Sanusi’s antidote to poverty in Nigeria

Daily Independent Newspapers the-man-in-the-news

Monday, October 28, 2013

Culled from Daily Independent

It is not news that Nigeria has some of the largest deposits of natural resources to be found in any single country in the world. With a crud oil industry averaging over 2.28 million barrels per day, Nigeria is one of the largest producers of crud oil in Africa and the 11th largest in the world. As a matter of fact, informed analysts estimate that at the current level of exploration and even if no new deposits are discovered, the deposits being explored would last no less than 45 years. The country also has an estimated 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and is richly endowed with a variety of solid minerals ranging from precious metals to various stones and other industrial minerals. In addition to these, Nigeria also has vast arable land that can sustain agriculture. With these potentials, expectations are that Nigerians would rank among the richest people in the world. This is however not the case. To the contrary, the United Nations poverty index estimates that about 70 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty level.

Experts have tried to explain this conundrum of poverty in the mist of plenty, with some arguing that the country suffers from the ‘resource curse’ – the paradox where countries with an abundance of natural reserves tend to experience worse economic growth than countries without minerals resources. Others however argue that these economic potentials have not translated into improved standards of living is because of corruption. For instance, a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has put the estimated amount of looted funds from the Nigerian treasury at $600 billion between independence and 1999. It adds that stolen monies stashed in foreign accounts also increased from $50 billion in 1999 to $170 billion in 2003. While the Economic and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC) has succeeded in repatriating some of the funds, large sums are still unaccounted for.

As the country continues to grapple with rising poverty in the mist of reported economic growth, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has attributed the poverty in the country to bad governance, misplaced priorities, corruption and huge debt burden. Sanusi, who was speaking during a conference on effective strategies for reducing poverty and scaling up implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Nigeria, organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), also blames non-competitiveness of Nigerian goods in the international markets, few economic opportunities, conflict and violence, huge debt burden, low productivity, high population, and suboptimal human capital as also contributing to the poverty problem in the country.

“Nigeria which was one of the 50 richest countries globally in the 1970s is now one of the 25 poorest countries in the world presently. All will agree that Nigeria’s immense wealth is contradiction of the poverty level because the country has no business in being one of the poorest countries,” he says, even as he also identified lack of education as also contributing to poverty. The CBN governor argues that households where the head had no education were poorer than households where the head had a secondary school education.

Undoubtedly, the problem of poverty imparted the country negatively. With infant and maternal mortality still on the high side and many children out of school, informed analysts doubt whether the country would meet the MDGs.

Successive governments have tried numerous interventions including the Better Life for Rural Women (1987), Mass Mobilisation for Economic Recovery (MAMSER) also 1987, the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) 2001and many more without significantly reducing poverty. This the apex bank boss attributes to inaugurating programmes without creating the requisite environment for job creation and encouraging skills acquisition among youths.

“The problem of poverty in Nigeria is well documented. Successive governments have made various efforts to alleviate poverty in Nigeria. To find a lasting solution to poverty in the country, we need to formulate working strategies aimed at making key investments in people and in infrastructure…For the country to end poverty, it must also provide the necessary skills needed for each and every Nigerian to be economically productive, business capital, infrastructure capital, public institutional capital, as well as knowledge capital,” he argues.

While Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) agrees on the need to reduce poverty, he argues that the poverty eradication must go hand in hand with the fight against corruption.

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