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Poverty and urgency

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Hardball

Nigeria’s political authorities are engaged in yet another development planning ritual. President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated a National Steering Committee to oversee the development of the ‘Nigeria Agenda 2050 and Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP),’ which succeeds ‘Vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017 – 2020.’ Vision 20:2020 and Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017 – 2020 will both expire in December.

Buhari said at the committee’s inauguration in Abuja on September 9:”The main objectives of these successor plans are to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next 10 years, particularly given the World Bank projection that Nigeria will become the world’s third most populous country by 2050 with over 400 million people.”

It is useful to have a long-term plan. But it is important to have a short-term plan as well, and to ensure that it works. In other words, the Buhari administration may just be building castles in the air if there are no immediate signs to show that it is serious about its dream to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next 10 years.

Obviously, the Buhari administration will not be in power beyond 2023 when President Buhari’s second four-year term will end. How many Nigerians will his presidency lift out of poverty before then?

Buhari listed his achievements in his Democracy Day speech this year, flaunting the results of his administration’s social investment programmes aimed at reducing social and economic inequality.

Read Also: Buhari inaugurates panel to push anti-poverty agenda

According to him, there are 549, 500 beneficiaries of the N-Power Programme, which is designed to empower Nigerian youths for prosperity, and “addresses the challenge of youth unemployment by providing a structure for large scale and relevant work skills acquisition and development.”

There are 408, 682 beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme; and 2, 238,334 beneficiaries of the Growth Enhancement and Empowerment Programme.

“Similarly, ‘Marketmoni’ and ‘Tradermoni’ Programmes have provided affordable loans to small and micro scale enterprises to grow their businesses,” he said.

It is disturbing that more than 83 million Nigerians are living below the national poverty line, according to the 2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) this year. Nigeria’s population is about 206 million.

President Buhari should understand that he is expected to significantly reduce the number of poor Nigerians within his remaining period in office, which is about three years. That is, to borrow the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “the fierce urgency of now.”

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