These are not the best of times for Nigerians. There are several existential threats confronting the average Nigerian. A man, whose house is on a raging inferno, certainly cannot have any time to spare to chase rats.
For about two weeks now, Nigerians have been trekking, sweating, thirsty and starving. No thanks to petrol scarcity and the high cost of living. The persistent fuel shortage has continued and people are left running from pillar to post seeking for what God in His infinite mercies deposited in large quantities in our land, yet we have been living in want and scarcity. The paradox is such that a people and nation that have no reason to be poor are wallowing in abject poverty.
Recently, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that the number of Nigerians living in poverty stands at over 133 million.
It said the figure represents 63 percent of the nation’s population.
According to the report, over half of the populations who are poor cook with dung, wood or charcoal, rather than cleaner energy.
It said high deprivations are also apparent in sanitation, time to healthcare, food insecurity, and housing.
The report noted that multidimensional poverty is higher in rural areas, where 72 per cent of people are poor, compared to 42 per cent of people in urban areas.
Approximately, the bureau said, 70 percent of Nigeria’s population live in rural areas, yet these areas are home to 80 percent of poor people.
Damning isn’t it? You would think that a nation that is confronted with this humongous challenge would be more interested in addressing this critical issue. Not so, they are more interested in trading blames, passing the buck thereby shirking their responsibilities.
The gasoline stations are not selling petrol and wherever you find a station selling, the queues are usually so long, and cost varies from place to place, but it is usually sold for over N250 per litres as against the official rate of N165 or so.
Now, to think that the Nigerian economy is virtually road-driven simply explains why whenever there is scarcity or increase in the pump price of fuel, the entire economy immediately takes a hit and the effect cascades.
Similarly, the reported cases of farmers abandoning their farms because of the threats of gun-wielding non-state actors, has also ensured the scarcity and exorbitant costs of foodstuffs in the markets.
For seven and a half years, Nigerians have not had relief. These harrowing experiences have turned a lot of people into beggars and those who manage to eke out a living from their jobs are feeding from hand to mouth.
Commuting from one part of the country to another or within cities and communities has also taken a toll on Nigerians as transportation fares keep going up. Nigerians have to come to live with this sad development and are only hoping for a better tomorrow.
However, it does not help the fortunes of the people, nor does it give them any reprieve when the government begins to make claims or shift blame in manners that do not add up.
Last Wednesday, the federal government, while reviewing the high poverty level in the country, said the 36 governors of the federation were to blame for not getting their priorities right in their respective states.
The FG, speaking through the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, claimed that rather than fight poverty headlong by improving the lives of their citizens, the governors preferred to embark on such projects like airports and flyovers that were unrelated to their welfare.
Agba made the accusation while fielding questions at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the State House, Abuja.
In apparent reference to the report by NBS which stated that approximately, 70 percent of Nigeria’s population live in rural areas, yet these areas are home to 80 percent of poor people, he reiterated that the governors preferred to function in the state capitals while the federal government, on its part, has done its best on poverty alleviation.
Expressing regrets that there was no reflection of the amount of investment that had been done in that area, Agba said rather governors should invest in areas that could directly uplift the standard of life of the people in the rural areas.
The minister pointed out that while states were in charge of land for agriculture, they did not invest in them for the desired effect on their rural citizens.
Empty self-adulation, if you ask me. Agba is simply giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it. Are the governors in charge of the petroleum sector? Do they have the power or control of the military to fight insurgency, banditry and other armed gangs who continue to sack our farmers from their farms?
And as though to further tighten its grip on the jugular of the governors, President Buhari the following day, Thursday, criticised them over what he described as unfair treatment meted out on the third tier of government.
He had said, “it beats one’s imagination how some state governors will collect, let’s say N100 million from the federal allocation and then go round to present N50 million to the Local Council Chairmen then cap it up by compelling the Council boss to sign that he or she collected N100 million.”
Agreed that some governors lord it over their people and are perpetually on ego-trips, it is also not to be contested that the federal government too has perfected the art of passing the buck. The Federal government under Buhari will blame everybody and everything around them for their lackluster performance since 2015, but themselves.
Recall that the president once blamed activities of middlemen for rising costs of foodstuffs. The FG has simply failed to provide security and this has left farmers at the mercy of their attackers.
If Buhari wants us to believe that he is helpless and cannot address the problem of governors short-changing the third tier of government, what has he done to arrest the corruption level under his government? If a single accountant general can steal so much, what other proof do we need to know that some others under his government are currently helping themselves with the public till?
Recently, the attorney general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, told us that the billions of dollars recovered stolen loot were used to fund some of its social investment programmes; are there audited accounts to confirm this claim? Can the FG provide records of the beneficiaries of these social Investments schemes, including the students who were fed at home during the Covid-19 lockdown?