industries, and the use of accredited fabricators of equipment in order to encourage the development of indigenous technological capability, etc.
iii. Similarly, poverty alleviation programmes in the country have always articulated general and specific mandates. Such mandates are normally drawn up by government officials with little or no contributions from the poor citizenry.
iv. Operation of populist micro-credit schemes with credit delivery outlets which provide small scale loans at reasonable terms to low income or underprivileged Nigerians who are involved in legitimate economic activities in both rural and urban areas, and who cannot normally benefit from the services of an orthodox banking system due to their inability to provide collateral securities. It is thus assumed that, if financial resources are made available to the poor at reasonable terms and conditions, such resources could generate productive self-employment without any external assistance (Eminue, 2005:510).
v. Employment generation through the development of small scale enterprises in the rural areas: through developing a pool of entrepreneurs who are well-equipped to start and successfully manage small and medium scale industries; and through encouragement of self employment as a conscious and predetermined choice since the programmes were designed to enable prospective applicants employ additional hands in their establishments and thus help to reduce the level of unemployment. Emphasis has been on establishment of cottage, small and medium sized enterprises likely to engage in industrial conversion of raw materials, technology fabrication of household items, etc (Eminue, 2005:510).
vi. Lastly, poverty alleviation programmes in the country have tended to adopt a number of principles such as the utilization of existing institutional structures for their implementation, inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral co-operation, hierarchical implementation structure with emphasis on community based approach, and prudent management of financial resources.
PROBLEMS OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION POLICIES/ PROGRAMMES IN NIGERIA
Just like the causes of poverty in Nigeria, the problems bedeviling poverty alleviation programmes in Nigeria are many and multidimensional. However, the response of various administrations to the poverty problem appears to have been largely ad hoc and uncoordinated. While some past and present poverty alleviation programmes such as community Banks, family support programmes, the National Directorate of Employment, the Peoples Bank, Better Life for Rural Women, the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural infrastructure, National Poverty Eradication Programme, etc, had or has their merits, none of them could be said to have had a significant lasting, or sustainable positive effect. Several major factors hindering the success of government efforts to reduce the high level of poverty in the country have accordingly been identified. Eminue (2005:511-523), has identified and discussed fourteen of such problems.
i. Lack of proper focus
ii. Inadequate co-ordination
iii. Political instability
iv. Unwieldy and expansive scope
v. Lack of executive capacity
vi. Corruption and mismanagement
vii. “Top down” rather than “bottom-up” approach
viii. Duplication of implementation agencies
ix. Micro credit problems
x. Absence of cost effectiveness in some programmes
xi. High administrative cost;
xii. Inadequate funding
xiii. Slow economic growth, infrastructural inadequacies; and
xiv. Macroeconomic and sectoral problems.
For Obi et al (2008:190 197), the problems confronting poverty alleviation programmes in the country are as follows:
i. Poor co-ordination
ii. Ineffective targeting of the poor;
iii. Absence of a comprehensive policy framework
iv. Inadequate funding
v. Excessive political interference;
vi. Political and programme instability
vii. Unwieldy and overlapping scope or functions of programmes
viii. Corruption and mismanagement; and
ix. Lack of involvement of beneficiaries in project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Similarly, the National Planning Commission (2004:33-34), sees the major factors hindering the success of government efforts to reduce the level of poverty in the country as:
i. Poor coordination
ii. The absence of a comprehensive policy framework
iii. Excessive political interference
iv. Ineffective targeting of the poor, leading to leakage of benefits to unintended beneficiaries.
v. The unwieldy scope of programmes, which caused resources to be thinly spread across too many projects.
vi. Overlapping functions; which led to institutional rivalry and
vii. The absence of sustainability mechanisms in programmes and projects,
viii. Lack of involvement of beneficiaries in project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
From the foregoing, it is now obvious that the problems confronting poverty alleviation policies and programmes in the country are not only many but are multidimensional in nature. The bottom line however remains that successive government in the country has found it difficult to tackle the poverty problem through efficient policy/programme choices. As a result of government inability to reduce or alleviate poverty in the country, the manifestations has been in the form of mass penury, mass unemployment, poor welfare services, lack of basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, inability to save and own assets, lack of access to land and credit, social inferiority, disempowerment, deprivation, isolation, humiliation, vulnerability to ill-health, economic dependence, crime and other societal conflicts.
CONCLUSION: LESSONS OF EXPERIENCE AND PERSPECTIVES FOR SOLUTION
Poverty, no doubt, is a global phenomenon. It remains one of the greatest enemies of mankind and a source of worry and challenge to both governments of the developed and developing nations. However, for many reasons that are not obvious, developing countries like Nigeria experience the incidence of poverty for more than the developed countries. In fact, Rosen and Jones (cited in Eminue, 2005:506), have succinctly pointed out that an American poor enjoys such standard of living which a third world poor would highly envy. In Nigeria, the incidence of poverty has been very high and embarrassing. This situation has made poverty alleviation to feature very prominently on the developmental programmes of successive Nigerian government. However, as we have been able to see, government laudable objectives have failed over the years to address adequately this debilitating problem of poverty, hence its persistence in the country. Accordingly, implicit in each identified problem is an assumed recommendation for solving such a problem. Nevertheless, we follow Obi et al (2008:198-201), to recommend the following as panacea for reducing the high level of poverty in the country.
First, the formulation and implementation of future poverty alleviation programmes should be holistic, comprehensive and total and not particularistic in nature. Poverty alleviation efforts in the country should always try to articulate efficient and effective ways by which the various manifestations of poverty can be comprehensively tackled. While doing this, such efforts must remain focused and committed in their bid at targeting the poor. Arguing in this direction, Ben Ejiogu has suggested that:
Poverty alleviation is not one thing; it is many things all working in unison at the same time. Thus, if we can grow enough food, we are reducing poverty. If we can improve on education in terms of adequate funding and insistence on standards, we will be reducing poverty. If we are able to reduce corruption by punishing the corrupt, we shall be reducing poverty. If we can improve the value of our money, we shall be reducing poverty. When we pay decent wages, we are reducing poverty. If we can reduce the price of petrol, we will be reducing poverty not just for the motorist, but for his grandmother in the village whose only vehicle is her feet. If we can introduce micro credit as in Bangladesh … the list is endless (The Guardian, April 16, 2001:16).
Second, poverty alleviation investment policies and programmes in the country should always have high employment content. These call for change or shift in expenditure and investment priorities from ambitious, gigantic, large scale, capital intensive project to small and medium-scale, labour intensive ones that are more employment-generating. This strategy is in consonance with a World Bank study on Nigeria, which prescribes that:
Government projects should be chosen on the basis of the support they provide to the poor and the private sector. A top priority for poverty reduction efforts should be to preserve sharply increased allocations for health, education, infrastructure, agricultural research and extension, and for environmental management and regulation, which directly – improve the productivity of all Nigerians (World Bank, 1996: xxvi).
Third, there is a need for an apex body that will coordinate, oversee, and monitor the activities of poverty alleviation programmes in the country. This will help to reduce waste, duplication and dissipation of efforts. It will also enable poverty alleviation programmes to remain focused and realistic in their efforts to achieve their targets. This apex body together with the government and the people will accordingly be in a better position to determine how decision making and implementation of poverty alleviation programmes compatible with bottom up participatory approach can be evolved and adopted.
Fourth, since poverty is multi-dimensional in nature and in order to properly identify the poor in their functional types for purposes of ascertaining and matching their competence to undertake such poverty alleviation activities like micro-credit financing, skill acquisition and self-employment, health care provision and delivery, special education, scholarship training, infrastructural development, agricultural development, gender equality, etc, there is the urgent need for the government and other concerned bodies to always organize workshops, public lectures, seminars, symposia and conferences for increased public awareness and education on poverty alleviation issues, especially in the rural areas where majority of the poor live. This strategy will no doubt provide such underprivileged groups among the poor like the handicapped, women (especially widows), old people, etc, good avenue to express themselves.
Lastly, we call for good governance if future poverty alleviation programmes are to make any meaningful impact on the poor citizenry. According to Gana (2006), good governance places great emphasis on pragmatic strategies for achieving positive and cost-effective results in public administration. It ensures the rule of law, promotes due process, improves efficiency, facilities accountability, tackles corruption, salutes excellence, insists on productivity, and delivers high quality services to the people. Thus, good governance is about effective and transparent leadership that produces results, which together transform the socio-economic conditions of a nation. It ensures that political, social and economic priorities are based on broad consensus in society and that the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable are heard in decision making over the allocation of development resources. Good governance will therefore, bring about dedicated, disciplined, transparent, prudent, sincere and accountable leadership as well as good fellowship. It will articulate poor citizen’s interests in public policy making, thus ensuring that their concerns are reflected in public policies. Also, good governance will be in a better position to tackle the problem of corruption that has remained a serious handicap to poverty alleviation programmes in the county. The bane of Nigeria and many other developing countries has been that of poor or bad governance as epitomized in postponed growth and social development, the vicious circles of poverty and under development, leading to social violence, crime, corruption and instability. Good governance is therefore, a harbinger or precursor of social progress, development and prosperity. In fact, good governance is today seen as a sine qua non for successful, effective and sustainable poverty alleviation policies and programmes. Accordingly, Adedeji (1993:34 -44), has rightly observed that:
There is now a general acceptance of the proposition that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to launch a process of socio-economic transformation by means of which genuine and sustained social and economic progress can take place in a country where good governance is absent Africa needs good governance and democracy as well as democratically determined development.
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